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Travel Photography

Lesson 23 of 32

Details: Pattern


Travel Photography

Lesson 23 of 32

Details: Pattern


Lesson Info

Details: Pattern

I mentioned before that one of my favorite clues, one of my favorite things to look for, is a pattern, and there are patterns everywhere when you start looking at them. Everywhere you go there's a pattern and there's a potential interesting little story in that pattern shot right there. Fabric market in Mongolia. I would have you guess but I think it would take too long, overturned canoes at a canoe rental. Obviously there's gonna be a lot of this stuff at markets, museums. You know, I would never have been able to get this shot if I was a typical tourist getting up at eight o'clock in the morning, going out in the middle of the day because they have trams running this over and over, back and forth. But at 5:30 in the morning, you can stand out in the middle of the street. I was like, "Wow, there's no trams. I can get out there. What does that look like?" Because I didn't know what this looked like until I got out there and I'm like, "Oh I love that pattern!" Climbing to this top, gott...

a put out a little effort from time to time. Using a tripod in the middle of the day so that I have a little bit more versatility in how I can play with shutter speeds. Interesting little location I photographed in Miami is the Wynnwood Walls, and this is kind of interesting for kind of a separate topic we're gonna go into. In this particular district, it's an artist district, and there's all these wonderful artists and a lot of them paint their buildings, they do murals, and it's just a fun and vibrant place to go to. There's all these great things on the walls of all these buildings. And as I was photographing this, I was playing with different lenses and so forth. You know, I said, if you just get close up you don't see the building at all, you're just documenting artwork. I really can't lay claim to this artwork. Somebody else painted this. I just took a photograph of it. It's not really fun from a photographic perspective just documenting something that somebody else did. So I want to play on it. If you can think of this as music, you don't just copy someone's song and say, "That's my song, I like it." But you can remix songs and you can use a bit of this. You can use a bit of sampling to take a little bit of this to add it to that. So I thought, well okay, I got one building here, I got another one, okay I don't like the car down here. I'm working on things, I'm working on it here, but reflections and this. Okay, so that got me thinking. And now I started looking for new things as I'm walking around. And so I'm not photographing the building at all, but this is my own interpretation that the original artist probably didn't imagine, but is my interpretation of it. And so, waiting for the right elements to come around, and one of the buildings that I really liked, that I just had a hard time photographing was what I will call the zebra building. It has an interesting pattern. I was trying to do a compression that didn't really come out as I would hope. I went across the street and I found a car had a big sunroof. I didn't touch the car. I did not touch the car, but I held my camera up so that I could shoot using the sunroof as a reflector of this building. So one of the shots I really liked is just this one here. And then as I'm just kind of playing around here like, "This is pretty good. We could make it better. How do we make it better?" And then walking down the street, the photography gods shown a light on me and said, "John, this is my gift to you. A woman in a red umbrella, in Miami on a sunny day!" Thank you, that's just the little, as I talked with another photographer, that's the cookie in the photograph. You know, that one little extra element, take it out, and it's probably still a decent photograph, but with it there, it's that little hook that makes it a little bit more interesting. And so if you are photographing other people's artwork, you can document it if you just want to know what it looks like and have a record of it, that's fine, but you want to be creative. You want to instill your own creativity on top of that. So remix it, do something new that nobody else has done with it. Also, look for those reflections. They can always be handy. One of the most popular places you can ever go, one of the most crowded places, is the Vatican Museum. I went there and I didn't actually do this, but what I felt like doing is, "Hi, I'm here to see the Vatican Museum. This is really cool, where's the exit?" Because I knew the exit is where this wonderful stairway is and that's what I wanted to see more than the artwork that was there. I did go see the artwork. But, when I got to the staircase, this is just wonderful. It's got a pattern, it's got curved lines, it's got a lot of good elements that you would want in a photograph. So part of me is, "Oh, I don't like all the people in here. So let's wait around and see if we can get a shot without people." And so I get as good a shot as you can get, I think, in this sort of situation where I don't have special access. I'm just waiting here at the top banister, waiting for the crowds to kind of get a break between the groups there. And I get the shot, and now I can go over to my box and I can check that off the list. But that was kind of that standard checklist. Okay, now it's time to get to work, let's do something new. What can I do? Because if you look up this shot on the internet, you will see thousands of people who have shot this. Now it's time for me to do something unique. Alright, let's walk to the bottom and shoot back up. Okay, I know that's been done before, but eh, it didn't really do it for me on this day. Let's go back up to the top. Let's try shooting this in a different way. These are all just failed experiments coming on to something. You know what, oh. I really like these tungsten lights. I never saw those in the top shot. Now I had this repeating pattern of this warm light, people like that warm light, and I like the repeated lines and the curved lines looked nice. Okay, keep working, keep shooting, what do you got next? Okay, we're gonna try a horizontal here, that's pretty good. Now, do you like people on the different levels or not? How many people do you want in this shot, do you just want one? Do you want nobody? Do you want a large crowd? Play around with it some more. What if back up? That's counterintuitive. Usually you want to close, I'm gonna back up. But now, I have a pattern in one direction and I have something breaking the pattern in the other direction, I go, "That's kind of nice." What if I did that on the top end of the frame as well? Okay, now I have this in here. Okay, so I've got a number of different elements that I'm working for, but this is what I call revealing the magicians trick. See this area up here in the top? Where you can see the ceiling and you can kind of see outside of this beautiful environment of the stairway going out? That kind of really takes your eye out of the environment into an environment that's not like what we want here. So if I can reframe this without that, I think there's gonna be something good there. And then I was trying to decide, do I want people, or no people? And I decided in this one I would go with no people and the shot that I ended up was this one. And I'm very happy, because when I type in the Vatican staircase, I don't see any photos like this. So it's nice to come back with your own version. I don't know if it's better or not than anything else but I was just having fun with my creativity which is I think what a lot of you