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Warm sunny days and white fluffy clouds usually enhance travel photographs. But in our travels we can seldom expect to have only sunny days. Once on a trip to Europe, during twenty-one days of vacation, only two were sunny and the rest were cloudy and rainy. But at that same time the following year the weather the opposite. Of course there are countries, like those in North Africa, where even in their "darkest" winter the sun shines everyday. In Egypt, Morocco, or Tunisia you may have to drive only a few miles from the coast to find the sunny paradise.
Tourist book instructions could be misleading. Often you will find that only six rainy days are listed for a particular month, and you may have the bad luck to stay there for these six days. In many countries rain does not always mean that the whole day will be cloudy. On the contrary, in many tropical countries rain comes and goes, in the manner of seconds and the sun shines again. But for particular trips when the goal is better photography, it's best to investigate and find out the time of the year that has sunshine, but still not too hot to enjoy the traveling. The best time for photography would probably be the springtime when everything is flowering. You may still have rain but it wouldn't last long, and spring in everyplace in the world is cooler than the summer. This is particularly important if your traveling is restricted to only a few days. Once we went to Japan for cherry blossom pictures. We came at the best time of the year and stayed three days, but all three days had rain and wind. We compensated for this disappointment of Japanese stage and theatre performances.
Sometimes it is a hard decision when you have only a few days. The first day is cloudy, but no rain. Should you take some pictures? You still have a few more days, but maybe the next days will be dark and rainy. My advice would be take some pictures the first day and then wait for better weather. You have nothing to lose, do the best you can do. Listen to the local weather forecast or look in the newspapers.
Another solution is that when you have a dark, rainy day to use this day for INSIDE pictures. Go to museums, churches, mosques, and other places you are interested in. Use this bad weather time for flash or portable light pictures inside.
Rainy day pictures will give an interesting composition of the raindrops hitting the street, or a swimming pool, or leaves. Or wise just take a picture of the raindrops on tropical flowers.
If the sun is shining while it is raining, take some pictures with the sun in front of the camera. Use the sunshade on the camera objective, or shield the objective from the sun with your hand. In this way you will get beautifully illuminated raindrops and rainbows.
Do not complain about the non-sunny days. When you look at professional pictures you often notice that these pictures were taken on cloudy days. The professional will often avoid (especially in color slides) the high contrast of direct sunshine, which gives no detail in the shadow areas.
Not every picture needs sunshine. Often you would like to express, in your picture, the feeling of depression, sadness, melancholy, or show the shadow side of a particular country or place. Slums and pollution may be better expressed by dull muted colors on a cloudy day. Very effective are the pictures of rain and fog. People like to see the "mystery" of fog. In many countries, especially in the early morning, you can find a beautiful fog, especially along large bodies of water.
Most of our films are color films. There are two ways to improve dark, rainy day pictures. You may underexpose them and get better color saturation. The picture will look dark but the colors will be more prominent. Or you can overexpose them. The picture will be "thin" (lack of contrast), but will make pictures look brighter. Use your own taste. In filming it is important to continue with similar brightness footage on adjacent shots of the same scene.
Rain may bring new ideas into pictures. You can make a film or a series of pictures with only "Paris in the rain" or "London's fog." This could be how the city and the people react to rain. It could be a very interesting idea. Rainy pictures may be admired because they unusual. The country and people are seen in a different light.
It is important to take some close-up pictures on the rainy days. One drop of rain may be more interesting than a large lake. The rainy weather may bring more comedy and laughter to your pictures. For instance, showing the people trying to protect themselves against the wind or rain. Notice the sadness and surprise in the faces of the people caught in a sudden rain.
Your camera may be simple protected by your raincoat, or a plastic bag with an opening for only the lens. Every travelog and every series of travel pictures should contain at least a few pictures of rainy days for contrast and for different interest.
SEASONS AND TRAVEL PICTURES
Most successes in our lives are by virtue of being in the right place at the right time. The same is true with success for better travel pictures. For a better travel picture, you have to be in the right spot at the right time of the year and the right time of the day to get the best light and the best composition. This could be, perhaps, right after sunrise or sunset, or after a rain, the morning fog, or fresh snow. The different light will give different colors and a different mood.
We travel in different seasons. For the best pictures, it is most important to travel in the country at its most beautiful time of year. When we have springtime in the U.S.A., in other countries, South America for one, have Fall. In spring everything is a fresh green and flowers always make a good background for pictures. But often Fall will bring such a variety of bright colors, that maybe the best time of the year would be Fall. Just imagine the Amsterdam canals in full Autumn colors.
