Travel Photography: Landscapes, Aerials, and Skylines


Lesson Info

How to Start

So where do you get started? First get off the couch right? We've kind of sort of established that. If you want to be a travel photographer you can't do it at home. So you have to go out, but that's it. Everything out your door qualifies probably as travel. It could be local travel. It could be your own hometown. It could be an interesting story. It could be that the new restaurant even opened up in a different part of town and people want to go over there. Well, what is that like? How far is it? What is the experience like? So on. There is a lot of different ways to do this but you have to start somewhere, because that restaurant could work for somebody else's travel story when they're flying across the country to your town or your city or wherever you live. Every subject matter. Think of every subject matter as travel story. This is very important because the second you start to think of it as travel, you'll start to think about what kind of shots you want to take for it to be a trav...

el story. And then shoot local as I say, just because you don't need a plane ticket doesn't mean that other people aren't traveling to you. Here we are in Seattle trying to carve some time go out and see the skyline, look at different things, very important to telling the story. So what constitutes a travel photograph? Anything that gives you a sense of place. A sense of place is very important, because that's what this is about. It's about the place. It could be about the restaurant. It could be about the location. It could be about the country on a whole. One of the most written about and published places in the world is Italy. Always. You never go wrong-- Well the food of course, right? Can't go wrong with Italian food, it's my favorite. You think about it. You kind of start at this macro scale and work your way in. How do you give a sense of place? What's the Italian experience like? Well you're going to show the pastas and the landscapes and so on. I'll show you some examples, but you want to give a nice strong sense of place. You want people to feel like they know what it is about. And anything that inspires someone to want go that place. This is important because this is what gives you the marketability. Anything that inspires someone to want to go to that place because that's what they're trying to do. If you're publishing an image then you have to know the market place-- but if you're publishing an image in a road trip magazine or an airline magazine, well what's the goal? Sell more airplane tickets, right? Get people to buy the memberships, whatever it is. But you want people to feel like they can connect with it and they want to inspire someone to go to that place. So you want to have that captured in your image and say, this is some place I feel like I want to go. When I see this image, I know this is some place I want to go. This works because-- And the part of it that makes it work is you're looking for those iconic components of the image. The cypress trees, the long driveway, the clouds. One thing you'll notice, I'm going to talk about it, is look at the style of the imagery, and my imagery has evolved a lot over time where travel images tend to be brighter. And they tend to be a little bit more warm. You know you're not going to try and find like a moody, dark artistic impression for a travel image if you want a broad market. They tend to be brighter, happier. Let's go and see this place right? And so I tend to artificially warm my images up juts a little bit to make them feel like that warm happy place. The wide angle will work. This helps you get a larger spread in a magazine. Might get you a little bit more money. But it's also pretty vague. And can be a challenge, because it is so big. And a lot of times-- You want to think, well how many-- You want to have the whole thing. This is a great establishing shot. Here is the experience. This is the island of Capri, off the coast of southern Italy. Italy is always a great subject matter. And it's always fun to go to. But again, you don't have to choose that destination, but I've been building over many, many trips, different images and I was going into national parks and different places and the actual experience if you're on an actual trip-- Let's say you're on vacation. You don't have to turn it into a full blown shoot. You can still go and capture an image and just spend an extra couple of minutes taking a picture. Most, all of these images in fact, that you're looking at are not from a assignments. These are all images that were taken on the fly as I was going. This is something where I was just out for an evening with friends. We stopped. I didn't have a tripod. I had one camera. One lens. Almost all these images you're going to look at, actually in the next couple of minutes, are all one camera, body, one lens, no tripod. Handheld, on the fly, on the go, I used the ledge, there was like a rock wall, I set the camera on the rock wall. Got it real nice and steady. Did a nice long exposure, got the clouds moving which was great. There were some other shots, you can kind of tell there was like a boat zipping across. This one is a little more subtle. There is a way to do it. And it doesn't have to be a produced shoot. You can turn your vacation into travel photographs as well, you don't have to. So this is something that could be anywhere, right? You've got the whole experience though. You're here seeing the whole story. You've got your wide angle shot. And then you get the experience of maybe doing a wine tasting, here is what he backyard looks