Where you point your camera can make or break a travel image.
Cutting an ankle, trimming words on a sign or letting a tree branch come out of someone’s head ruins an image so conduct a “Border Patrol” before you press the shutter. When travelling your vacation brain doesn’t see the bus in the background, the litter in front of your subject or wires piercing through a head while your camera’s brain records it all. Quickly check your image edges in your viewfinder or LCD screen and move yourself forward, back, left or right, wait for people or vehicles to get our of the way, zoom your lens in or out to avoid cutting an an ankle, wrist or knee (your image viewers feel the pain!) and your travel images will be significantly improved. Sometimes there is no time for border patrol so just take the shot.
No Border Patrol = Bad Image!
Step back: Border Patrol was done on this image. Click for larger version
Fixing Bad Images by Cropping
Some photo opportunities require a quick grab shot without any time for “border patrol”. While photographing in a fresh market at the UNESCO site of old Antigua, Guatemala I spotted several Mayan fruit sellers chatting and strolling towards me about 50 feet away so I quickly shot off one frame with my zoom lens at 200 mm. Suddenly they turned right down a lane and were gone forever. With no time for border patrol I had cut off their ankles and created a half person on the left. Fortunately I had a solution to the lack of
border patrol – simply crop the image! All photography software has a cropping capability and it can be used for quick fixes. The resultant cropped image was such a huge success it was actually picked as an editor’s choice in Canon’s European professional network (CPN) competition a few years ago and published in Geo Saison (Germany) magazine. Here is the before and after versions:
Image on the right is cropped. Click to view.
Use the Clone Stamp Tool to Fix
Oops! Watch for tree branches!
A few months ago while on a travel photography guest lecturing assignment on Oceania’s cruise ship Insignia Around the World voyage we visited the Portuguese island of Cabo Verde (Cape Verde) off the coast of Africa where I captured a panoramic scene of Mindelo and the beautiful coastline of of São Vicente island from a mountain top. The last frame of the multiple image series included a photographer (hi Ryan!) capturing the same scene but I did not notice the tree branch coming out of his head (well, I was on the cliff’s edge with no fence and was more more worried about falling off the cliff than taking the time for border patrol). The easy solution was to use the clone stamp tool to remove the branch and incorporate the edited image in the final panorama as shown below.
Cape Verde Panorama. Available as a fine art print
Simple Objects Can Change the Viewer’s perception of a Scene
Sometimes the presence of a simple object will change the viewer’s perception of what an image is about. While visiting the tiny Akato Viepe village of in Togo (on the west coast of Africa, in the Ako River valley) and during an amazing welcome ceremony by the Village Chief (actually a King), his royal family and the villagers (this colorful event will be the subject of an upcoming post) I came across what appeared to be a father and daughter leaning against a mud wall and wearing beautiful and colorful African fabrics. Having asked permission (see prior Blog post on How to Photograph People you do not know) I photographed the both of them and then a close-up of the young daughter. To get a good composition of the two I had to include an unusual object at the same wall- an empty gin bottle! I photo journalist would likely be fired for removing the gin bottle while a fine art photographer would likely remove it for aesthetic reason. Here are both versions of the scene and each conveys a totally different message – what would you do? Please comment below. The gin bottle can be easily removed in a few seconds with the often used clone stamp tool.
Compare the Two Images: With or without Gin Bottle? Click on the image for my Choice
Border Patrol – Summary
Remember that image edges breath – don’t cut them. How do subjects interact with their environment and how to objects (buses, gin bottles, wires, tree trunks) interact with the subjects? Do a border patrol – simply move a bit, wait, zoom in or out and simple cloning or cropping edits can make your bad travel images sing! Border patrol is a must for every travel photographer.
About the Authors. David and Anna Smith are World travel & fine art photographers, Bloggers, photography and fabric arts workshop leaders, key note speakers and cruise ship guest lecturers, Their world image archive: Interface Images and Celebrate the World fine art gallery. David has just published a brand new series of online travel and general photography courses, visit their blog Travel Photography Tips & Adventures for more. Please share our Blog posts on your social networks.