Opportunistic Travel Photography – Our guide to making the most of any trip

There seems to be an idea that if you want to take great photographs whilst you’re on a trip that you need to work and sweat really hard for the shot. Embarking on a crazy multi day hike or expedition to one of the highest mountains in the world, for example, will inevitably give you some incredible imagery that only a small handful of people will have. This idea isn’t for everyone, and just because you don’t feel like you want to embark on a crazy adventure, doesn’t mean you can’t have a great connection with nature, travel and get some beautiful images to boot.

We are constantly faced with images from incredible places and we often just assume that all of those images were taken from gruelling hikes, adventures or things that really push your limits, but travel doesn’t always have to be about that, if you don’t want and you are open to being opportunistic and flexible with your photography. You’ll also get some images that are utterly unique if you disregard the idea of taking the same bucket list shot as everyone else from an iconic viewpoint – in turn, you’ll further develop your own style of photography. Working in this opportunistic way allows you to really explore your environment rather than thinking that you have to stick to an entirely wooden approach. It will really open your eyes to just what a vast range of beauty there is around you, and you’ll become more curious and playful with your approach to capturing images in whatever environment you’re in, and have fun doing it!

Whilst a lot of our travel imagery and landscape work does come from hiking, we also shoot an amount of our images in less than natural situations. Simply put, it just isn’t possible to shoot everything from a hike. If we are visiting a place for a few weeks, we will often want to try and see as much of the area as possible, and this isn’t always possible from hiking alone.

If you’re looking to create great travel imagery, and really elevate your photography, start thinking about how you can utilise all of the experiences you’ll be having and all the places you’ll be going whilst you’re on your trip. Before you head off, we’d really recommend researching and looking at the lenses you have for your camera, and if possible, invest in a longer lens for example – a mid to long zoom is a really useful tool to have for those far away mountain shots.

Once you’re there and immersed in the culture and your destination, start thinking outside the box as to where you think is acceptable to shoot a great image from. Start to open your eyes to your environment and start looking for what catches your eye. Every time you see a scene that catches your eye, ask yourself what you could make out of this and start to get creative with what you see and be curious. Could you use that long lens from the car park you’re stood in to pick out the detail of some cloud crossing over the mountains in front of you? Some of our favourite images of mountains have come from car parks that if you were to pan down, would give the image a completely different feel. For us, parking up the car to go to the grocery store whilst travelling is reality, and that doesn’t mean that if an incredible scene presents itself that we are just going to ignore it because it isn’t deep in nature! Having that flexible, opportunistic and open mind allows you to really start to see what it is that interests you with your travel photography.

Is there any way on your drive from A – B that you could stop the car and head slightly up that trail you’ve noticed? How would the view from slightly higher up look? It’s worth being open to parking up and exploring to see what is available if you headed slightly higher up, you could be amazed by just what a difference it makes to elevate your position. It might even be that you could look to use a drone to really allow you to get something that you wouldn’t be able to get otherwise. How about taking your camera in your hand luggage and making the most of the views as you fly over an incredible mountain scene and experimenting with what images you can create from that truly elevated position?

Can you also utilize a drive and take some images along the way? If you’re travelling through an incredible area, you can get some great images by working with a fast shutter speed. One of Ansel Adams’ most famous images, Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico was famously shot from the roadside when the scene presented itself at the end of a long, unsuccessful day’s shooting.

Being opportunistic also applies to what you’re seeing happen with the weather too. You might have noticed a patch of cloud rolling over a mountain and the trees around making it look incredibly moody. You could have spotted an incredible sunset making its way in, or you could be about to see a lightning storm. Some of our favourite photographs in nature have been from asking ourselves the question, ‘what would waiting for a few more minutes give us?’ When you ask yourself this question, amazing things can start to happen, and you can find yourself having your very own private audience of some incredible natural phenomenon.

Being flexible, opportunistic and open in your travel photography is something that takes practise, but once you start to see that there are incredible photographs to be taken from so many environments other than hiking for hours on end, or even just trying to get the same shots you see everyone else get on Instagram, you’ll really start to open up the possibilities of what you can explore on your trip.