Holidays are fun while you’re on them – that much is obvious – but there’s also the anticipation and there are the memories. Looking back through photos is an excellent way to relive the best moments, and in today’s digital era there’s potential for everyone to get great images – be it with a phone, tiny point-and-shoot or DSLR – but you still need to know when to press the button.
Here are a few tips to help point you in the right direction – I call it the rule of ‘take two’:
Take two images
With space on memory cards for thousands of pictures, you should take several images of each shot, especially when shooting ‘action’. That includes relative slow motion, like walking. Your subject doesn’t need to be John Cleese to join the Ministry of Funny Walks – you just have to press the button at the wrong instant. If your camera allows it, try shooting multiple frames with a prolonged click of the button to capture the right movement. Bribe your subject with the promise of extra cake to walk in both directions along a path – it’s not always obvious which will work best until reviewed later.
Take two moments
Remember that you’re on holiday – there’s no rush. Unless a spectacular and unexpected wildlife event (or similar) is materialising in front of you, pause to compose your image. Check that your subject (especially if it’s a person) doesn’t have a random tree or post ‘growing’ out of their body – you can take two steps to one side to resolve this – but watch out that you don’t fall off the path! Also check that the horizon isn’t ‘chopping off their head’; to alter your perspective, simply crouching down or standing on higher ground can be easier than getting the donkey/chapel/uncooperative spouse to move.
Take two types of image
If there’s something unphotogenic in the foreground, try ducking behind some grasses or plants so that these obscure the near ground. You then have the chance of taking two types of image – one focused on the nearby plants, with the background out of focus; and the reverse – focused on the person, with the foreground softened. And don’t just get caught up in the big picture, remember the little things, too: an unusual door knob, tiny wild flowers, a cat curled up on a step, the spout of a fountain rather than the whole thing – they are all pieces that make up the jigsaw of a place.
Take two orientations
Landscape and portrait (horizontal or vertical): images of people are often better framed in ‘portrait’ (hence the name), but that’s not the only reason to rotate your camera through 90 degrees. Your eye tends to favour framing things in ‘landscape’ format but an image can sometimes be transformed by re-framing. So take both orientations and decide which works best later during your final edit at home. If you are planning to make a photo-book, having options to play with when you lay out your pages is almost essential.
Take two halves
Or rather, don’t. Unless you have a perfect reflection (and usually, even then) you should stick to the rule of thirds, putting the horizon roughly a third of the way through the image, whether from the top or bottom of the picture. It’s up to you to decide if the colours of your sunset are more striking in the sky above or the landscape below. Likewise, centring your subject can be tempting but placing them to one side and looking into the view (if it’s a person or animal) generally makes a better picture.
Take two times a day
The classic golden hours for photographers are morning and evening when the light and the shadows are softer and the colours more vivid. Of course, when you’re on a walking holiday, you will want to be taking images all day long, so think about using the shadows or even the sunflare to your advantage, and if there are clouds in an otherwise blue sky, use these to reduce the starkness or act as a diffuser as they pass over the sun. Overhanging branches and vegetation can also block the sun’s glare and help frame the image. If you are lucky enough to have booked one of Inntravel’s northern Norwegian holidays
, most of the day is pretty perfect in terms of light; the only ‘problem’ is that you just won’t know when to stop taking pictures.
Take a second look
Digital cameras give instant feedback, so take time to review, unless it’s so bright that you can’t see your camera screen. At the end of the day, as you enjoy a pre-dinner drink, it’s worth scrolling through your images once more. You will get a feel for what’s working and what you’re missing, and what to photograph the next day. Once home, don’t just leave your images on your computer. Easy to use online photo-book websites allow you to compile your highlights into physical form. The result is a trip down memory lane for you, and your friends will thank you for the chance to see an edited version of your holiday rather than swiping through a thousand pictures on your tiny iPhone.
Finally, though on balance it’s hard to imagine not wanting to bring a camera with you, you shouldn’t let it rule your holiday (or anyone else’s). In his excellent book The Tropical Traveller, John Hatt warns of the perils of a camera coming between you and your experience of people and place, though concedes that if you round a bend to find a snake swallowing a goat you probably want to snap a photo. So do take a camera, but don’t let it dominate every moment, particularly not in nice restaurants! There's more to your experience, and memories, than can be captured in pixels, lovely as they are for sharing.