The Travel Series: Finding the Most Interesting Things to Shoot

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To me, there is nothing more exciting than flying to new locations around the globe and finding the best places to capture photos. I have been very fortunate to be able to fly all over the world and see many different locales and their resident cultures, and I find that each location offers a different opportunity for photograph mining. I say mining, because just like a miner who has to search through lots of rock to find the cherished stone, we search among the distractions, the mundane or overshot locations, for that perfect photo.

Above photo: Bristol Bridge

Before I land in a strange land, I usually research the Internet to see what other people have photographed. I want to find the interesting locations and then try and photograph them differently from everyone else. I almost always travel with a Canon 5D Mark III, and 16-35mm, 24-70mm, 70-200mm, and sometimes even a 100-400mm lens.

I was staying in Bristol, England, for one night, and wanted to see if I could find a unique photo of this city. When I researched Bristol, I only saw a couple of subjects I thought would photograph well at night. The most compelling was this large suspension bridge, spanning an open valley. I hopped into a taxi and drove for quite a while, looking for a good location from which to shoot this bridge. After driving for 20 minutes, I was not happy with any of the views of the bridge, so I asked the taxi driver to take me back to the hotel.

But as luck would have it, while heading back, we were driving on the freeway and I found a great view of the bridge and the valley. Yep, right there on the freeway overpass. Since there was no traffic, the driver was able to drop me off right there, on a walking strip along the main road. The only problem was too much light. I wanted to wait for the sky to go dark and the bridge lights to be turned on. I waited for hours for the ideal evening light and captured this image. It was a unique location, and shows the bridge in a way that differs from any photo I saw on the Internet. My next challenge was making the long walk back from the freeway overpass, in the dead of night, to an area of the city where I could find another taxi.

Paris Vacation

I recommend that photographers go beyond the “typical travel photo” that everyone else has taken. Sure, we can take that same photo from the same location to have in our collection, but I then recommend finding your own unique way to show it. While in Paris, I saw countless people taking photos of the Eiffel Tower from underneath the structure, and the grassy areas on either side. I took plenty of photos of the Eiffel Tower from these locations too, but I didn't want to settle on the same photos thousands of other people have taken.

I started looking for vantage points that gave me a unique view. I came across this cracked pane of glass and really liked the patterns that had formed. I went behind the glass and took this photo, showing the Eiffel Tower in a totally different way. I took this photo many different ways, with the tower in focus and the glass diffused, as well as the way you see it here. This is why I love shooting with digital cameras―we can experiment and try photos with little risk or cost.

Golden Gate Bridge

Moscow, Russia

Be creative. Try having some fun with your camera to see if you can turn an ordinary photo into an extraordinary photo. In this photo of the Golden Gate Bridge, I set the camera for a 15-second exposure, and then slowly rolled the zoom out on my Canon 5D Mark III during the exposure, to create this light-streaking effect. When shooting these long exposures, I will often try different exposure times and will try to roll the zoom both in and out from the subject. You never know what cool effects you might get. I did the same thing in Red Square, to try and show this common scene in an uncommon way. For this photo, I set the camera for a four-second exposure, hit the shutter release while counting to two, and then zoomed out from the building for the last two seconds.

Birds Nest

Olympic Flame

Sardinia WRC

New York Break Dancing

Sometimes I travel to exotic locations to photograph events, and other times I end up in a remote location and find interesting events. I've been fortunate enough to travel to the Winter Games, automobile races, the America’s Cup, and large celebrations. Big events always provide a ton of photographic opportunities, but there are other times when I'm in a new city and stumble across interesting events. I was walking through the streets of New York when I heard music coming from a nearby alleyway. I wandered in and found this amazing scene. Be ready to take photos at any time, and make the most of your time in a new place.  

Alghero Aerial

Most of us take photos with our feet planted firmly on the ground, meaning that most photos are taken from ground level. Sure, I've taken photos lying on the ground, and also from a high mountain top. But now, with the advent of drones, like the DJI Phantom 2 Vision+, you can take photos from hundreds of feet above your subject. Once you try this, you will be addicted. It's so liberating to be able to shoot photos from a location that was virtually impossible two years ago. I took this photo over Alghero, which is a small town on the island of Sardinia. I packed the DJI Phantom II in an HPRC travel case, knowing it had to get halfway around the world with me. Even though the case could hold all 3 batteries, I chose to carry those onboard along with my Canon 1DX and lens, since the airlines were not keen on having these types of batteries transported in the belly of the plane.

I was a little nervous about the customs officials and the rules of carrying drones into a foreign country. But, after 20 hours of flying, and transferring planes three times, the case arrived and nobody ever stopped me to inspect anything. I grabbed my gear and walked out of the small airport. Then the fun began, as I shot photos and videos from hundreds or thousands of feet from where I stood.

