David McKay: “Getting Lost” in the World of Travel Photography

As a photographer that has the opportunity to travel the world photographing in many situations, I wanted to bring you a few tips and ideas to help you “get lost” while traveling!

Wait…what? Get lost?

Yep, get lost! Let’s take Venice as an example. Venice is a location that people come to visit from all over the world and tend to plan out every detail of the day. Popular tourist destinations, like St. Mark’s Square (Piazza San Marco), become totally packed with people as tour after tour come into the city via cruise ships. I am always amazed at how so many people get off a cruise ship, spend 5 hours in a city, get their T-shirt, and then have to get back on the cruise ship and do it all over again the next day in another location.  This is not for you!

A city like Venice is the perfect city to get “lost” in. If you simply start walking, you WILL get lost and it is awesome! You will find yourself walking down alleyways barely wide enough for you to get through. You will come across local ladies and gentleman having cappuccinos and walking their dogs. The beauty of Venice is, if you are lost, just keep walking and eventually you will come to a waterway where you simply get back on the Vaporetto (water bus) and make your way back.

Every turn and corner will afford you interesting photographic opportunities that most tourists never see. You will take your time and experience the beauty and culture of Venice in a way that is very special. This will feed into your images, giving your photography life and emotion rather than just creating another tourist shot!

Once the crowds and cruise ships are gone, that is your time to go explore the locations that are filled with thousands of people during the day. I have been in St Mark’s Square all alone at 5:30 am or 11:30 at night. This is quite a different feeling and photographic opportunity, as opposed to 1 pm when there are 50,000 people in the square.

I take this same idea anywhere I go in the world. I try to get “lost” at least once. Of course, you want to be safe and use common sense not to be alone in certain situations or locations and it is always good to have a travel buddy with you.

Chasing Light

After all of your preparation for traveling as a photographer, the single most important aspect of creating great travel photographs will be recognizing and learning to chase the light. This is where everything you have learned photographically on your own or with other educators comes into play.

This may mean that you have to get up before dawn to catch the amazing twilight and ensuing sunrise to follow. Or, it may mean that you stay out late to capture the evening mood of a city after dark. Your plans to go left may now take you right, or your plans to shoot at one location may all of a sudden change. Whatever it is for you at that moment, it is important you chase after great light as you see it happening.

This is where you learn to recognize the quality of light, what is happening, and act on it. You MUST be flexible. In fact, we tell all of our clients on our tours that the single number one factor to enjoying one of our trips is to be flexible. This is because things WILL change and the unexpected will happen with light. As we recognize it, we chase after it!

Chasing light means being willing to alter your plans and go for the shot. Sometimes, I even feel a bit like one of those storm chasers you see on television, where they are filming and trying to catch the tornado. Although not as drastic and far less dangerous, it is that same mindset of adrenaline rush and the “go get it” attitude that will take your images to another level.

This may mean “getting lost” to get the images and experiences you will love!

On my photographic journeys, I love using my Spider Holster system and so does our team! It goes with me everywhere I go and allows me quick access to various shooting situations, especially while out doing landscape and wildlife. Getting the weight of the camera off of my shoulders has been such a relief!

If you would like to hear and learn more about the world of travel photography and ask us questions, please join us for our FREE live webinar event, “The World of Travel Photography – Secrets to getting great travel images!” If you cannot make the live event, replay recordings will be made available to all registrants. Register here.

David McKay and his wife Ally are co–founders of McKay Photography Academy, McKay Photography Inc. and Photo Enthusiast Network, an online photographic educational community.

David has received some of the highest photographic awards in the world including the prestigious Master of Photography and Photographic Craftsmen degrees from Professional Photographers of America.

Having taught on some of the largest stages in the industry, to thousands of people, both professional photographers and amateurs alike, he has a passion for photography and teaching. He believes just being a great photographer does not make you a great teacher and that the ingredients of both emotion and skill must be shared and taught. David shares his love and enthusiasm wherever he goes!

You may also know David from his #1 International Best Selling photography book series, “Photography Demystified”. He has also written the #1 Best Selling book, Photography Demystified, The World of Travel Photography”.

McKay Photography Academy

Photo Enthusiast Network

Instagram – @mckaylive