Bikini and swimsuit model photography in Hawaii can result in exciting and exotic pictures, because the Hawaiian Islands have incredible biodiversity offering a wide variety of fauna, landscapes and locations. Lava pools, beautiful white, yellow, black, green and red sand beaches, rugged volcanic shore lines, lava pools, craters, lava flows, tropical rainforest, deserts with cacti, mangrove swamps and more.
There are opportunities and a market for the typical curvy blonde swimsuit model on a sunny beach, but hopefully not in clear hooker high heels. While this understandably may be the dream of many photographers, it holds limited appeal for me. When doing photography in Hawaii, I blended the natural beauty of exotic models with the rugged beauty of Hawaii.
1.) Androgynous Asian swimsuit model wearing an orange bikini in the famous Manoa Valley bamboo forest. Orange and green being color opposites ensures great color contrast, and a photo that pops. Notice the signature strong jaw line, which is a facial feature I really admire.
Hawaiian Bikini Model Photography Tip: turning the model's head sideways will accentuate her jaw line and create a more sensual looking neck. The neck muscles will create lines, that will point towards the model's face, guiding the viewer's eyes. This composition is called the classic three-quarter portrait.
2.) Athletic Japanese bikini model and surfer girl with a perfect body. The location is the lush tropical Pali rainforest just outside Honolulu, where I photographed on a regular bases. The dead tree or any prop that offers a place to sit, lay or lean onto, will make the model feel more comfortable and enable her to have a more natural posture. This trick can be very handy when trying to achieve natural unforced poses with amateur or first time models.
Hawaiian On-Location Photography Tip: when composing your photo, make sure there are no branches, light poles, wires or other distracting elements in the background that intersect your model's head. On the two dimensional photograph these lines will look like a painful impalement, which can distract the viewer either consciously or subconsciously.
3.) Adventurous multiethnic bikini model in a refreshingly cold rainforest creek in the Pali rainforest. The monochromatic scene, due to the model's black bikini and the black lava rocks needed some more visual excitement. A red hibiscus flower and a yellow dry branch was found on location.
Hawaiian Swimsuit Model Photography Tip: ask your model to relax and slightly open her lips (drop the bottom lip). This will result in a more relaxed and sensual look, which the model may not be able to naturally achieve, given the sometimes strenuous photoshoot environment.
Lingerie model photography in Hawaii is a rewarding concept because all the mixed ethnicity Asian models who live on the islands, are able to add an exotic element to pictures taken in paradise. Lingerie is supposed to be worn in the bedroom, but when beautiful models are photographed in a tropical rainforest or rugged beach with lava rocks, the resulting photos tell a more exciting story and convey a more eye-catching fantasy to the viewer.
1.) Beautiful multiethnic lingerie model photographed at the Zanzabar Night Club of Waikiki where she is a Go-Go dancer. The on camera flash was enough to fill in the scenes at some of the darker areas of the club. When doing lingerie model photography, choosing a red outfit is not only an obvious but a smart thing to do for an added color pop and visual excitement.
Hawaiian Lingerie Model Photography Tip: if possible try to incorporate the color red in some of your fashion pictures. Red color will make photos pop. The red colored area is where the viewer will first look at. Adding the excitement of red can be further enhanced, if the color is repeated.
2.) Japanese lingerie model wearing lime green fishnet top at Sandy Beach, during a nighttime photo session. I often experimented with night photography to achieve not-so-typical Hawaiian photographic results. The pitch black background created during night photography adds a mysterious mood to these pictures. Potential busy backgrounds are also eliminated, which can be a challenge to achieve during on-location, outdoor photography during the day.
Nighttime Beach and Lingerie Model Photography Tip: make sure you use bright, vivid colors during night photography, especially if the resulting images will be in color. If the pictures will be in Black and White, make sure there is enough tonal contrast between the clothes and the sparsely lit surroundings and backgrounds.
3.) Asian Go-Go dancer with beautiful face laying on the top of Zanzabar Night Club bar. As an employee, she was able to arrange our photoshoot before the club opened. Many amateur models, just like most young women love to shop of course, so their own wardrobe most of the time contains enough eye-catching pieces for several photo sessions.
Asian Lingerie Model Photography Tip: I recommend using a proper choker (bought from a store) or if must, a makeshift choker when it comes to certain fashion or lingerie photography themes. The separation and line created by a choker across the neck creates framing for the face, that is not usually seen everyday, adding an eye-catching, fantasy-like element to the photo.