For this photo, I was walking through town when I saw a postcard of Alghero from the air, and I thought to myself, “I can do that!” With the help of the Phantom Vision 2+, I was able to send the quadcopter out over the ocean and capture a similar photo for myself. The biggest challenge was trying to answer all the questions from the Italians, who were completely blown away by this new technology.

San Francisco Bay Sailing

Fit great photos into your schedule. Not everybody can plan their day around their photography, so it's important to try and find great photo opportunities whenever you can. I was on a boat with friends when I saw this cool scene, so look closely around you, and you will find a treasure trove of photographic jewels.

In case you haven't noticed, I love travel photography. Some people like to visit a foreign place and bring home a t-shirt or other memento. I like to come home with at least one amazing photo from each location. That is how I complete my journey!


About Jeff Cable:

Jeff Cable started his professional photography career in the San Francisco Bay area, photographing Bar and Bat Mitzvahs. Since then, he has earned respect around the globe, and is best known for capturing photos for the US Olympic Committee. He has photographed the last four Olympic games, including the 2008 Summer Olympic Games in Beijing, the 2010 Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver, the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, and the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. Cable is a contributing photographer for ZUMA Press, the largest independent picture agency. He teaches photography to other professionals around the world, in locations such as Australia, China, Europe, and across the United States.

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Love the light streaking, I've never thought of doing that before! Thanks for all that you do that's why I shop with B&H!

I love your photos.  We will be traveling to san fran next month.  Any tips on how to photograph the bridge?

I like photographing the Golden Gate Bridge from the fort on the SF side or from either the bottom of the Marin side or the high elevation at the Marin Headlands. You will love it.

Getting to the Marin Headlands can seem slightly tricky (but the Headlands do represent the best locations for dramatic bridge shots).  Assuming you're driving, go over the Golden Gate Bridge from SF.  Go past the overlook parking lot and take a right on Alexander Ave. After about a few hundred yards you'll see a sign for San Francisco on the left.  Take that, so in effect you've gone under the bridge and are on your way back to SF.  On your right you'll see a steep turn on the right--it's signed "Marin Headlands".  Take that and drive as far as you want.  There are many places to stop and park and view the bridge.  Early morning and just before sunset, no surprise, are the best *****.    

Wow.  Carrying a camera makes me see better wherever I go but I don't get that many "wow" photographs.  Love your work.

Thanks for sharing such awesome photos. I'm getting interested in the phantom as well. I can't wait to get one.

I'm going to tell you something you already know—you are better than good—you are world class all the way. Thanks so much for these traval tips and for sharing your tecniques.

Roger - thank you. Honestly, I am never really satisfied with my photography and keep striving to get better (like everyone else). But, I really appreciate your kind words. :)

Great work Jeff. Enjoyed it. Haven't done much nite work. So, you inpired me to experiment more with my Nikon D200. Bulky, but still a fine piece of equiptment. Thanks, Lew

Jeff,

Just a curious question: When you're shooting in a foreign location and there are people in the shot, do you go around and get photo releases from everyone?  Many resolurces have a variety of differing opinions on the subject, perhaps you can give your points of view.

Changing subjects - Your work is captivating.  I admire REAL professional work.  Thank you for sharing this article.

Good question! I was wondering the same thing. I always feel that people get defensive when you take their picture!

Jim,

When you are shooting in a public place, it is not neccessary to get a signed release from the people in the photo. Unless I wanted to sell the image to an advertiser using it in a campaign, then it would be different. 

Jeff, all these photos are just stunning! I only wish I had your eye. To me, the key to good photography is not so much the equipment, but the eye of the photographer. You have a very creative and professional eye. John

Jeff, thank you for your great article and beautiful and creative photographs! You truly have a talent and great eye. I am an aspiring photographer, and I hope to someday capture with ease, beautiful pictures as you do. You're long exposure and rolling out the zoom is ingenius. I will definitely try that next time I'm out doing night photography.

Have you photographed Bixby Bridge or the rock at Morro Bay? I plan on traveling soon to those areas and was wondering if you how you would photograph these two subjects.

Thank you.

Yvette - I have photographed there, but only briefly. I would like to do some more shooting there. And I think the drone would be cool for that location! - Jeff

Great shots Jeff.  Thanks a lot for sharing your experience and your advice.

Jeff- Awesome shots, great creativity. I am headed to Barcelona in a few weeks for the first time- ever been there ?, and if so, any tips for something different to shoot there ?

Rob - Lucky! I have neve been to Barcelona. I would walk around, look at postcards to see what the interesting sites are and then do your best to shoot those locaitons in a different way. Most importantly, have fun! Shoot what speaks to you! - Jeff

  • beatiful photography!!  would to see more of his work.