like, in this case the hotel experience. Usually, especially if you're starting to get published and you're working with a hotel or you're actually already staying there. They're not going to be opposed to you wanting to get a beautiful shot to get them press in a magazine. That's something that you want to-- Well talk about it a little bit more, but you want to get permission for of course, and then food right? So it's all of these little pieces come together. You have all the detail shots. All of these are travel photographs. This is a travel photograph. Could be constitute just a pretty landscape, could be art. But really at the end of the day, this is-- Because it gives you a sense of place. It tells the story of what it might be like-- What feels out of whack with all of this though? That's not Italian food right? That feels a little out of whack. But this one is actually part of a project. We were photographing assignment for sunset magazine and went to a restaurant, and wanted to show what the seafood was like, what that particular restaurant was like, went in, ordered a few things on the menu. Had a big window. Window light coming in, snap a couple of pictures. Ends up in the magazine. You make a couple of hundred bucks, or a hundred bucks, whatever. These are the shots that you always want to get. We'll talk about this in just a second. This also is sort of the camping great example, of sort of here is the experience. Going camping, got that nice time of day. This was also an assignment. We're shooting with sunset at the time, in Denali national park. It's very rare to have the experience of being able to drive. They have a lottery for how that's done. A lot of times you have to take the bus. So I wanted to imply that you didn't take the bus in camp, so I wanted to make sure that there was a little bit of a car in the shot. And think about all these elements that are going to help tell that story. And you have to think about, what are they writing about. What is the article going to say. And so it's sometimes helpful, especially if a writer goes in advance where they can give you story points and say well this is what it's like to have your own experience in this park driving. Maybe that's the actually angle. I won the lottery and I get to drive in for the autumn, what does that look like? So you want to know those things, because they're going to be important elements to put in your image. These are the images though, ultimately, that are going to be the big winners in travel. That's why the class has skylines in the name. Any time you can get a skyline and show it differently it will have value. This is the city of San Francisco. This is a couple of years old. Sadly, there is so many fires of course going on up there right now. In Napa, probably couldn't even get this view. This is just a normal sort of fog, haze lifting, from way far away in Mount Tam. And this was an image that I had honestly been hiking many, many times up in there and tried to conceptualize. Couldn't find exactly the right spot to do it and then with a long 400mm lens I was able to go and compress this entire thing down and create a landscape shot. And I used a neutral density filter here to control it. Did a little post work to try and balance it out. But ultimately, the skyline you get a little hint of the Golden Gate bridge here. You've got the Bay Bridge over there. So it says everything. This thing has sold so many times for me, it's not even funny. Because it's a different view of something. And the other thing that's great about skylines, they keep changing. They're is always new buildings going up new iconic buildings. I know I live in Los Angeles, Downtown L.A. it changes every week, there is a new building it feel like. The Miami Skyline keeps changing which means there is always a new opportunity to shoot it and people run lots of these. They don't want to run the same shots. They want to runs new shots. They want to make sure that they look updated and they look current. This image is probably aging out already, after a few years because the skyline has probably changed. There is probably new buildings there. Magazines don't want to run an image that feel like it's expired. But the skyline shots are the most important one. They are your establishment shot. Everything else falls in, what happens here? Maybe this is as story about the hike. It could be a story about this, about being up in mount Tam, Maybe it's about the city itself. Maybe it's about a restaurant in the city. And maybe this-- You know what people like to do with this photo? They put the text right through here. If you're thinking about travel and you're thinking about editorial, you need to think about where the text goes on it, right? So, you know all these things. How do you capture it? Think of what people like and enjoy. So think about yourself as a traveler. How do you experience it. What are the things that you experience? Generally, this is the list, right? When you open up a magazine-- Every city has got some sort of where do I go, what do I do sort of thing. There is your shot list. I can't tell you how many times photographers email us and they say, Oh, a tandem they say, what should I do I'm going here? Well what is there to do there? That's what you should shoot. Those are the things you want to do. So what do people like and enjoy? Great views. Of course. The big landscapes. City skylines. And of course the tremendous nature moments. Don't forget, nature photos and landscapes are still travel photos. If they're in that context, if they're part of that story. If you're going to a redwood forest that is still the