Fashion model photography in Hawaii is only limited by the photographer's imagination and not by his or her budget. There are so many ways to save photoshoot costs, that there is no excuse for not coming back with exciting and unique pictures every time. Amateur or traveling photographers who own or carry limited photography gear are not in any disadvantage.
If there is no budget for professional models, make-up artists, hair stylists and wardrobe, most of those expenses can be substituted by working with aspiring talent in the above fields. While a portable soft box will provide superior results on location, lack of it should not be a hindrance. Available light with or without moderate fill flash will suffice in many situations. Locations without onlookers and plenty of privacy can be easily found often just a few minutes of walk away from busy tourist spots.
1.) Beautiful Asian model in sparkling red dress laying on green steps of a Waikiki apartment building. Red and green being color opposites means the photo gains a strong color contrast. I love geometry and the use lines in my compositions. Especially diagonal lines, which add drama and excitement to images!
Fashion Model Photography Composition Tip: take advantage of diagonal lines, which aid in creating dynamic and exciting compositions. Try not to create diagonal lines by tilting the camera. Camera tilt can become a crutch for beginner photographers, and it is sometimes utilized too often.
2.) Exotic fashion model with perfect body wearing a white dress. Photographed during the brief Hawaiian sunrise at the lava pools of Sandy Beach Park on the East Coast of Oahu Island. To achieve the most natural results, often times I give few or no directions to models, letting them get inspired by the location and their wardrobe.
Sunrise Model Photography and Lighting Tip: use side lighting to achieve slimming and three dimensional looks. If it is an outdoor photography session, it means this will take place during sunrise or sunset, which can be a short window of opportunity a tropical latitudes. So prepare in advance, set up the shot and be ready to photograph quickly.
3.) Beautiful multiethnic fashion model in the beautiful Manoa Valley rainforest. The illumination is all ambient light, which I love for its natural and often dramatic look. There is mostly top light when photographing in a rainforest. The size and angle of the light source depends on the opening in the canopy. Most studio photographers would probably want to fill in the shadows created by this harsh, directional light but I prefer the dramatic results I get naturally. There is something primal about the lack of perfection, that studio light would try to fix.
Photography Tip for Harsh On-Location Lighting: There is no wrong light, only wrong use of it! Even the often demonized harsh midday light can be harnessed to achieve dramatic results, in both color and Black and White images. The high angle of the light can accentuate shapes (jaw, shoulder, neck lines etc.) successfully if a model with the right kind of dramatic features is selected. Directional light is also able to add a three dimensional effect to photographs.
When doing on-location female portrait photography in Hawaii, I try to have the exotic locations "participate" in telling the story as much as possible. These exciting locations inspire the models as well, the surroundings can set the mood easier then a sterile photography studio, especially for first time or amateur models. An inspired, relaxed model will in turn inspire the photographer.
1.) My all time favorite Chinese model and muse. The shadows on her face were created by low-hanging dry branches in the secluded Pali rain forest. When the photographer goes with the flow, without forcing concepts to emerge, it will become clear, that many great pictures are "given" as gifts and not "taken". The spider web-like shadows create drama and mystery with this model, but they would not work with someone who has a cute or sweet look.
Portrait Photography Tip for Using Shadows: place shadows on the model's face creatively - even randomly - but with care! There are no rules on how to achieve shadows over face because all situations are different. A word of caution though: the camera sensor and the human eyes see differently, so the contrast between highlight and shadow areas will be greater on the photograph than what the eyes see during the photoshoot.
2.) Exotic portrait of Japanese bikini model. Without make-up artist and hair stylist on set, utilizing simple techniques can produce striking looks. In this instance, wetting the model's hair, using our drinking water, added a wild and stunning look, transforming an otherwise "just nice" portrait into an more eye-catching image. The open shade provided plenty of soft, ambient light for beauty photography on an otherwise typical Hawaiian blindingly bright day.
Portrait Photography Tip for Exotic Wet Hair Look: introduce the wet hair look after dry hair concepts are shot. This especially is a good way to achieve different looks for beginner photographers, who may not have an on set make-up and hair artist. The randomness will create the most beautiful and effortless looking photos, so do not spend time to meticulously arrange hair strands, instead have the model toss her hair until a visually pleasant arrangement is achieved.