Wish I could follow you around! I'm 67 and feel like I'm just getting started with my DSLR. Thanks for the ideas and the inspiration!

Kaye

 Thank you for the above article.  I enjoyed reading it and have learned quite some pointers.  I am not a professional photographer but I have been enjoying taking pictures of anything particularly scenery in my spare time from my job.  I love the creative effects you did on the Eiffel Tower, the lights on the Golden Gate Bridge and in Moscow.  I'm going to try this.  Have you been to the Philippines?

Meldy - not yet - but I hope to visit there in the next 5 years or less.

  The newsletter contains great pointers and perfect pictures to back-up the commentary.    

Awesome! I'm sooooooo jealous!

It is always wonderful to read Jeff's blog.  We are very fortunate that he is willing to share how he shares.  We can earn so much from viwing his work and read how he came upon it.  That one photo in NY from 5ptz, sad to see it gone.  I hope they develo another area where artists can display their incredible talent.  B & H does so much for photographers, an incredibl place to shop and earn.

Incredible images and thanks for sharing your ideas, tips and suggestions.  Makes me want to try all of your ideas.  I love the night shots and I've been practicing my own night shots.  It's just so much fun to try different techniques so I appreciate you sharing yours. 

Dear Jeff.

I really enjoyed your photos. Amazing pictures! Amazing views!

It is nice to know you have been taking pictures for the Olympic Committee. I live in Brazil and I work to the Organizing Committee for Rio 2016 Olympic Games.

I hope to see your pictures from Rio.

I hope to see you there!!! - Jeff

Hi Jeff, all I can say is WOW!!!!. Your pictures are awesome. I recently got back into photography a little over a year ago. Purchased a nice Sony A77 with different lens. Do you current offer any on line tips or training? Since I returned to the photography world, I'm learning to shoot in manual ****. Any suggestions or tips?

thanks for sharing...fabulous....inspiring...do you lead small group instructional trips (US and/or overseas)?

Great work I am a beginner looking for more tips very good work

Jeff,

Great shots with the zoom lens "trick".  I will try it with my Cokin Star filter. 

Thank You So Much

Jeff, thank you for the wonderful photos and excellent tips.  I am a CPA by profession but enjoy photography a lot. My photography website is www.galleryofdcm.com

Best regards,

Dan Moreno

Thank you for emphasizing that we should seek to capture our own creative view of the image others had photographed.

awesome pictures! 

Wow! and thanks, Jeff.

Ray

Hi I enjoyed viewing your photos. Can I ask what did you use (lens, aperture...) in taking the Bristol bridge. All your photos are excellent. I have a canon 500d, what can u recommend to get a good shot. Thanks

Judith - I took that photo a long time ago and, at the time, I was using a Canon 30D. I think it was a Tamron 18-250 lens. Settings were ISO 100, f5.6, 8 sec, -1.0 exposure comp. :)  - Jeff 

WOW....awesome shots!!!! Thank you for sharing!!!

Thanks for the tips and ideas.

These are extraordinary pictures. I wish that I could create images like those.

Jeff, 

How do you take long exposures without any light sources getting blown out? I love shooting at night, but if you expose for the background(or the lights) then everything else is off. Do you HDR any of your photos or is there zero post-processing involved?

Alan - I know what you are talking about. I usually shoot my night shots and use exposure compensation (when in AV ****) to darken the image to protect the highlights. Many ***** I will shoot at -1 stop. This will create a darker image, but then I can brighten select areas later in Photoshop. I hope that helps. - Jeff

Very impessive and inspiring images and words. I don't get out much but I do have a few good unusual and unique images that I'd like to contribute to Zuma. How do I try to go about that?

Love your work.   Great photos,  especially the Moscow pic.

I loved your article and your nuggets of tips.  I am planning a trip to Germany in the fall and look forward to using your techniques.

superb photos, interesting perspective, great eye.

if u need an asistant and i will work for free
 

Excellent photos.  Thanks to Jeff, I am learning from this very creative article.

Delighted to see your work here at B&H ( and anywhere I can view).  I particularly enjoyed the image of the Eiffel Tower shot through the pane of crazed glass!  My own favorite photo of this the Eiffel Tower was made accidentally while at hotel we were staying at about a block and a quarter from the reknown landmark. We had stumbled upon an unlocked top floor event room with great views out over the city and I decided to try get a few shots of the rooftops of Paris. It wasn't until I got home to Sacramento that I realized that one of the shots through the windows had a striking reflection in the sky from another window - a spectral tower in the sky over the rooftops.    Alwlays a treat to see more of  your outstanding work.

Jim Callaghan

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