Showing Motion in Your Travel Images

Although it may seem like an odd concept, it is possible to show motion in a still image. Motion can be depicted by how various elements are captured by the camera and how they  are interpreted by your brain. Don’t worry, it’s not as complicated as it sounds.

ISO-50, f/2.8, Exposure 1/30 sec

One technique is to freeze your main subject while allowing the background to blur. In this image, I locked on the people riding the train and held the camera steady. Since the train was moving, the passing landscape blurred in the image,  showing motion. I also selected an f/2.8 aperture setting and slow shutter speed to help blur the background.

In case you’re wondering about the odd angle of this image, there is a good explanation. This picture was taken on the Incline Railway in Lookout Mountain, Tennessee. The train travels straight up and down the mountain at a 73 degree incline, thus the slightly strange result. I also think that the impression of people sliding forward in the image also shows motion.

ISO-1600, f/3.5, Exposure 1/125 sec

ISO-1600, f/3.5, Exposure 1/125 sec

Another technique is to reverse the previous process and blur the main subject rather than the background. To do this, lock your camera on the background and hold it steady. Snap the image as your main subject passes through the frame. Remember to adjust your exposure high enough to account for how fast the main subject is moving.

Okay, so this isn’t exactly a travel photograph, but it’s the closest I could find right now. This image shows comedian Gallagher smashing creamed corn during a recent concert. I locked on where the sledgehammer would contact the corn and held steady. I used an exposure of 1/125 sec as it was fast enough to freeze most of the action, yet slow enough to allow the fastest parts (i.e., the creamed corn) to blur slightly. The result is actually a combination of freeze frame and motion, but you get the point. The same trick would work for a race car, airplane or carnival ride.

ISO-200, f/3.5, Exposure 1/160 sec

ISO-200, f/3.5, Exposure 1/160 sec

Freezing your main subject in motion can also give the impression of motion. For example, I photographed this seagull as he took off from his place on the pier. With his wings extended and legs outstretched, you get an impression of flight and motion.

As a bit of full-disclosure, this poor bird was sleeping on the pier when I slipped up and yelled “Boo!” I’m not entirely proud of my tactics, but I really wanted this picture, I’m sad he doesn’t know what sleeping with a snoogle pregnancy pillow feels like.

Try out these tips and tricks to show motion in your travel photography and let me know how it works.

Travel Photography Smoke & Mirrors

Before Photoshop

Before Photoshop

After Photoshop

After Photoshop

While most professional travel photographers would like you to think that every picture they take is perfect, most of us just aren’t THAT good. Granted; Ansel Adams, Clyde Butcher and a host of other talented photographers were/are that good, but they’re in the minority. Much like magicians, many of today’s modern photographers rely on a little smoke and mirrors in the form of image editing software. The most popular is Adobe Photoshop, which allows the user to manipulate an image without limits.

As shown in the sample images, my original image was extremely underexposed and unusable. I washed it through Photoshop, adjusting the saturation, vibrance, exposure, white balance, cropping and a few other variables and voila, a pretty decent pic. Although most of my images don’t start out quite this bad, it does happen.

So, the moral of the story is; don’t be discouraged if your travel photos aren’t as nice as the ones in your favorite travel magazine. You might just be missing a little digital help.

Travel Pic of The Day; Food

Travel pictures of churches, bridges and landscapes are great, but don’t forget to snap a few images of the local cuisine too. Food can tell a lot about the local culture and people. I try to shoot meals before I eat and also check out the local markets and shops. You never know what you’ll run into.

Learning to Use Natural Light in Travel Photography; The Golden Hour

Light is one of the most important elements of photography. When working in a studio, you can control the temperature, luminosity and position of lighting to achieve the perfect balance for your shot. Unfortunately, natural light isn’t so flexible or accommodating

The Golden Hour (aka, Magic Hour, Blue Hour or Sweet Hour) is loosely defined as the first and last hour of sunlight each day. This time frame can vary greatly depending on the time of year, location and other factors. During the Golden Hour, the sun is near or even below the horizon, causing it’s light to be diffused in the atmosphere. The result is a very soft, warm light, that is ambient without a direct source. Blue light is also scattered, resulting in deeper and more brilliant reds. Painters, photographers, filmmakers and other visual artists have taken advantage of this natural light effect for centuries.

20111121-0207The image shown is an example of shooting during the Golden Hour. It was taken at approximately 3:05 pm on 11/21/2011. While this might seem a bit early in the day for the Golden Hour, there are other factors that have to be considered. This image was taken just north of London, England at a latitude of about 51 degrees. The solar noon on this day was 11:46 am and sunset was at 4:04 pm. At high noon, the sun was at an altitude of only about 18.7 degrees. What does all this mean? On this day, the sun stayed just above the horizon all day, extending the Golden Hour effect long past normal time frames. There was also a light cloud cover that further diffused the light, producing really nice conditions for photography.

When planning your travel photography outings, you’ll need to do a little homework if you want to take advantage of the Golden Hour effect. Research the estimated sunrise and sunset times for the location you plan to visit, as well as the weather forecasts. Check out the terrain and type of area you want to photograph. For example, if you’re shooting around Denver, Colorado, you’ll need to factor in how the surrounding mountains might affect the light.

To help with your travel photography planning, check out Its a great resource for information on locations around the world. The Golden Hour Calculator is pretty cool too.