3.) Beautiful local Hawaiian model photographed without a big budget, assistants, professional lights and fancy photography equipment. The casual, laughing portrait was taken spontaneously as the model was laying in high grass. The ease of the photo was the result of relaxed photography session and natural chemistry between model and photographer. I enjoy experimenting with available light, especially on exotic locations. These photography sessions are always a lot of fun and very productive!
Portrait Photography Tip for Framing Faces: there are endless ways to frame a model's face to achieve eye catching beauty shots or casual portraits. Use the model's arm as a frame only sparingly, as it is the most obvious way. Careless positioning of arms in compositions can become unflattering, especially if the arm is closer to the camera than the models face. In this case the arm will appear enlarged, adding weight and bulk to he model. A natural element like the high grass in the above photo is a lot more pleasant to look at than an artificially placed arm.
Black and White photography in Hawaii might seem like a challenge at first. Converting the blue of the sky and the ocean, the green of the vegetation leaves us with uninspiring shades of gray. But by selecting the right model who has strength and confidence, the right location with tonal contrast and the right natural lighting, it is possible to create visually exciting images.
I prefer my models as close to androgynous looking as possible with a strong jaw line and athletic figure. This may seem obvious, but the opposite definitely doesn't inspire me, which is girlie, sweet and cute. The best Hawaiian locations will yield challenging but creative lighting. The rugged beaches with lava rocks and lava pools offer a primal look at sunrise, drama during midday and mystery at night.
A tropical rainforest not only adds an exotic background, but through its tricky lighting can create fantasy and intimate moods. Photographers in Hawaii can especially appreciate the soft light - available in open shade - when the harsh and blinding midday sun would prevent beauty photography.
1.) Beautiful Italian and Persian bikini model with perfect body laying on the picturesque Diamond Head Beach, which is a favorite spot for local Hawaiian model portfolio photographers. The harsh midday sun provides contrast and drama. The persistent, warm Hawaii Tradewinds can wreak havoc on the hairstyle of the model. Often times it is best to go for a wild and exotic hair concept, so the unavoidable messy hair compliments the photograph.
Black and White Bikini Model Photography Tip: be conscious where you place the horizon. All compositions are different, so there is no one rule but usually the horizon slicing through the model's head is to be avoided at all cost.
2.) Edgy portrait of a Chinese-American model and my Hawaiian muse. Notice some of the signature elements for many of my pictures; the strong jaw line, strength and confidence. The open shade provided even, soft light and prevented unattractive shadows on the model's face.
Black and White Portrait Photography Tip: editing and simplicity is a great way to achieve powerful compositions. The very ordinary leaves of an ordinary plant that were found next to the model's house added mystery and drama to this photo. This concept was not pre-planned, as I did not know that there would be such a plant. It can be pre-planned and written down into a notebook though, to look for simplicity!
3.) Hawaiian night beach photography with a beautiful multiethnic model as she is half submerged in a warm lava pool. No expensive lighting equipment is needed for my night photography sessions, as I love the look of harsh, invasive, paparazzi-like lighting, that a single flash unit can provide.
Black and White Night-Photography Tip: create a relaxed photoshoot environment, so the model will be at ease. The surroundings and wardrobe will inspire her, which in turn will inspire the photographer. The results will be: more natural poses and emotions, even in a unique setting, such as a lava pool at night in almost complete darkness with nobody else around.
No photoblog of a Hawaiian photographer would be complete without pictures of bodyboarding local kids. Waikiki Beach on the South Shore, Sandy Beach Park, Makapuu Beach on the East Shore and Waimeia Bay on the North Shore are just a few popular spots that provide great locations to capture the fast action.
The ingredients are simple and readily available almost year around: bright sunny day, beautiful blue ocean, big waves, local kids with awesome skills to show off.
During the hours I spend photographing on the beaches of Hawaii, there were hundreds of chances to capture fantastic and unique moments. The faster pace of action and something exciting happening around me all the time is a breath of fresh air compared to the structured and slower paced way of model portfolio or portrait photography.
1.) Skilled local Hawaiian boy on his boogieboard slicing through waves in the shallow water over the razor sharp coral reef of Waikiki Beach. The pier on Waikiki Beach provides an elevated vantage point, which allows to shoot downward, therefore eliminate the sky and horizon. I really like to fill in the entire background with waves and water, as often times the horizon only complicates the composition.
