So as a filmmaker / photographer I have a number of tips I try to abide by when traveling to ensure I can always try to get that awesome, beautiful or unique shot. If you wish to get into the world of photography or cinematography I would recommend these 5 tips to help you on your way.
1- Take your camera with you.
You never know what you going to see, what interesting or out of the ordinary discovery you will make. Having your camera handy allows the opportunity to capture these moments, and or create a moment.
A saying I try to live by - "I would rather have my camera and not need it, than need my camera and not have it."
2- Have a friend or partner go with you.
Whenever possible invite your friend or partner with you on your trip. Why? Well, sometimes a beautiful scenic shot would be that much better with a model (by model I mean anyone) in it. We cannot all afford to hire a stunning catwalk model to accompany us on all our shoots. Well no one I know at least, so any friend or partner who wants to travel with you is the perfect candidate for this "job". Someone to give the viewer an idea this is being experienced by someone.
This also gives you options, you could have a shot of the view, and another shot of the view with someone doing something in the shot. Maybe just appreciating the view, running away from camera towards the view. You name it the possibilities are endless, with a model in the shot depending on what you do, you can create any mood. To either compliment the shot, add to it or create a juxtaposition. From sadness or joy, simply by having your model perform some appropriate action.
The below images are examples of times where I wouldn't have been able to capture these moments without a "model" friend or partner. The opportunity for a great sunset shot was there, but with a model the possibilities for numerous types of shots became apparent.
Having both of these types of camera on hand will make your life a great deal easier. A GoPro (or equivalent) and or your trusty DSLR. You never know what situation you may find yourself in, and in many cases having to whip out a bulkier DSLR, fit your lense, set up your shot, place it on a tripod. Doesn't leave you with much time to capture something quickly. This is where your action camera (GoPro) comes in very handy, as it is quick to mount and ready to shoot at the press of a button. In many situations you may also find you do not have the necessary equipment or crew needed to hang your camera off the side of a mountain in order to capture a shot. But with an action camera, being as compact and light as it is it lends itself to be dangled off a cliff or next to your model while scuba diving alongside a whale shark etc.
With one camera you can set up a time lapse (GoPro), leave it to do what it does and go about capturing other shots with your DSLR. This will save you alot of time, especially if you may not find yourself with the opportunity to return to a spot.
For those moments where you do have the time, then it is advantageous for you to use the DSLR. Where you can set up a shot, pick the perfect lense, check your settings, place your camera on a tripod for a stable shot etc etc. Here you can then get the perfectly composed shot.
A camera for every moment makes your life a great deal easier, so be prepared and have either camera readily available..
If you have the time, take it. Be patient, walk around and allow inspiration the opportunity to find you. When you find yourself in a spot that lends itself to beautiful shots and you have the time to wait, then don't rush it. Many times you just want to get a shot of the view and then leave, but do not forget you are there to enjoy the moment too. So don't rush it, enjoy the splendor of the spot, enjoy the time with your friend or partner. In doing so you would be surprised how ideas magically pop into your head, or are offered by your "model".
Yes, get that shot of the location or view, but then again as mentioned above be creative and come up with various shots and actions for your model to perform to alter the meaning or mood of the clip or picture. And the only thing that will allow you to do this is time. Unless of course you have been there before, and know what to expect, then pre-planning your shots would save alot of time.
The below images are examples of the time we found ourselves on a mountain top in the middle of nowhere. So we took our time and came up with some ideas for various shots (picture and video).
Meet new people, try new things, take the path less traveled. In doing so, you may find that perfect spot, that magical moment where the rays of the setting sun filter in through the jungle, falling on the ruins you discovered. With no tourists around, because only the locals know about this particular spot.
Now I wouldn't call myself a professional photographer / DOP by any means. If anything I am a producer and director, but my love and passion for pictures and moving image is what keeps me capturing more. I am certainly getting better everyday, and I think by following the above tips I may find myself capturing progressively better shots. I have to admit though, in writing these points I realise how much I need to follow my own advice, as I find myself not following my own steps on many occasions. Although I always have a model with me in the form of my beautiful girlfriend, who accompanies me wherever we travel. So at least step 2 I cannot forget - Thanks babes.
Another 5 tips, I know I have learned will certainly be added to the 5 above hopefully soon in a follow up blog post.
I hope these tips were helpful, and happy shooting.