Are You Serious

Photos © 2003, Jack Hollingsworth, All Rights Reserved

I've talked before about going to the next level in travel photography--in the way you choose your subjects (moving beyond landmarks to include touches of fashion, food, and lifestyle photography) and the way you photograph people (getting the folks you meet or travel with to be, in effect, your models, or finding professional models to photograph). But there are a few other aspects to advancing your travel pictures. One is planning; the other is equipment.

I know that when I photograph people for my clients--the cruise lines, travel bureaus, and tourist organizations who use my images to promote tourism and travel--I'm not going to just step out into the street and start shooting. I've got to know the ideal locations, and I've got to know when they look their most ideal--in other words, at what time of the day will the light be best at that spot? And I have to have a back-up plan in case the weather won't cooperate--like moody close-up shots under sidewalk cafe awnings, for example.

Equipment is a key factor here. Tourist boards want lots of blue sky and sunshine in the photos, as well as great locations. So the lenses I use, the film and the cameras are all going to play their part in getting the shots I need.

Essential Gear
Perhaps the most important piece of equipment I carry is my light meter, a Sekonic L-508 Zoom-Master. It's an incident light meter, and in my experience an incident meter is the most accurate. It measures the light falling on the subject, so I move to the spot I've selected for my model, turn toward the place where the camera will be and take my reading. I won't rely on in camera readings for my photographs of people--it's too easy for bright sun or dark skin, or, worse, a combination of the two, to fool an in camera meter. And experience has taught me that when photographing a dark-skinned model, I still have to open up a half-stop.

My camera for people pictures on location is my Mamiya RZ67, and I use two lenses with it: a 110mm f/2.8 and a 180mm f/4.5. I'll carry two camera bodies on the trip, but take only one out for the day, along with three 120 backs to accommodate the different types of film I like to work with.

The photographs you see here were taken with the films I use the most for my travel work: Fujicolor Portrait NPH 400 Professional and Fujicolor Portrait NPZ 800 Professional. I've turned almost completely to color negative film--it handles skin tones and shadow details better than transparency film, and it gives me a lot more latitude. I don't do much bracketing anymore because I can compensate when I'm scanning the negatives to the computer, either using the scanning software or Photoshop for my adjustments. Or I can have the compensation done when the negatives are printed by the pro lab. For the most part, the digital darkroom has done away with the need to bracket, but I have to admit that if the shot is really important, I'll take a few bracketed exposures. And, of course, I'm almost always shooting off a tripod.

Scouting Locations
Scouting the location for my people shots is very important. Even though I often work with professional models, I don't want to wear them out moving from place to place to find the ideal spot. I've got to know it ahead of time. And because I'm shooting in desirable tourist locations, often I'm not going to have a lot of time in any one area. You probably won't be working with professionals, but you'll want to know where the vendors, merchants, and local performers are going to be--and at what time of day.

The photographs here were taken with my Mamiya RZ67 and either the 110mm f/2.8 (when I need a faster lens) or the 180mm f/4.5. I generally consider the 110mm my portrait lens. The man in the pool and the dancer were taken with 800 speed Fujicolor Portrait NPZ; the others with 400 speed Fujicolor Portrait NPH.

If you're serious about going beyond snapshots in your travel photography, my advice is to spend some of your time planning your moves--and always carry an incident light meter.