Fast Action Beach Photography Tip: fast shutter speed will freeze the action, but the speed of the subject needs to be considered relative to the width of the frame. In other words, if the subject is moving across the frame, a faster shutter speed needs to be used than when moving towards the camera. Because shutter speed is often times a valuable commodity, this method can be used, to use slower shutter speed on certain occasions.
2.) The beautifully blue water of the Pacific Ocean forms an approaching frightening, unstoppable wall at Sandy Beach Park, the popular local bodyboarding spot. Sandy Beach is excellent for fast-paced action photography, even with modest photo equipment. No need for expensive long zoom lenses, as the waves break only a few feet off shore.
Photography Tip for Capturing that Decisive Moment: if the photographer is not looking through the viewfinder (or live view) he or she will miss many of the best shots of the day. The idea of surveying an action packed scene with the camera lowered will prove to be costly. This may sound like the most obvious photography advice, but every second that is spent not looking through the viewfinder and composing, is not only a potential loos of photographs but a potential loss of sale and income.
3.) Silhouette of Hawaiian boy bodyboarding off Waikiki Beach. The beauty and purity of bodyboarding, plus the scenery of Hawaii ensures never ending photographic opportunities. Hawaiian kids with darker skin will almost become silhouettes, due to the great difference in luminosity between bodies and water. Unfortunately the subjects are too far for fill flash to make any difference. Some recovery of the dark areas is possible in Photoshop though.
Slow or Fast Shutter Speed Photography Tip: there is an obvious and an artistic camera setting - in shutter priority mode - which both will work and produce very different results. Using slow shutter speed when used with panning motion - by following the fast moving subject - will blur the background and add a sense of movement and speed to the subject. Using fast shutter speed will freeze the action, waves and water droplets, creating a more static composition.
Lingerie model photography in Europe is easier in my opinion because of the less conservative mentality. The higher comfort level of amateur European models becomes significant when compared to their American counterparts, who sometimes just cannot produce effortless, natural photos. Europe also offers photography locations with character around every corner, simply due to its age.
1.) Beautiful smoking Slovenian lingerie model photographed in Berlin, Germany. What helped with creating this and many other successful, natural pictures was the chemistry between model and photographer. Plus our willingness to experiment and the always present accidental opportunities, which are unforeseen but crucial to producing eye-catching and creative photographs. This photo was not set up, but was taken during the model's smoke break.
Underwear Model Photography Tip: use all available times during a photoshoot if possible. Informal and highly intimate photographs can be taken during the model's break time, while moving from one location to another or while she is getting her make-up or hair done.
2.) Beautiful amateur Belgian lingerie model photographed as I traveled the world on a tight budget with minimal photography gear. I was able to create diverse images while having great adventures everyday. Photographing amateur or first time models offers a chance to capture innocence, real moods and emotions without diva attitude or pre-learned, bad poses.
Classy Lingerie Model Photography Tip: try to stay away from overtly suggestive poses as they can quickly cheapen the resulting photos. Once these kind of trashy images show up in a model's or photographer's portfolio, they can often times turn off potential clients. A simple solution is for the model to look outside the frame. While eye-contact can be used to evoke a variety of emotions, a more dreamy, whimsical and thought-provoking feel can be achieved by the lack of eye-contact.
3.) Athletic German lingerie model with strong, well defined jaw line in dramatic dark make-up. Her beautiful figure is a result of being a dancer. The black, lacy lingerie really stands out against the red color of the leather couch in the penthouse of her Dusseldorf modeling agency. The actual budget of this test photo shoot was zero Euros. The location, wardrobe and make-up artist were provided by the modeling agency in exchange for free pictures from me.
Athletic Model Photography Tip: if a model, athlete, - or in the case of the third photo - a professional dancer is photographed, due to the muscles in athletic physiques, some poses and compositions may look too muscular and not feminine enough. By photographing the model laying down, the otherwise tense muscles can be relaxed, and a more feminine look can be achieved.
Fashion model photography in Europe can significantly improve the portfolios of an amateur or traveling American photographers. Amateur or first time models are just like typical girls who most likely are shopaholics. So it is usually no problem to use the model's own wardrobe and pick out visually interesting pieces during the pre-photoshoot meeting or over a Skype video call.
If new in town, the photographer can find out about popular locations the model already shot at with other local photographers.