probably like to do. You want to be creative and you can do it in places that literally have thousands of people walking by every day and no one will see what you see. So the lessons I learned from this, get your iconic shot, get it out of the way, and get some free time in, and take your time to explore. And don't get too locked in on one idea. So sometimes you're like, "Ah, I gotta get this, I gotta get this, I gotta get this just right." And it's just never gonna happen in some cases. And you gotta just let it go and say, "Okay, what are the world of possibilities?" And go with whatever you can go with. This is one of my favorite shots that I've ever taken. This does dive into a new tricky area of photography that we haven't talked about. And that is naturally just capturing something you see, or do you set something up so it looks good the way you want to photograph it? And I remember when I was a young photographer I was getting into photography, like National Geographic magazine, and then I read an article about a National Geographic photographer, and they had mentioned that they had paid for the sheep farmer to take the sheep out for a walk right during morning sunlight and they took a photograph that was in the magazine, like, you can do that! And I felt guilty, I felt like that was dirty, no you can't set up shots! That's wrong. And different people are going to have different opinions and this is not the place to settle it, but there are certain things in life that I just like to capture the natural, this is the way this location is. And there are other cases where it will never, ever happen. In fact, if you were to go, let's say you go to something like the Olympics. Well, somebody else is setting stuff up for you to take photos. You're paying your ticket price to get in there so you are paying somebody for photographic opportunities. So there's many different levels of, "Can I naturally capture this? Or do I set this up?" And there are a lot of professional travel photographers and all they do is set up shots to make them look natural. That's a thing. I tend to be more of a type that just likes to grab something naturally, but sometimes, there is no way about getting around it. And this is just one of those cases where either you set it up, or it doesn't happen. We had our tour group and we were taking a little bit of a break and we were doing some rug shopping, because we all need to do that when we're in, in this case, where we were in Turkey. They have wonderful rugs there. And it was really fascinating because the salesman would, you know, "You like this rug? Well how about this rug? Or how about this rug?" And they just kept bringing out all these rugs into this room, and there was this wonderful pattern here and I was looking at this and I'm going, "Wow, this pattern, these colors, this is really good clues that's there's gonna be a good photo, but where and how do I get it?" And then I was looking around and I said, "Oh no, this is gonna be a lot of work." And so I talked to my guide and I said, "This is what I'm thinking about doing." And I don't like to impose on people. I just don't want to get in their way, I don't want to use up their time and interfere with what they're doing, but I said, "Would this be possible?" And they were like, "Absolutely, that sounds like a fun idea!" And so what we did is we got a ladder and I climbed up and I mounted my camera in the rafters, and I had it pointed straight down with a wide angle lens because I wanted to get the entire pattern filling up the frame. So you can see I'm working out the kinks here, trying to figure out, does the remote work? Yeah, I think I heard it click there. And of course, I don't want the ladder in it, gotta get the ladder out of the way. I don't just want carpet in there, I want people in there, well I don't want these people in there, well maybe they should go in the photo but they should go right over here. And so, this was a photo that you could never just naturally take. "Oh, my camera was just naturally mounted in the ceiling." (audience laughs) This is the type of thing you have to ask for. I don't do this a lot, and I'm very careful about when I ask to pull out the favors with the guide, "Can we set this up?" But when it's really worth it, and you have a vision there's a whole different aspect of photography that studio photographers are familiar with. They have a vision in their mind, "I need a soft box here, I need a model in a red dress pointed this direction, I need a spotlight there." And they're creating everything in their minds and then they come in and they make it happen. And it's beautiful shots, it's different than documentary shots. It's not that one's better than the other, but they both have their time and place, I think. And so, good elements lead to good photos. So think about all those good elements. Those patterns, and lines, and colors, and things like that. That's what lead me to this shot. And as I say, I don't like to impose on people, but ask. Maybe they're willing to help you out. And when you are doing something like this, it's a lot better if you have a clear vision of what you want because if you're thinking, "I don't know, maybe have two people, no, let's have three, no let's just make it two, no we don't want this in there, let's try this in there, no, you know what, I'm gonna switch lenses on the camera because I don't think that's the right one." And so, you don't have much time to work with in these situations. You need to really have your game plan and say, "This is what I'm doing and this is the way I'm going it." And get through it as quickly as possible so that you're not interfering. Sometimes ideas take a while to come to fruition. On the first day in morocco, up on the top of the building, getting a little bit of a landscape view here. Kind of fascinating, a nice little pattern in these antennae here, yeah? And so, yeah that's kind of nice, not great, you know, something to work on. It's an element, it's a pattern. And so another city, another place. There's more of these satellites out here, and you know, not quite what I'm thinking and what I'm feeling because my brain is concentrating on this satellite and it feels like there's more of them than there are. And here, there's a ton of satellite dishes, but they're not very visible because it's not really the right lighting. And so this idea is just germinating in the back of my head, it's just waiting for the right opportunity to come around and when the light is hitting the satellite dishes so that they're reflecting bright white light, the buildings behind them are kind of in shadow. They really pop out. And so this is just a standard pattern shot, and I typically want to fill the frame, so I'm gonna blow it up a little bit more and fill the frame with it there. And that's one of my favorite shots of Morocco. It may not be the Morocco tourist board's idea of what they want you to see about Morocco but I thought this was just a fun little element about one of the things that we saw. But it took days for me to figure out what was the right combination to make that work. So keep working those ideas, and patterns aren't about the total number, it's about the density of those numbers. And try to fill the frame so that there's very little extra space. It's okay, I think in this one, to have a little sky that's nice little break on the top, but just fill it with as many as you can. So these patterns are a great way to shoot. So you want to frame pretty tight on these, you want to have the pattern fill the frame. Even lighting so it's consistent throughout. And then if you can find one element to break up that pattern, that's a good thing to have as well.

