Secrets to Great Travel Photography

Bob Krist has a dream job. He’s paid to explore the world with his camera and the results appear in magazines such as National Geographic Traveler, Smithsonian, and Islands. He was voted  “Travel Photographer of the Year” by the Society of American Travel Writers in 1994, 2007 and 2008.

If you can’t attend one of his travel photography workshops, you can learn from him via DVD or book. Here’s an interview I did with Bob in 2010 about how to capture the kind of images that make him one of the most sought-after travel photographers in the business.

Your images are like paintings. Does it require thousands of dollars and decades of experience to achieve that?

No and yes. It doesn’t require a big investment but it does take practice. I use DSLR cameras a notch or two above entry level: Nikon D90s and a D300S. They both shoot high-definition video but the second D300S has a better interface and a place to plug in a mic.

I don’t like to carry around a big, heavy camera and I don’t need nine frames a second. Also, when I’m traveling overseas, I want to look as innocuous and anonymous as possible. When you have a gigantic professional DSLR around your neck with a giant bulb on top, you stick out. I’d rather look more like a tourista than a journalist.

How much practice does it take to start producing really good travel photos?

You don’t need the 30 years I’ve been at it, but the more you practice with a camera, the better you get. That’s the crux of the matter. People invest the machine with all this power but it’s really just a matter of learning to use it. I’ve taught a lot of workshops over the years and the main thing that stops people from getting better photographs is that they don’t know their current equipment well enough to forget about it. You can’t do that if you’re constantly upgrading.

It’s hard not to get caught up when they release a camera that takes twice the megapixels as yours and high-def video 30 feet underwater.

Photographers have always been susceptible to gear lust because you’re out there alone and you want to make sure your stuff competes. So we buy into a lot of the marketing hype. After digital cameras were introduced, we needed to update every time a new model was released because they were so awful in the beginning. Manufacturers had to iron out a lot of bugs. But we’ve plateaued. It’s not a mature technology but it’s an adolescent anyway. My cameras will probably suffice until I drop dead or retire. I don’t need much more.

What’s the secret to photographing cities?

One of the problems with shooting in cities is that they only have so many skyline views you can access. If you could be like Spiderman and jump from rooftop to rooftop, you could get unique images. But you can’t, so you’re often stuck in the same classic spots everyone else shoots from.

Unless you can talk your way up to the top of a building, your best bet for getting images that stand out is to shoot in nice times of the day like twilight or sunrise or to take advantage of different types of weather. You’ll get a much more memorable shot if it’s snowing hard in Salzburg than you would on a bright summer day. So I usually look for light quality. I’ll get the classic views under my belt then look for interesting details like reflections, or one stanchion of the Eiffel Tower shot with a real long lens.

What about photographing people on the street?

Street scenes are tough because everyday life is chaotic and you’re shooting through that chaos. Every once in a while, there’s a moment where the ballet of the street comes together, but taking interesting pictures of everyday life is one the hardest categories of travel photography because it’s so mundane. I just came back from Buenos Aires where I was on assignment for National Geographic Traveler. It was early in the season so people were bundled up and there was not much going on in the streets. It was really hard to find a good shot.

How many shots should we expect to trash in order to get a winner?

People always ask me how many shots I take to get a good one and I say as many as it takes. You never ask poets how many words they write to get a good one. I tell people not to worry how many bad shots you’re taking, just don’t show them to anyone! Don’t worry about your batting average. When we were shooting film, that could get expensive and bulky but now it’s just chip space and disk space. Just keep shooting.

(Originally published in The City Traveler, an online travel magazine I co-founded)

For samples of Bob’s photography or to contact him, visit his website.

Deals on getaways to Mexico, Disney World, Brooklyn, Miami Beach, Chicago

Here are the latest travel deals from the deal sites we like and trust (updated 5/29/2012):

 

NEW TRAVEL DEALS FROM PRICELINE

4-Star hotels for $99 or less. Expires 5/31/12.

Two days FREE Walt Disney World Resort park ticket.

Marriott Hotels in Mexico & Caribbean from $119/night. Expires 5/31/12.

Save 35% off Avis Rental Cars. Expires 6/5/12.

 

NEW TRAVEL DEALS FROM GROUPON GETAWAYS

Pay $225 for one night stay at in a loft suite with up to two kids in the Box House Hotel in Brooklyn (normally $349). Click here to get the deal from Groupon Getaways.

Pay $349 for two nights with $125 spa credit at Parma in Little Washington, VA, Blue Ridge Mountains. Click here to get the deal from Groupon Getaways.

Pay $112 for one-night weekday for two adults and up to two kids 15 or younger at Congress Plaza Hotel in Chicago (normally $159). Combine up to 3 nights.

Deco-era Greenview hotel for $99/night (normally $232) in Miami Beach, up to three nights.

Three-, five-, or seven-night stay for two in Kinbe Hotel, Playa del Carmen, Mexico, with one kid 5 or younger. Combine multiple nights.

 

NEW TRAVEL DEALS FROM EXPEDIA

Save up to 50% on a stay at Starwood Hotels & Resorts Hawaii, plus free nights! CLICK HERE FOR DETAILS. Expires June 30, 2012.

Save $40 on your weekly car rental from Hertz at select SUNNY destinations. CLICK HERE FOR DETAILS. Expires June 29, 2012.

Get 30% off + automatic room upgrade at Park Royal Hotels and Resorts. – Expires 6/11/12.

Get four nights for the price of three at a Sofitel Hotel. Expires 8/31/12.

Royal Caribbean summer cruise sale: Sailings from $144 per night + up to $200 on-board credit, FREE spa treatment & Expires 6/1/12.