1.) Beautiful Slovenian fashion model in the courtyard of a Berlin apartment building. This location provided artistic, painting-like studio-quality backgrounds and soft, diffused light. The patterns on the old wall provided texture and colors, that really elevated the composition.
Photography Tip to Create Perfect Backgrounds: finding a background that looks like a painting - i.e. a weathered wall - is like winning the lottery. If the background is uniform in color tone and light, a wide enough aperture and long enough lens will blur the distraction elements. In the case of a busy, contrasty and distracting background - which cannot be blurred because of maximum distance between model and camera or due to lack of long enough lens - photographing from a high or low angle can be a great solution. That way either the sky or the ground or pavement will become the background.
2.) Blonde Russian fashion model in a relaxed pose, wearing her colorful knitted dress in the same Berlin courtyard. The muted color palette of the walls made the colors of the clothes really pop. The soft, defused light was bounced around off of the surrounding sunlit white walls of buildings, which acted like 5-story tall, professional quality soft boxes.
Colorful Fashion Photography Tip: the color vibrancy of clothes can be manipulated by placing the model in front of a gray or grayish background. There is a comparable Photoshop technique, where all colors are removed, except the colors that are meant to be accentuated. This technique can look cheap and forced though. By creating this color/monochrome color palette in camera, the results will be more natural.
3.) Beautiful Russian fashion model with edgy look photographed at a generic Belgian countryside. Most on-location photoshoots will provide unexpected props and other surprises that were not, and couldn't have been pre-planned. The friendly and curious brown horse added another instance of an earth color-tone, that was in perfect harmony with the model's wardrobe. The stormy sky created a dramatic background, fit for the look of the model.
European On-Location Model Photography Tip: the photographer should be mindful of the look of the model and choose matching locations and concepts. This may seem like a steep challenge in a foreign country, but in fact it just becomes a mental game, which with practice, can train the brain into more conscious thinking, instead of always running on autopilot.
Female portrait photography in Europe can also improve the portfolio of the amateur photographer simply because the beauty of European women rule the fashion world. All fashion model photo sessions are portrait photography sittings as well. When the wardrobe and location inspire the model, it is time to eliminate all extraneous distractions and focus on the face.
I am only repeating myself to make my point more clear: notice the strong, well defined jaw lines of the models in the above portrait photos as well.
1.) Beautiful Russian fashion model close-up portrait. The composition is according to the Rule of Thirds. This classic three-quarter turn of the head most of the time results in a visually balanced, natural and complimentary portrait. The location is that same, perfectly lit courtyard that's been mentioned above. Beside a fill flash, no other expensive lighting or photographic equipment was needed, not even assistants.
Three-Quarter Portrait Photography Tip: this classic and elegant portrait angle basically sets itself up for success. Perhaps there are two details to watch out for: the visibility of the farther eye and the formation of wrinkles with older models or models with looser skin.
2.) Beautiful Slovenian amateur model close-up portrait illustrates that symmetry IS beauty! This tightly cropped composition of her face highlights her full lips and big eyes that are "sufficiently" far apart. The lack of distance between the eyes is considered significantly less attractive - even suggesting mental retardation in some circles. That Berlin courtyard was also able to light beauty shots like this.
Passport Style Portrait Photography Tip: be aware that head-on portraits can easily resemble boring, two dimensional passport photos. Simple side-lighting can add enough three dimensional effect to combat the flat look. With that said, there can be instances when a flat look would work. To each their own - as long as the photographer is aware of the choices available.
3.) Russian fashion model with dramatic features conveys strength and confidence through her androgynous beauty - especially via her perfect jaw line. When our fashion photography session got interrupted by a storm, we continued photographing inside of the model's car. With a simple accessories like designer sunglasses, a black neck choker with a silver lock, plus with harsh and unforgiving flash, an eye-catching, mysterious and intimate story could be told.
Photography Tip of How to Frame Model Portraits: the use of appropriate accessories (fitting for the look of the model and location) are a great way not only to put the photo in context but to frame the face as well. Besides hats and headbands that frame the top of the head, chokers and scarves are also effective. Making a scarf out of an unexpected item (perhaps found on-location) can result in previously unimaginable concepts.
Black and White model photography in Europe takes advantage of forms, shapes and textures coupled with European fashion, European architecture and European facial beauty. The geometry of European architecture and interior design are prefect candidates for Black and White photography or Black and White digital conversion.
