One of the most wonderful aspects of travel photography is shooting festivals. The color is outrageous, the costuming is visually exciting, and there are a million things to shoot all at the same time. It’s frustrating that we can’t be in more than one place at a time (those darn laws of the Universe get in the way all the time!). If you can plan your trip to include some kind of festival or celebration, it will be a highlight of the trip. Virtually everywhere you travel where there are people, you’ll find some kind of festival. It’s just a matter of doing some research on-line to find out when they occur.
I have spent a great deal of time and money trying to find the perfect way to travel with my gear. As I buy more lenses, and as computer technology changes, I must re-examine how I carry everything because the volume and shape of my equipment changes.
There are two ways to travel. You can go with a group or you can travel independently where you plan the itinerary and make the arrangements. One isn’t necessarily less expensive than the other because it depends on so many factors, but the main issue to consider is this: what will you gain by being part of a group versus traveling alone or with a friend or spouse?
I have long been intrigued with kaleidoscopic images, but it’s virtually impossible to photograph into a traditional kaleidoscope because the hole through which you look to see the beautiful designs is too small. Several years ago I figured out how to construct a kaleidoscope that would permit photography, and I’ve always had a lot of fun with it. The cost is around $5-$10, and it can be put together in just a few minutes.
On-camera flash is convenient and very fast to use, but it’s not a flattering type of light. It’s a flat type of lighting with seemingly no depth, it creates unattractive shadows, and any surface that has sheen to it will reflect the light back into the lens.
A failed flash photograph has an exposure in which the subject is too light or too dark. In addition, the foreground is too light—in fact, it’s lighter than the subject—and therefore distracting. In some circumstances, very dark or black backgrounds behind a subject are not desirable, and this can be considered a failure as well.
I have made the point that on-camera flash is not the most attractive artificial light for photography. In fact, I’d say it’s at or near the bottom of my list for choosing artificial light sources to illuminate the subjects I photograph. If I can’t take the flash off the camera and I’m forced to use on-camera flash, then the best approach is to diffuse the light. There are various ways to do this. Some diffusion techniques require a modest expenditure while others don’t cost anything.
To fully understand your flash, there are some basic principles and definitions I need to explain. When I start discussing how to be creative with your flash, you will know what I’m talking about with this information under your belt. Flash is not difficult once you understand some fundamental principles. I will start from the beginning and take you step by step to the point where it will seem like no big deal to get excellent flash pictures.
After I had been taking pictures seriously for two or three years, I realized that photography taught me to see things I had never noticed before I picked up a camera. I had been fairly oblivious to contrast, the shapes of shadows, details, texture, light, color, and graphic design. The camera helped me finally pay attention to all of these things. It is truly remarkable how much you can miss. For example, BP (Before Photography) I would have walked right past the overturned cart in a rural area of Missouri and not given it a second thought. It wouldn’t have occurred to me that this had any artistry or beauty. Similarly, BP I would have missed the bold graphic design, warm color, and rich texture in the detail of a cathedral door in Strasbourg, France.
This story is oriented to photographers who are serious about their photography, and who want to learn to use flash creatively. However, I know there are a lot of people who are very happy with their camera and who aren’t interested in buying sophisticated flash units. Admittedly, there is a lot to be said for being able to use one unit for both exposure and illumination. In this section I will address the issue of pop-up flash units and tell you how to get the most out of these small and convenient types of flash.