Pay $33 per day for a mid-size car rental from Payless Car Rental. Expires 6/30/12.

Book your summer stay today and receive up to $100 prepaid gas card. Expires 8/31/12.

Flight + 4 nights from $221. Expires 8/31/12.

Rent a Mercedes-Benz C-Class from only $39 per day. Expires 6/8/12.

 

NEW TRAVEL DEALS FROM HOTELS.COM

San Francisco hotels and SF Bay Cruise tickets and hotels on sale: Save Up to 30% and get 2-for-1 pricing on San Francisco Bay Cruise Tickets. Book by 5/28, Travel by 6/11

Save up to 40% on Orlando hotels if you book by 6/25, travel by 7/9.

Save up to 20% on Myrtle Beach if you book by 6/18, travel by 7/2.

Save 50% on the hotel Deal of the Day.

Hotels.com weekly Last Minute Deal: New Orleans. Deals starting at $59 if you book by 6/15, travel by 6/30.

Hotels.com weekly Last Minute Deal: Virginia Beach. Rates from $99 if you book by 6/15, travel by 6/30.

Visit London starting from $116 if you book by 6/30, travel by 7/15.

Washington DC hotel deals starting at $76 if you book by 6/30, travel by 7/15.


 

New hotel deals this month

Starting with the just-announced, these hotel deals from Hotels.com expire at the end of January 2012:

New: New Orleans hotels from $99/night

New: Orlando hotels from $63/night

New: Denver hotels from $55/night

New: San Francisco hotels starting at $55/night

New: Miami hotels starting at $65/night

New: Barcelona hotels starting at $59/night

Ongoing: Save up to 30% on New York hotels. Expires 1/16/12


New Year, New Deals - Save up to 30% at hotels.com! Expires 1/30/12

Free seats on MegaBus

MegaBus is giving away 20,000 free seats for travel in January and February. Here’s the deets:

WHERE: MegaBus travels to and from all five Save on Cities locations: Boston, NYC, Washington DC, Philadelphia and Baltimore

WHEN: Valid for travel between January 4 and March 1, 2012

DEAL: When you book your seats on MegaBus, use the promo code GOFREE

Holiday deals in NYC for the holidays

[UPDATE: December 8, 2011]

It’s not always easy to book a hotel in the Big Apple during the holiday crush, but here are a few nice stays that are actually offering discounts right now. Most are an easy walk from the holiday action – the big tree and ice skaters at Rockefeller Center, Broadway shows, window displays along 5th Avenue – but a few are a bit further downtown, where you can get away from the crowds when you’re ready and explore another, funkier side of the city.

BEST DEALS UNDER $200

Hampton Inn Manhattan – Soho, 54 Watts Street, near the galleries and shops of Soho, nicely-designed rooms with free wifi and coffeemakers, on-site bar/lounge, starting at $139/night on Quikbook.

Hilton Times Square, 234 W. 42 St., starting at $152/night on Priceline

Unnamed 4-star hotel on the west side of Times Square, starting at $159 on Quikbook.

BEST DEALS UNDER $250

Helmsley Park Lane Hotel, just on Central Park South near the theater district and 5th Avenue shopping district. Starting at $200/night on QuikBook.

Waldorf-Astoria, this landmark 4-star hotel in Midtown East at 301 Park Avenue is offering rooms starting at $229 on Priceline.

For more hotel deals, visit Save on New York City.

JetBlu sale fares from northeast cities

JetBlu is offering some great fares to and from cities along the Northeast Corridor but you have to book by Dec. 18. Some highlights on round-trip deals:
Boston (BOS) to Newark (EWR): $82
Boston to Washington DC (DCA):  $92
Boston (BOS) to Denver (DEN): $208
Washington DC (DCA) to Orlando ($144) or to Fort Lauderdale (FLL): $150
NYC (JFK) to Washington DC (IAD): $128
NYC (JFK) to Chicago (ORD): $162
NYC (JFK) to Orlando (MCO)  : $184
DETAILS
Travel valid: Jan. 3, 2012 through Feb. 29, 2012
Sale expires: Dec. 18, 2011
Tip: Use “lowest” for “fare type” and search for flights on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Affordable transportation on the northeast corridor

What’s the most comfortable, convenient way to travel along the Northeast Corridor? Well, I’d probably choose Amtrak if my expenses were reimbursed, speed and comfort being somewhat superior and airports being a pain. But since I normally travel these routes on my own dime, I prefer the bus – preferably MegaBus or Bolt Bus, because I’m all about convenience and bang for the buck.

Options have never been better getting to and from any of the five cities on the Corridor. No matter how strapped you are, you can find an comfortable and affordable mode of transit between Boston and DC. Let’s examine them.

Amtrack one-way fares from Philly to Washington DC start at $70 for the 1-hour, 50-min trip on the Northeast Regional train, up to $157 for the Acela Express (which knocks a 20 minutes off your travel time).

Compare that to the same trip on a MegaBus. Prices one-way range from $17 to $21 if you want to travel in the next week. Book three weeks in advance and they drop to $5 and $7 each way.

You get free wifi and outlets for your laptop and smartphone, comfy seats, a double-decker bus with awesome views upstairs that takes you directly from 30th St. Station to Union Station – same pick-up and drop-off as Amtrak. (Until recently, MegaBus dropped off at 10th and H.)

Drawbacks: Ride takes longer and arrival time is fairly unpredictable due to traffic. (It’s described as two hours but usually takes 30 minutes longer, at least.)

Comparisons can’t be made to Bolt Bus for that route, because it doesn’t travel between DC and Philly. It’s routes along the NE Corridor are very NYC-centric. But it takes you to or from NYC from all our cities – Boston, Phillly, Baltimore, and DC – and prices are comparable.