I look for drama even during color photography, so I happily embrace every chance when excluding color will further improve my pictures.
1.) Beautiful Finnish lingerie model with a perfect body wearing only a knitted scarf at a German construction site, that was closed on a Saturday. I like how those stands in the background provide vertical lines, which further elongate the already gazelle-like body of the model. There are several other lines in the composition, that create geometry, which compliment the model's pose.
Black and White Lingerie Model Photography Tip: while dark purple, dark brown or any dark color and any other light color will suffice, there is no substitute for Black and White clothes or Black and White accessories for best color contrast results. The model doesn't have to wear black and/or white clothes and the surrounding don't have to be black and/or white for the creation of successful Black and White images. With practice, the photographer can successfully judge in real time, how bright and dark areas will transform to black, gray and white after post production conversion.
Black and White photography is an area whee colorblind people can accel, as they are not distracted by the color tones and can fully be inspired by the tonal contrast of the scene.
2.) Dramatic portrait of Tanja Dexter, Belgian fashion and lingerie model who is also Miss Belgium 1998. The unique location was a Belgian brewery that offered a chance for creativity and out of the box, quick thinking. Without professional lights or assistants, most setups required a good dose of resourcefulness. The light for this portrait came from a narrow beam of the setting sun that found its way - for a few seconds - through one of the factory's windows.
Vignetted Black and White Model Photography Tip: the vignette effect, which is even more pronounced with Black and White photography, cannot only be added during post production. Light can find its way through narrow openings, let it be through a rainforest canopy or a small window of an abandoned warehouse. By directing this natural spotlight to the model's face or any other area of interest, that needs to be featured, an in-camera vignette can be created.
3.) Exotic Russian fashion model photographed in a 100-year old elegant Dutch castle. This location offered the discovery of many lines, that assisted in creating powerful, geometrical compositions, which are tailor-made for Black and White photography. More lines were created by the model's elegant and natural pose, which were not directed by me ... as usual.
On-Location Black and White Lingerie Model Photography Tip: Sometimes there are unique instances, when the real world will be Black and White or at least almost, making the photographer's job a little easier. When this is not the case, the non-colorblind photographer is at a disadvantage. One detail deserves special attention, which should become second nature to any amateur photographer: making sure there is sufficient tonal difference between the head/hair of the subject and the background. Simply said: make sure the background is light behind the head of a dark haired model and vice versa.
There are few places better on Earth - if any - than Southeast Asia, when it comes to Buddhist themed travel photography. Although no country is completely crime-free, Buddhist nations are famous for their safety, plus the genuine kindness and hospitality of the people.
Buddha statues, Buddhist pagodas, Khmer architecture, religious paintings and all Buddhist iconography are extremely photogenic, making this region a paradise for travel, religious, spiritual and cultural photography.
1.) Buddha Head in Tree at Wat Phra Mahathat is one of the most famous local and tourist spots of Ayutthaya, Thailand. At no other location did I ever see guards attending a Buddha statue during my 9 months in Southeast Asia. Even during the few short minutes I spent there, I did see the reason for guards, as culturally insensitive / ignorant tourists were breaking simple, well known rules of how to behave at a Buddhist religious site.
Culturally Sensitive Travel Photography Tip: by checking the internet or reading travel guide books, the travel photographer can quickly get familiar of basic etiquette regarding how to dress and behave at Buddhist religious sites. This is the minimum everyone should do - photographer and tourists alike - as it is readily available and only takes a few minutes. This knowledge not only can prevent uncomfortable situations but also can get locals' respect and increased willingness to assist.
2.) The stunning ancient Khmer ruins of Wat Mahathat can be found in Sukhothai, Thailand. While this location does get its fair share of local Thai and foreign tourists, it is possible to have private walks early in the morning, virtually tourist free. When the first tourists start to arrive, a fun game can be played: "hiding the tourists" behind the ruins. Basically it means pressing the camera shutter as tourists are walking behind walls, statues or columns.
Ancient Khmer Ruins Photography Tip: besides the wondering tourists, the surrounding architecture can also be unwanted in the form of a cluttered background. While the two feet of the photographer are the best compositional tools, they are not always 100% effective. In this case, simply squatting down will place the sky in the background, not to mention it will give a more elevated, thus majestic look to ruins and statues.