But Spring may be a problem. We know that in South America and in Australia, their spring is when we have Fall. But even in Europe Spring comes at different times in different countries. Rome has spring before Vienna, and Vienna has spring before Warsaw, and Warsaw has spring before Detroit. The weather variation is frequent, and like in our countries spring could be a few weeks earlier or later. But still with some investigation and with reading travel books and pamphlets you may accelerate or postpone your vacation for a few weeks and take your trip at the best time of the year for photography.
So it is important to plan to travel at the most desired time of the year. In some cold countries, like Alaska, maybe summer would be the best. But in Egypt, surely summer would be the worst. Visiting at the wrong time of the year in particular countries may save money. Egypt is cheaper in the summer, and many hotels have extra low rates in the spring and fall. In Chamonix, the September hotel rate will be the lowest and the weather will be the best. In the West Indies the price of a hotel is only half price after April 14th. With some Planning and asking you still may be able to travel at the best time of the year with considerable savings. But as I mentioned before, there is no guarantee on the weather. From the Pan American Encyclopedia of travel, you may find the average temperature and days of rain in particular countries. But the temperature variation may be of a large range and the predicted ten days of rain for the month may be just the ten days you stay there.
Most vacations are taken in the summer. In Europe, school vacation is in July or August, and those are the months most people take vacations. Because of this, all of the hotels are over filled and the transportation system is crowded. So by taking our vacation in June or September you will find much better service and better accomodations, and often cheaper.
Summer vacation may bring some problems. In most countries it is hot. Vacation time is rest time for many tourists who like to sleep longer and eat breakfast later. By the time they are ready to go for photographs it is already 10 or maybe 11 am and the sun is high and the air is hot and the shadows are strong. this is probably the worst time to take any pictures. We often notice that the sunrise in Northern Europe is sometimes as early as 3 am or before, The days are long. The best morning pictures would be between 6-l0am, which would also be the most pleasant time to walk and see the people. At noon in many countries is the siesta time. The shops and offices are closed and all the people take naps. The streets are empty at this time. Later in the afternoon life begins again.
so why not "when in Rome do what the Romans do!" Get up early and from noon to early afternoon take a nap. Six hours of night sleep and two hours during the afternoon will still give you eight hours of vacation rest. The morning and evening hours are the best times or pictures.
On an African safari you will have to wake up before sunrise to see the animals at their best time when they are looking for food. In the Amazon Manaus Hotel, you will get up at 2 am, have breakfast, and at 3 am you will be on the boat to the jungle. The morning day break in the jungle will be an unforgetable experience in your travel and will give you the opportunity for many original pictures. At 9 am or no later than 10 am you will be back in the hotel to avoid the Sun. Similar situations exist in the Sahara and Sudan region, as with many other parts of Africa.
In Fall, we have to remember that we need a little frost to give the leaves their best colors. So for the best Fall travel pictures just calculate the time of the first frost.
Pictures in hot places may bring some problems. For instance, when trying to take the picture of the Salt Flats in Tunisia, or of the beaches on a tropical island in high summer, you may get too much sun reflection. With high speed film, the highest shutter speed and smallest apperture on the objective, you will still get too much light. Use a neutral gray filter to increase the exposure time. There are a few of these filters in different densities. We can also use a polarizing filter which will darken the sky and stop the water glare.
We can take pictures of the sun if the sun light is low enough that we can look at the sun with no eye irritation. The exposure should be calculated because the regular exposure meter will give a different reading then what you would want on your picture. A narrow angle exposure meter may give the reading of the object, and more importantly, of your picture.
Pictures on the beaches and in snow-covered mountains in full sun may be a little tricky. The exposure meter (or your automatic exposure lens, like those on most super 8 movie cameras) will just show and expose the film to the regular very bright view. But with a person in the picture, and especially his face, the picture will be underexposed. So in spite of the bright light and the short exposure, if we have a close object, and there is no way to read the exposure on this object, the exposure of the landscape has to be longer.
While traveling through countries, the people will have different activities, work, and recreation, depending on the time of the year. It is important for the traveler to attend the spectacular regional celebrations where the best pictures can be taken. With good planning it is possible to see such spectacles while traveling from one country to another. When a travel group has had good organization, very often a special show will be performed just for the group, for instance, a performance of a belly dancing in the hotel garden in Tunisia was performed during good lightning conditions for the convenience of picture taking. But individual arrangements can also be made.
The travel agency is the best source for all the information you need. But also use your common sense. The travel agent cannot possibly know everything, and secondly he may have his own interests. He is living from his profit to make arrangements not only for you, but for his benefit too. Listen to his advice, but make your own decisions.
The season of the year is very important in traveling, and it is important in your pictures. A particular country will have a completely different look at a different time of the year. In other countries, like many of the tropical islands, the climate change will make little difference except during the rainy season.
If you are planning your trip, especially with the idea of better photography, it will be very important to find the best time or best season of the year.
