It truly was a fluke that I just stood there, pointed an iPad and captured the beauty of this joglo at Bambu Indah in Ubud Bali in a way that mirrors how I remember it, because let’s face it, most often than not, we may feel our photos do not do a place or a person justice. Taking photos when traveling is always a delicate balance between capturing that perfect shot while living in the moment.
“To me, photography is an art of observation. It’s about finding something interesting in an ordinary place…I’ve found it has little to do with the things you see and everything to do with the way you see them.”
― Elliott Erwitt
In this post, I have reached out to Claudia, an old friend of mine who lives by the credo that “Art is what you can get away with” Andy Warhol to talk about photography, with a focus on travel. I have been a fan of Claudia’s photography since 2005 when I met her and started joining her on walks to capture photos of nature on and around UBC campus. Claudia’s passion for photography is one of the reasons she started her own freelance business part-time as she raises her two girls full-time. As a photographer/videographer Claudia captures not only the realism of places and people, but also their whimsical nature. If there is one thing I really appreciate about Claudia’s photos and videos is how she can balance living in the moment but also capturing something ethereal as well. In addition to taking the photos, Claudia’s artistic abilities have her and her two daughters transform photographs using various artistic techniques such as hand tinting. From British Columbia, to Uruguay and Europe, Claudia’s keen eye and her kind and happy soul have captured stunning photos that not only inspire others but also chronicle important moments in her journey. In this interview, Claudia will share some tips and thoughts to capture meaningful candid and staged photos.
1) What do you draw inspiration from when you capture an image or a video?
From a very young age I was captivated by the camera and how photos were like little time capsule that could freeze a moment forever. What inspired me then and now we’re the people around me. Wanting to stop time so that I could somehow keep that moment forever. Photographing authentic emotions feels like such a rush. My recent obsession has been my children. It’s nice to take a photo of a beautiful beach for instance but photographing interactions with nature there, chubby hands picking up shells there, or toes splashing in the water tells a story and makes the moment real. I guess for me, storytelling through images has been my driving force. The 2nd thing that inspires thing is definable light. How it breaks through the trees or frames a face, or how the lack of light can make something seem so moody. I love how a place can change completely depending on the time of day it is photographed. Visit the same building in the morning and then at sun set and you will see what I mean. The light might hit the windows just so…the hustle and bustle of the street might take on a different vibe in the morning vs the evening.
2) Are there good and bad photos?
Absolutely. There is something to be said about good cropping. Nothing drives me crazier than a photo with tons of visual clutter. The eye just doesn’t know where to go. This can be an easy fix: by stepping closer to the subject or simply zooming in, a bad photo can easily be turned into a better one. You see so many photograph with bad lighting too. People might turn on their flash to compensate, but sometimes all it takes is placing your subject next to a window, or standing between your subject and the light source. I always tell people not to be afraid to get up close and personal and to experiment with light.
3) What are your thoughts on selfie sticks and gadgets? Are there gadgets you can’t live without? If someone is packing light, is an SLR camera worth it?
A few years ago, we were visiting Paris and I noticed all the tourists with selfie sticks; they hadn’t quite hit North America yet. What I observed was that people were rushing around to get photos of themselves with the monuments or important pieces of art work, but not taking the time to appreciate where they were or what they were seeing. Now, don’t get me wrong, it’s handy, and I’m sure it serves its purpose but I personally don’t own one and would rather save room in my luggage for a mini tripod, for instance. They say that the best camera is the one you have with you, and in a sense, it is true. Smart phones can be super handy, they’re compact and quickly rechargeable, but nothing compares to the photos you can capture with your DSLR. I pack that baby with me on all my travels, along with a flash, rain protectors and a small sturdy tripod. My husband thinks I’m crazy for lugging around my equipment but he’s used to it by now. I don’t necessarily carry around all my lenses on all the excursions but plan my days then pack my bag accordingly. Sometimes just popping in my standard 35mm lens for city exploration & street photography, or pulling out my 300mm bad boy to be able to zoom in on wildlife. There are days that I put my camera away in the hotel safe and just bring my iPhone along instead to give my shoulders a rest.
4) While it seems that landscape orientation seems to produce better photos, when should one shoot in portrait orientation?
I don’t think about this too much and go on intuition; some things just photograph better a certain way. You might set up your shot and think “no, this doesn’t work”, and then turning your camera around will just make it work for you. The only exception is if you are photographing something in hopes of selling stock photos or publishing your work in a magazine, you should consider shooting the same photo in both orientations because the editors will know what they are looking for and if you can provide with either option, it’s more likely to get used – or even put on a cover!
5) I know you carry many high density memory cards to not be restricted by space when capturing images and videos. Back home, when you’re editing, are there angles or strategies that tend to create better images?
First thing first, stock up on memory cards back home (probably will save you a ton of money) and bring extra batteries always. Cold places will drain your battery like crazy, so keep them stores in the inside pocket of your coat for longer life. This goes for your phone too. Back to the question: there are two types of photographers – the rookies that snap photos like crazy on auto mode and hope for the best or the ones that are intentional with their photos. The first kind may get some good shots, but they will spend hours and hours editing and culling. Getting out of auto mode will turn you into the 2nd kind of photographer. When you take the time to set your aperture and shutter speed, consider the lighting and depth-a-field you will most likely be taking the time to also frame your shot better. This will save you a ton of time editing when you get home. Less to crop, less to adjust, and better photos to choose from overall.
6) Anything else you would like to recommend to pros and beginners trying capturing their memories?
Consider adding a rider to your insurance for your camera equipment; it’s not that expensive and totally worth it. I dropped and shattered my camera on day 1 of a European vacation once and a quick call to my insurance company confirmed that I was covered so I bought a new camera and new lens the next day and was reimbursed when I got home. Back-up your photos on external hard drives when you get home. I even go the extra step and send these overseas to my sister so that I have backups in another continent. I know, I’m extreme. Also remember memory cards and hard drives are not forever and some have a shelf life of 5-10 years; print your favorite photos. The archival quality in print paper is incredible now and those memories will out live you.
Have fun! Photograph what appeals to you, but don’t forget to put your camera down and participate with your travel companions and the locals to create your own stories to go along with those gorgeous photographs you will be taking.
Do you have any other tips or must have equipment when you travel? Does capturing the best photos sometimes hinder your ability to enjoy your travels?