3.) This unexpected pink Buddha face in Khmer Buddhist temple was found in Tra Vinh, Vietnam. There is a large Cambodian minority that lives here, in Southern Vietnam, in the Mekong Delta. This location was the only one where I saw a pink Buddha face during my 9 months in Southeast Asia.
Geometric Travel Photography Tip: if geometry is found in i.e. statues, structures, paintings or wall carvings, the best way to emphasize their lines, in the most appealing composition possible, is to closely crop the subject. By eliminating potentially disruptive elements from the background and surroundings, the eyes of the viewer have no other choice, but to journey through the main subject itself.
Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand and Laos were proven to be excellent travel photography destinations during the 9 months, I was able to spend in these beautiful and welcoming countries.
There are tourist traps of course, but most can be avoided by not only traveling to the most popular destinations listed in The Lonely Planet guidebook.
If there is a must see attraction near a tourist trap, a friendly attitude, vigilance and solid bargaining skills will eliminate most unpleasantness. Finding out prices from a hotel clerk beforehand, can be helpful when bargaining later on, especially whe it comes to transportation.
1.) Flower Hmong little girl riding a water buffalo in the outskirts of Bac Ha in Northern Vietnam. While the Hmong hill tribe minority peoples are quite camera shy, younger kids are still curious and friendly so not all travel photos turn out to be landscapes.
The chore of taking the buffalos to graze is common here. I cannot help but laugh at the thought how over-protective Western parents would handle the sight of this amount of independence given to children.
Ethnic Hmong Children Photography Tip: without doubt, the hardest people photography region of Vietnam is the Northern part, the land of the Hmong hill tribe minorities. It almost feels unfair, but it quickly becomes obvious that in some instances the locals do not have a chance to decline being photographed. Two of the best examples are: on the top of water buffalos and at the busy, colorful Sunday Hmong markets.
2.) Ethnic Cham child with unusual haircut standing on her porch, in the border town of Chau Doc, Vietnam. I took this picture on a routine walkabout street photography day. Spite the ever present language barrier in Vietnam, I was able to gather, that the little girl has been been sick and this haircut supposed to protect her from illness.
Children Travel Photography Tip: a sincere smile, respectful and non-flashy / not revealing clothes plus a laid back attitude are key to establish some level of chemistry and understanding while doing travel photography in a country with severe language barrier. While at tourist traps, locals may not be so keen on being photographed, there are no known "you are stealing my soul" reactions in this part of the world.
3.) Squatting Vietnamese man photographed at the border check point between Chau Doc, Vietnam and Phnom Penh, Cambodia. This photo was taken in a candid fashion of this man who was taking a cigarette break on the top of a river levy. I took this photo using telephoto lens, as I was aboard a Mekong River boat, that was about to dock for passport control.
Although the squatting position on this photo is extremely common throughout Southeast Asia, for it to be comfortable it needs to be started from childhood in my opinion. At least in my case, because even though I tried it, I had a hard time squatting like that for longer than a few minutes.
Candid Travel Photography Tip: it is a great visual adventure to be able to look around in the 360 degrees of world around us, and be able to capture a slice of life. The age old photography question reamins: what to include and what to exclude? The illusive, perfect composition is in the eye of the beholder, in this case you the viewer. Everyone sees the world differently and everyone's slice will contain a different choice. Being mindful about the camera also being a scalpel is the first step towards more balanced compositions and better story-telling.
There is more to Waikiki than the busy, crowded beach, the non-stop rows of hotels and apartment buildings. The parks and even common streets can spark creativity, once the extraneous is cropped out and the subject matter is isolated from the surrounding distracting chaos.
As opposed to street photography, the plant and flower photography subjects will not get impatient or keep walking, therefore plenty of photos can be taken during a relaxing stroll. These walks provide a great opportunity to take a refresher composition course. A seemingly ordinary scenery can be dissected and visual gems can be discovered.
1.) Winding tree roots and foliage photographed in the Fort DeRussy military park from a straight above vantage point. The intertwining roots create a juxtaposition of shapes that offer many angles, perspectives and ways for the photographic composition. The photographer can either apply certain rules of photography - i.e. rule of thirds, the power of perspective or diagonal lines - or can make decisions purely based on instinct and sense of aesthetics.
