As we head into this post-COVID travel season, I reflect on how I used to approach travel that included photoshoots. Before digital photography was a thing, I always carried my trusty Minolta model SLR101 along with at least three separate lenses, various lens filters, and a dozen film rolls – all in lead-lined bags to avoid damage to airports scanner.
With the rise of digital cameras, I first bought the Kodak ZD710, which debuted in 2004. Later, I switched to a Canon PowerShot SX 50 HS, which has a single lens and a lot of bells and whistles—and a 287-page owner’s manual. For long-distance African safari shots, the Canon makes great pictures, but still requires a camera bag and a bunch of filters.
On my last few trips, and an upcoming Viking cruise along the Adriatic coast, I have taken one device with me, my trusty iPhone SE 2020, a small digital powerhouse , equipped with an extremely simple yet technologically advanced camera system.
For the past three years, I’ve taught a class on iPhone photography at the Aiken Center for Lifelong Learning. There, participants learn how to take great photos, especially travel photos. For us retirees, most of our travel consists of “bucket list” destinations, and we quickly discover that many photo opportunities are “one shot”. That means if I miss, there is no second chance. So we teach quick-reaction skills like how to open the camera app with a single swipe, how to quickly set focus, and how to compose a shot—all before the scene disappears forever. We teach other techniques like avoiding the “zoom” feature (except on newer iPhones) and saving it for editing. Hold the camera steady, make sure your subject is in focus, and lightly touch the button outline on the screen.
Speaking of focus, that’s one thing you can’t fix when editing photos, so make it a habit to use your main iPhone photo assistant. Many times, picture opportunities include both near (10-12 feet) and distant subjects. In this case, you have to decide what to focus on clearly. Don’t rely on your iPhone to set the “best” focus, touch the screen of the view you want to focus on. Maybe you want to emphasize those flowers that are a few feet away. Maybe it’s the mountains on the horizon. After touching the screen where you want the camera to focus, shoot immediately. If you are taking several similar photos, touch and hold for about two seconds, you will see “AE/AF LOCK” pop up. Your focus will remain locked until you touch the screen again.
In a recent series of YouTube videos, I’ve seen some professional travel photographers discuss their transition from carrying two or three cameras and a full bag of accessories to carrying one travel photography tool, their iPhone . Legendary photographer Scott Kelby with a background in Photoshop has released a series of really interesting videos. Here’s my suggestion, with web links. Check them out in this order::
In the final video, photography experts have a lengthy discussion about one of the keys to success in travel photography – effective use of light. Graham advocates taking most photos at dawn or dusk, when natural light is your camera’s best friend. You can also usually avoid the crowds and get a really clean shot – tough this year as tourists flock back to the most popular destinations.
They also discuss the importance of photo editing, where you can do a lot of enhancements to those “instant” shots. You can make most changes on the iPhone itself using the built-in editing features. And there’s no need to rely solely on the editing app that came with your phone. Check out some free apps like Snapseed.
Jefferson Graham’s third YouTube video is about an iPhone and iPad app called Lightroom Photo and Video Editor.it can be found in app Store. NOTE: It has a subscription price of $49 per year.
Two years ago, I was traveling near Jackson, Wyoming and took some photos of the Grand Tetons on my iPhone; however, these majestic mountains were shrouded in smoke from the California wildfires. In less than a minute, using Lightroom, I was literally able to erase the haze and present a clear mountain scene that couldn’t be seen with the naked eye or a camera.
This fall and winter, we will again be offering classes using the iPhone/iPad camera and photo app at the Lifelong Learning Center at USC Aiken.Follow our announcements online at Aiken Learning Network and The Spiral newsletter. Open House registration will take place on August 15th, with classes starting after the Labor Day holiday on September 5th.Online registration is also possible, although we’d love to meet you in person at an open day Aiken Learning Network.