Keep It Clean

Have I said enough times how much I love to travel?  (Yeah, I know, about 100 times)  I'm back home from 10 days on the road to Maryland, Massachusetts, and Arizona.  Then, to DC last weekend.  And I've got some really great trips coming up in the next several months.  Travel presents opportunities for new photos.  You see things you've never seen before or, at least, things you don't see every day.  It's just soooo much fun. As Mark reported in our last blog, our photography group's trip to DC for the cherry blossoms wasn't quite as scenic as we had hoped.  The blooms were really late this year, and we were still a couple of days early.  Pre-planning an alternative course of action, we had already located an additional attraction for the group, DC's Eastern Market.  It wasn't as pretty as a sunrise photo of the cherry blossoms surrounding the tidal pool, but we all had a great time roaming the market and the adjoining flea market.  I still managed to get a nice photo of the Jefferson Memorial, just prior to sunrise with a crescent moon, before we left for our backup location.

photo of sunrise at the Jefferson Memorial, Washington, DCThis really isn't another travel report blog - though I'll probably have several of those before the year is out.  It's about keeping your travel photos as clutter-free as possible.  One of the issues you may need to work around when you're traveling to somewhere on the list of "must photograph" locations or places with lots of tourists is the interference from other, extraneous folks who walk in and out of your composition.  This varies greatly by time of year and popularity of the tourist site, but you usually have other people in the area.  They can be hard to eliminate from your shot or even completely prevent you from getting what you're looking for.

tourists and a stagecoach on the streets in Tombstone, ArizonaSometimes, early morning shoots can be your best answer to this problem.  Besides the beautiful light at that time of day, tourists, for some odd reason, usually don't like to get up early.  During my recent trip to Arizona, I was in Tombstone - the town too tough to die - just after sunrise for this exact reason.  I was one of the few people on the streets at 7 a.m. and could shoot without interference, even with my tripod.

Big Nose Kate's Saloon, Tombstone, ArizonaThis works fine for buildings and scenic locations, but what if you want people, just not the wrong people?  Since the tourist were not in Tombstone at sunrise, neither were the re-enactors I was looking for.  I went back a second time for those photos.  In the old Tombstone area, there are cowboys, saloon girls, and regular townfolk walking around in period-correct costumes.  They keep the tourists happy - posing with them for photos; hawking restaurants and gunfights; and providing the ambiance of an old mining town.  I happened to be traveling with some of those tourists (as in family), so I shot my share of those photos, too.

tourist and cowboy in Tombstone, ArizonaThere are various techniques to remove people from the background of your image.  Since you probably can't completely control your scene at a tourist site, you may have to be patient.  This simple method is often overlooked by photographers who are trying to cover every aspect of a site and don't spend enough time to work out their photographs.  Try to resist that urge, so you can enjoy the experience and get better quality photos.  These were shot with a 70-200mm, so I was off to the side or across the street and observing from a distance.  I could wait for people to move out of the way or the stagecoach to move into a position that blocked the tourists.  The stagecoach rides are repeated many times during the day, so I had multiple opportunities to get the shots.

cowboy and stagecoach in Tombstone, ArizonaAnother way to keep folks out of your background is to go in close to your subject.  Many photographers are shy about interacting with people they don't know, but these re-enactors are there to be seen.  Most re-enactors want you to take their photo - they've worked hard to look the part they are playing.  Tourist businesses know you're more likely to part with cash if their actors can draw you in.  Get in there and move the shutter button.  Again, the telephoto lens will help keep down the distortion and keep you far enough from the subject that you're not sharing the same air.  And, as we just discussed in the lens series, a telephoto's narrow field of view, will automatically reduce the amount of background you need to worry about.

cowboy in a saloon doorway, Tombstone, ArizonaAs always, the preferred method is getting it right in the camera, but there are other ways to eliminate extra folks, using post-processing techniques.  We'll go into some of those, next time.  In the meantime, I'm on the road, again.  Have I told you how much fun I have traveling?  ;-)

wanted poster and sombrero in Tombstone, Arizona