Still Life Photography Tip Using Golden Ratio: being mindful of the Fibonacci Spiral and the Rule of Thirds grid can be a great visual reference especially when it comes to still life / nature photography, as the Golden Ratio is all around us in nature. A simple way to utilize this hidden order in nature: place the main subject or main detail according to the Golden Ratio, and crop from wide to close, while turning the composition in the viewfinder. The most balanced arrangement of all elements may just line up right in front of you.
2.) Beautiful Bird of Paradise flower picture taken alongside a walkway behind the U.S. Army Museum, adjacent to Fort DeRussy Park. In other words, it is an ordinary flower on the street - well ordinary with Hawaiian standards.
One of the beautiful benefits of living in Hawaii is that the streets are decorated with hibiscus, plumeria and Bird of Paradise flowers. This bird of paradise flower picture was taken just before sunset, so there was no harsh sunlight coming from above, which is not optimal to capture deep, saturated colors.
Plants and Flowers Photography Tip: utilizing the color wheel and paying attention to prime, opposite and complimentary colors can enable the photographer to better judge the tonal contrast and color balance of a given scene.
3.) Nicely shaped root of a majestic tree and green foliage photographed from above. There was something elegant about the arrangement of the root and the leaves. The curves of the root seems like a foot with one big toe branching away from the rest of the toes, which were partially hidden under the leaves. As I was approaching, I had a feeling that a balanced and pleasing composition could be created.
Minimalist Plant and Flower Photography Tip: photographing flowers and plants offers a chance to explore more minimalist compositions, that may have gotten ingrained during fashion model or portrait photography. One option is to try to eliminate items in the composition one by one, until the photographer arrives at the last and most meaningful detail. If this last detail is not enough to convey the photographer's message, one by one more elements can be reintroduced into the composition until the story reappears.
Waikiki Beach can get quite crowded especially around sunset, but by twilight most tourist leave the beach and head back for dinner or drinks. The beach suddenly quiets down, so peaceful dusk and night photography can take place.
Even though the light and the atmospheric conditions are always different with every sunset, after awhile the same vantage point will yield similar results, regardless how many variables are changed. For this reason I started to add soft (out of) focus and motion blur effects to my beach photos. These manipulations are always done in camera, not in Photoshop.
1.) Out of focus photo of Diamondhead Crater and Waikiki Beach created without the use of a tripod. The camera was placed level on a large rock, the ISO was set at 100 for best image quality, the focus was switched to manual and set at the closest distance the lens could focus. The self-timer was set to trigger the shutter. For me it is a very familiar view and it is photographed by 100's of tourists daily. Perhaps that's why I was compelled to distort it without taking away any of its beauty.
Intentional Out-of-Focus Photography Tip: creating more effects in camera and less in Photoshop not only cuts down on time spent in front of the computer but it lets the photographer see the effects in real time, through the viewfinder. The reason why this can be a benefit is because it isn't optimal to tax the brain with asking it to imagine and overlay complicated, abstract special effects, while looking at the real world. There are already countless calculations that the brain has to make, based on the visual input. So why not provide as accurate input as possible, relative to the desired outcome.
2.) Tobacco colored sky at dusk over Ala Wai Yacht Harbor as seen from the West end of Waikiki. Because the lit-up skyline of downtown Honolulu is reflected in the water, it is OK to place the horizon in the middle of the composition. In the original uncropped image, 2 rows of sailboats on both sides lead the viewers' eyes toward the bright building in the background.
Symmetric Water Reflection Photography Tip: one of the most common amateur photographer mistakes is to place the composition in the center of the frame. There is a time though when the horizon can be in the center: water reflection photography. The water can not only be a lake, a pond or other natural still water, but a street puddle as well.
3.) Weekly fireworks, courtesy of Hilton Hawaiian Village over Waikiki Beach skyline is captured from Ala Moana Park on Magic Island. A cable release was used with the camera set to manual exposure, using a wide aperture and bulb mode. The shutter was open between 2-4 seconds, not set by a timer but just by feel. It was a rudimentary way of bracketing but there were so many variables, that trial and error seemed as the most time efficient way of shooting during the only 5 minute long fireworks.
Night Indigo Sky Photography Tip: the best time to do night photography - with the sky included - is at dusk. The sky will be a beautiful shade of dark blue, including indigo color. Not to mention, that the darker or black sky will require longer shutter speed or wider aperture, resulting in potential camera shake or out of focus composition.