Saturday's Quotable Traveler
The Photo Escape

Improve Your Travel Photography

I've been playing around with photography for years, when I was 14 I adopted my older brothers camera and darkroom equipment when he lost interest. But after high school I packed up and went off to college and also lost interest in photography. I found the hardest part of keeping up the hobby was trying to setup a good darkroom in an apartment. As digital photography came on the scene I quickly jumped back in with both feet buying one of Nikons first digital cameras the Coolpix 100.

During those early years I learned a lot about composition and other skills that still apply to digital photography. But I'm a firm believer that you can never stop learning. So I regularly take photo classes looking for a few new techniques or ideas that can help my images. I've taken classes at the Brooks Institute in Santa Barbara and the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena California. But when I got an email telling me about a class titled "Travel and Adventure Photography" offered by a local photo shop Calumet Photographic I signed up.

Ralph Velasco teaching a Travel Photography Class

This class was different that from the others I'd taken that were more fine art or commercial based. This class targeted travel photography a skill I specifically wanted to continue to improve. This was a three hour class offered on a Saturday morning taught by a local pro photographer Ralph Velasco. I noticed that he also was going to teach another interesting session that afternoon called "Capturing the Essence of a Place". I signed up for both. I also signed up my wife Pamela even though she is a writer and rarely picks up a camera. But I thought that maybe with some training she might be able to spot unique shots and point them out to me.

I won't go over every aspect of the class, it was basic, but well done. The instructor didn't spend any time dealing with specific hardware since every camera is different, but focused instead on composition and image content. He said "People take pictures, not cameras." He covered concepts such as the rule of thirds along with suggestions on ways to research your trips photo opportunities before you leave.

He did show us a few gadgets that would help any photographer. He displayed his homemade pocket mono-pod designed to help you steady your camera. I a piece of rope connected to an i-bolt that matches you cameras tripod socket. You screw the bolt into your camera let the rope dangle then step on the rope anchoring it. Pulling up slightly on the camera adds stability that can help you get sharper images when zoomed in tight or when using a slow shutter speed. (see it in the above photo of Ralph)

Ralph Velasco teaching at Calumet Photographic   Ralph Velasco teaching at Calumet Photographic

I asked Ralph for a travel photography tip I could share with my readers. He suggests: "Don't be afraid to be out in less than ideal weather conditions. I make an effort to be out shooting when it's raining or drizzling because that's when the clouds are interesting and rainbows often appear. I like a good snow storm, because that's when other photographers and tourists are at home or snug in their hotel room, waiting out the cold weather, and I'm the one getting the unique shots. There's an old saying, "In photography there's no such thing as bad weather, just varying degrees of good weather." So it's all about how you look at it."

Calumet Photographic has 29 stores, 10 in the US and 19 in Europe. Don Ernst, VP of US Marketing, was most familiar with the domestic stores and said about half of them offer travel photography classes in addition to other classes. He said that Calumet has offered a variety of classes for at least the past 10 years, but has increased their offerings in the last 18 months.

I emailed my local Calumet store manager Daniel Perez and asked for his input. "All individual travelers should take a Travel and Adventure class to improve their composition and pre-visualization skills. Travelers tend to miss or underestimate different points of interest when traveling due to a lack of experience. This class will train their eye when out in the field helping them identify strong photographic subjects in the environment they previously missed."

If you want to improve your photography I suggest you seek out classes to help improve skills and vision. If your near a Calumet Photographic check out their many classes, if not look into offerings from your local commnity college. Take a basic class if your a novice, more experienced shooters should take a class like the travel photography class we took.