destination. The difference is, instead of just getting a landscape photo, you might also show the road, you might show the visitor gate. You might show the restaurant. You might show the trip getting there. The journey and the destination are part of travel. So don't forget nature is part of your travel story. Food and drink. Everybody has got to eat and drink something right? And so that's all part of it. Maybe there is an ice cream stand. When we went and did the bootcamp here for creative live. I did this huge 20 part bootcamp, and we stopped and got ice cream cones on our way back. Because they had homemade ice cream that was really delicious. I think it was blueberry and they picked the blueberries right there. And then they put them into the ice cream and they make the cones or whatever. That's part of a travel story because I guarantee everybody on their way to north cascades national park passes it and a magazine says, well let's write about it. Let's see what this is about. And so, that's something you want to photograph. So I photograph the blue berries. I photograph the ice cream cone. The shot running down the side of it or whatever. Maybe the outside of the place. Food and drink are very important part of the story no matter what they may be. Entertainment. Could be shows. Could be anything like that right? Anything that can be entertaining. Obviously if it's part of the destination, maybe a park, something like that-- And then of course transportation I put #vanlife. Because this is the new fun trend. Everybody is getting a really cool supped up van and hitting the road. It's one of the hot new topics, but part of that means understanding trends too. This might be big now. My guess is that it's probably not going anywhere anytime soon. I'm half tempted to hit the road in a van myself sometimes. It'd be fun. But transportation is important. And these are all different ways of doing it. You add an RV you just opened an entire new market. Whole new market just on the RV lifestyle. They're important. Then ask yourself how do you experience the place. So now you have a list of the activities. Now you want to make sure you capture all of those different ways. As you're building your shot list you've got your wide shot, maybe you have no people in it. Maybe you have people. Maybe you experience a place alone. Maybe it's solitude, meditation, clearing your head. Maybe it's the activity means alone. Or with friends. Or with family. The ultimate family destination. Those are the kinds of things you want to convey in your images. You can shoot a photograph-- Perhaps these places, all of these ways. Ultimately, especially if you have that opportunity, now granted might mean producing a shoot, but maybe not. Maybe you go to a park. When I go to a national park, you're out in public you want to shoot an editorial story. You don't need permission. Maybe you get permission from the park itself. You can go and photograph maybe it's yourself alone, right? Where we see those on social media. Maybe you have people with you. You can include your friends. Maybe you see friends out. Maybe you see a family and how they're experiencing it. Maybe you have a landscape photo with no people. Maybe it's all about how people actually can come together in a certain situation. Those are things that you might not think about when you're thinking about travel photographs. But these are very important because they have the power to convey a really good story. Photographing, this is a natural hot spring, in Big Ben national park. This is the writer. Didn't have another way to do this shot. But it worked out just great. It was an old abandoned. I think they had a hut or a house there at the time on the river. That's actually Mexico on this side and the U.S. on this side. It's like 103 degrees I think. Or 102 degrees. Natural hot spring. Ice cold water. Great experience, capturing that sense of place. Making you want to feel like you're there. Feels generic enough, to not be. What is the other experience like? Like sometimes there's just too many people. This was the greatest gathering of humanity. I forget how many people descended. I think it was 16 million people descended on this one area of the Ganges river. It's called the Kumbh Mela. So this is like the ultimate travel. People coming from all over India. Some of them on foot for months. To have this experience of the Ganges, and it just got so intense I climbed onto a roof. Went up the gutter, climbed on a roof and it was wow, this is a great angle. It's intense. But, you get a strong sense of place. Notice the little bit of warmth that I added in there. Very, very intense experience. I have lots of different images from this. It wasn't always the greatest experience. Sometimes a travel situation or destination could have something very intense. In this case it was a combination of spiritual, gathering as well as the intense crowd, the amount of pressure. You can literally feel the breath being squeezed out from the crowd sometimes, when they would shift too far in one direction. It was just frightening. But it's still part of the experience. It's a travel experience and destination for people.

Award-winning outdoor photographer Ian Shive shows how to capture the cityscapes and backdrops of your travels. He'll discuss composition, gear and how to successfully capture iconic skylines and viewpoints with a fresh perspective. Round out your portfolio with scenic landscapes that are print worthy.



  • Great class! Lots of useful information on on how to take, market and sell your photographs, including what constitutes editorial vs commercial work.