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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.
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
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.
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.
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.