DIFFERENT TIMES OF THE DAY WILL GIVE YOU DIFFERENT TRAVEL PICTURES
At different times of your travel day, you will have the opportunity for different pictures. The light will be different, and the activity on the street of the country will be different. Most tourists sleep in late and after breakfast, when they are ready to go, it is already 10 am or later. This is the worst time for taking pictures, because the sun is high and the shadows are deep.
Sunrise is seldom a beautiful. However, in some places of the world, as in the Himalayes, Taiwan, or Montagne, you are supposed to get up early and marvel over the first rays of the rising sun. There are places that, because of extremely hot or humid climates you will have to use the early morning hours. On an Amazon trip, you will awake at 2 am, have breakfast at 3 am, and be on the river and in the Amazon jungle by 4 am. You will return to your hotel before 10 am. just to avoid the heat and the humidity. This similar situation occurs in the summer season in Sudan and in other of the hot parts of Africa. You have to get up before sunrise on an African Safari to see the animals going to the water holes and to feed.
The early morning hours will be beautiful in lake areas when the sun starts to break through the morning fog. In most cities the morning will bring you not only different colors, but also different activities. Most city markets are busy from 6 to 9 am.
If you get there after 10 am most of the excitement is over. Interesting pictures may be taken just when the city starts to wake up with its early morning activities.
Noon time in hot countries, Spain or Mexico for example, is siesta time. The streets are empty and the stores are closed. The sun is high and hot. Most people take a nap or rest. This is a bad time for walking and picture taking. But you still may see monuments in interesting shadows. You can take pictures of the sun if you can look at the sun. This would be in the early morning, before sunset, or when the sun is behind the clouds, or on a cloudy day. The sun itself will seldom give you an exciting picture, but it may be used for interesting backgrounds. The color of the landscape will change with the time of the day. There will be more blue in the morning and more orange in the evening. You still could correct this or accentuate it with special color filters.
Often you can get up a little earlier, and use one hour or two before breakfast, to take a walk through the city. You would surely find some interesting scenes and people for your pictures. Some scenery in the early morning is absolutely breath taking. I remember my pleasure at seeing the large Majdan Palace of the Isfahan, in Iran, with the magnificent colorful mosques. It was worth one hour less of sleep.
Not only the time of day, but also the day of the week is different for people's activities and your pictures. Many cities have a market on one particular day of the week. Some cities have celebrations every few months. Sundays may bring soccor games or bullfights.
If you do not like crowds, calculate your time so that you will be out of the stream of the other tourists. You should know that the buses bringing the tourists will arrive at 10 am and stay untill 12 noon which is lunchtime. Then the buses and the tourists will be back everywhere from 3 pm to 5 pm. If you take different times then you may be alone and undisturbed for your best pictures.
Late in the afternoon is probably the best time for pictures. The orange color makes the objects look soft and warm, and the shadows are longer and not so harsh. The faces of the people look better. Try to shoot against the sun. Today the multi coated lenses give you more of a promise for good pictures and no glare when the sun is shining on your objective. It is still better to take pictures when the sun is not shining directly on your objective. Use a sunshade, your have or any cover, to shade the camera objective and still make pictures against the sum. Very often you may find some object, for instance a tree or advertisement sign, that will cover the sun so that your camera will be in the shade and the sun will be still in the front. These backlit pictures are often the most dramatic.
You may get beautiful pictures of flowers, fountains (water looks best against the sun) and monuments. In beauty contests, many of the winning pictures are pictures that were taken close to sunset or just at sunset.
Sunsets are no problem. Generally they should be a little underexposed. The light meter may give an erratic reading. Take a few pictures with different exposure times, and then later select the best.
Twilight is a very good time to take night pictures. Usually there is enough light 10 to 15 minutes after sunset. The city lights will burn so will some advertisement signs. The sky will be dark blue, and this may be the best "night pictures" because you have lights and still have some details of the city.
Later in the night you will need longer exposure, so use a tripod or some steady support for your camera. Pictures from hotel windows in many cities give you an excellent view. Think of the view on the Nile and Pyramids from the Hilton in Cairo or on Taxco from the Borda Hotel. Just a few seconds exposure will give you all of the city lights and more.
With a movie camera there are more problems. By using the "T" of the camera, you may expose each frame for a few seconds and then later calculate 18 or 24 of these pictures for one second of projection. You will get original pictures. A better light meter can give you the exact exposure time.
The idea is that most pictures taken by tourists are made during the noon hours with the full sun. Because we see so many of these, the most interesting pictures will probably be those that are taken early or late, at different times of the day, such as in morning fog.
This is not only for the camera and the pictures. You will see more colors and more scenery and you will enjoy more of your vacation when you try to see the city and the country at different times of the day.