Travel photography has some very tricky problems. The time of the day is perhaps the one which gives the biggest headache. I remember arriving at Monument Valley, around 6:30 in the morning where light was still good, rather warm und well saturated. One hour later contrasts started already to detoriate and at 8:30 flatness set in and the photos became washed out and almost boring. What can one do? There are place where one might never come back to and there is only one chance to take photos. The simple answer is, one cannot do anything but taking all the “necessary” photos and hope that digital post-production can still do wonders. (Which it can, but really only in limits.)
Of course, one can do much before in advance. One can be mindful about the time of travelling, one can arrange different stops and one can arrange, deliberately and purpufull, Hotel rooms which can provide one with the light which starts in the afternoon and begins again in the early morning.
I always regreted when I did not heed this advice which I give here and I could still kick myself for having missed out on much better results of my photography.
Or course, places like Monument Valley would need much more time, like so many others, and one could almost say, good photography begins like a good relationship: With getting to know and taking a lot of time finding out and studying. But, this kind of travel photography I am talking about is not fine art photography and this means, one has to accept that and one has to be prepared for different conditions. Conditions which are determined by limited influence on time and by weather conditions which might not be the most helpful ones.
However, there is more preparation possible than one might think. The most important precondition for me is my knowledge of my camera gear. Which camera, which lense, which film and having everything well set up. (Different for digital and analog film.) It is absolutely essential that one is more than familiar with one camera and with the lenses one wants to us. I start with a negative example. For my visit to Monument Valley I also took a 75/2 summicron with me which I had never really used before. Allmost all photos I took with this lense were absolutely not satisfactory and this was totally due to my own inexperience with this lense. I have learnt to love this lense but I had to learn that it is not an “easy” lense and that it needs particular conditions to shine. The 35mm is somehow a very peculiar and particular lense, between a 50mm and a 90mm. Why to have it in the first place, one can ask oneself and this is a good question. My original ideal was something like “closer” and easier to focus than the “90”; interestingly the 90 has never given me troubles but the 75 has because I have not really understood why the 75 might be good for. Or better put: Good for me. It is a fantastic lense for something like not too close and not to far away. Felling still connected to the object of desire while giving space and avoiding instrusion. I had to learn what this lense is best at and this included learning about its most favorable aperture and distance.