If you have two or three days in one place, then for an important picture you can and should consider the time of day that would show the subject to its best effect. This works only when the weather is predictable, but you should also consider working with a variety of climatic conditions, rather than struggling against them.

To get the most from any situation, you need to be able to realise the potential of any type of lighting, be it a misty morning, stark midday tropical sunlight, the soft glow of dusk, or even the unpromising, shadowless light from a heavy overcast sky.

Of course a flash and various kinds of reflectors can help, but it is always best to work with natural light. All light can be put to good use, and knowing how to make the best of any given condition will greatly improve the flow of your photography on the journey.

Light and Geography

Natural light is affected by a host of conditions and variables: where on the planet you are, what latitude and height above sea level, distance from the sea or from mountains. Geography affects the weather, and weather affects the light. Nothing is settled and the variables are infinite. There are even micro-climates that make the light in a short stretch of coastline and other confined areas different from the surroundings, such as in northern California and Oregon, for example. But the broad geographical picture, drawn by a mixture of the latitude, moisture, and altitude, is covered by the following eight divisions.


Lying in the middle latitudes between the tropics and the poles, and referring to most of Europe and North America, this regions climate is extreme only in the centre of large continents. It has the lighting conditions for which cameras and their sensors are designed. That means a variety of cloud cover, often daily, a range of seasons with summer days up to twice as long as winter days, but with the sun never really low or high.

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There are four major ingredients go into making a successful travel photograph: location, timing, composition and lighting. Of these, the last is the real variable and the least predictable. It also makes a powerful difference to an image. You can research and choose the location, improve on your photogapher’s skills at timing and composing, but the lighting is just how you find it. For all travel photography other than night-time and interiors, it is completely weather dependent. Certainly, you can make weather predictions, and choose to visit destinations at the times of year that should deliver the kind of lighting you would prefer, and in the pages that follow we show how to set about this. But ultimately, for most of the time, you will be dealing with a variety of light that is not of your choosing. The only control available is to wait. And for travellers who need to move on to the next destination, this choice is limited.

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Travel photography does not have to end with the setting sun, even less so now that digital photogra- phy helps solve the old difficulties faced by film in taking pictures by artificial light . The potential prob- lems are the much lower light levels and the often wild variation in the colour of light. Digital overcomes these two first, by allowing you to dial up the ISO sensitivity on demand to match the lower light levels, and second, by allowing you to neutralise colour casts using the white bal- ance setting. Even when there are two or more differently coloured light sources, you can selectively alter them in any good image processing software, such as Photoshop or Lightroom. Increased noise, as we have seen, is the downside of increasing the ISO sensitivity, but there are constant improvements in camera sensors and in processing software, so that unless you are tackling extreme darkness, it is no longer a major issue. The difierent colours of artificial light can be surpris- ingly marked, and the reason for this is that our eyes are just so etficient at compensating. Tungsten lighting is actually much more orange than daylight, but after a few minutes in a room lit by ordinary incandescent lamps, we simply see it as normal. Fluorescent striplights and compact fluorescent lamps (CF Ls) that are replacing tungsten for ecological reasons, work better for the eyes than they do for the camera; unfortunately they have broken spectra which make it difficult to re- store a feeling of full colour. Digital processing can help in this, but be warned that the results can never be perfect.

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Photography is a way of looking at the world, and everybody looks at the world differently. Each of us has a visual and emotional point of view, just as we have an intellectual point of view. These are responses to the world before us, and photography is one of the best ways in which we can express them.

In the beginning, of course, there was light. Wlithout light there is no tone, no hue, no shadows, no difierentiation between skin, hair or eye colour. Light depends on the time of day, geographical location and the weather. It is transient, illusive, magical, and to chase it and capture it is one of the pleasures of the travelling hunter photographer. How light afiects photography is described in the chapter on Light.

Light also reveals shape and form, the relationship between man and nature, how the world falls into place, No matter artificial light or natural light. Our eyes are astonishingly complex. For a start, there are two of them, so we never see the world from a single viewpoint. We can take in a whole scenes at a glance, or we can focus on a single object or person. We have learned from nature to understand what is beautiful nature invariably gets it right, composing itself into hillsides, woodland and seascapes. Onto this man has added his hand, often trying his best to work with nature, to be sympathetic to the surroundings. A good photograph must take account of the juxtaposition of elements in a scene, and put them together in such a way that it is pleasing or interesting to the eye. There are some tricks to this, which are explained in the chapter on Composition.

A camera may not see in exactly the same way that we do, but it gets pretty close. A photographer needs to know its possibilities and its limitations, and how it can serve his or her point of view. This is explored in the chapter on The Camera.

Every leap in technology is, initially, at the expense of quality. Only in time does quality catch up,and digital photography took several years to get near the results of slide film. But in the end film was buried under the mountain of advantages that digital offers. The constant search for greater speeds and reduction in size and costs follows Moore's Law of computers, which states that every 18 months the number of transistors that can be placed in an integrated circuit doubles. ln photogra- phy, this translates as memory, speed and pixels, which all continue to increase at a rapid rate while the hardware shrinks in size.

Every method has its particular quality. Digital tends to flatten photos, and auto focus keeps everything sharp. But early complaints about quality have largely disappeared, and results from the amateur photographer using inexpensive equipment can be stunning.

It is not just the figure in the picture above that tells you this is the Caribbean. It is the colour and the light. Beneath a deep blue sky, painted green and blue, the colours of these buildings could not be found in a northern climate. Heading away from the equator, the earth's atmosphere, through which the sun's rays have to travel, increases, causing a more limpid light and lowering the intensity of the co- lour. Nearer home, like wine that does not travel, the attractive lavendar blue of window shutters in Provence can look dull in a northern European country, even when the paint is taken from the same paint pot. Paints evolve locally, and the vernacular architecture in many countries for decades relied on — and was defined by — a limited range of proprietary paints

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