Class Description

Are you going on a once in a lifetime trip and want to have photos that you can share with friends and family? Do the decisions of what to bring, where to shoot, and what to capture feel overwhelming? Travel photography can feel challenging, time consuming, and expensive. But with the right tools you can plan and prioritize to come home with images that you treasure.

Join photographer, educator and author John Greengo, who has photographed all over the world, as he guides you through all of the steps that you need to capture the photos that you want during your travels. This class will offer different plans of what to bring, and how to create a realistic agenda based on your priorities, whether it’s documenting your trip, telling a story through photographs, or simply capturing great images.

John will teach you:

  • What gear to pack based on your goals.
  • How to create a media storage plan and workflow while traveling.
  • Best practices on how to find and scout the best locations to photograph.
  • How to approach locals and build trust before taking their portraits.
  • Camera techniques and settings for different shooting scenarios.
  • Different types of travel photos, such as The Walk Away, The T-Shot, and Environmental Portrait.
  • What to do with your photos once you’ve returned home.

Don’t let the challenges of travel photography keep you from capturing images that will provide you with lifelong memories. Join John Greengo to learn the best techniques, tools, and technology to capture great photos no matter you limitations in time, money and resources.



As usual John has been an awesome instructor. He is so energetic and fun. I love taking his courses and this was no different. I absolutely loved it. I have learned so much by taking his courses. Thanks John for all you do to help us beginners out.

user 1399347749726793

John is fabulous ... and so inspiring! I can travel the world and live vicariously through him! I've watched John for years and always find that he teaches me something new every time! Thanks John and CreativeLive for another awesome class!

a Creativelive Student

John Greengo was fresh, exciting and entertaining. He was extremely well prepared for this class, and I loved hearing little nuggets from such a seasoned travel photographer. The course provided great content and ideas I can take with me on my next trip!