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Easy Tips To Photograph The Moon

The moon is 238,900 miles from earth.

In the vast majority of moon photos taken by amateurs, the moon looks like it’s that far away!

There’s plenty of obstacles to creating a beautiful image of the moon – you need an understanding of the moon’s phases and the right gear, like a telephoto lens, to get up close.

You also need to have an understanding of compositional choices that will make your photo shine. Getting the exposure just right is another challenge too.

And though that might seem like a lot to keep in mind, with a few tips, you can master these topics and create images of the moon like the one above.

Let’s get started!

Get Familiar With the Moon’s Behavior

The first step in moon photography is to develop an understanding of the behavior of the moon. Naturally, this means understanding the moon’s phases so you know when the moon will be out from the earth’s shadow.

Because the earth has a counter-clockwise rotation, it’s shadow travels across the moon from right to left. That means that the best time to get photos of the moon is during its waxing stage, when the earth’s shadow is moving ever farther to the left, revealing more of the moon’s pockmarked surface.

To get a detailed understanding of the phases of the moon, watch the video below with Phil from Crash Course Astronomy:

There are plenty of apps that help you track the moon’s behavior as well. MOON – Current Moon Phase (shown below) is available on iTunes and gets very high marks from users. The app works offline, so you can be out in the wilderness without service and still know what the moon is doing and will do in the future.
This app also tells you the lunar illumination so you’re sure to capitalize on nights when it’s brightest. What’s more, the app also sends out notifications before new moons, full moons, and other lunar events, that way you can plan ahead. You can even view what the moon will look like on any day of the year by entering your desired date!

Get the Appropriate Gear

Like any other photo, getting a pleasing image of the moon requires that you have the necessary gear. Here’s a quick list of essentials you’ll need to get the best photos:

Camera

You can take photos of the moon with any camera, even your smartphone. The caveat is that for improved photos of the moon you’ll need a camera with certain features. A DSLR or mirrorless camera is typically the most advantageous because they have an expanded ISO range that allows for low-light shooting.

What’s more, it’s best to have a camera with RAW shooting capabilities, simply because RAW files retain all the data collected by the sensor. That means that in post-processing you have more information to work with, which aids your ability to create the best-looking shot.

Another feature to consider is the size of the camera’s sensor. The larger the sensor, the more light it can collect. As a result, full frame cameras like the Nikon D7200, will do the trick.

Lens

If you’ve ever taken a photo of the moon with your smartphone or a point-and-shoot, or even a DSLR with a wide-angle lens, you know the disappointment of the moon appearing to be a small, white blob in the sky.

That’s a result of a focal length that’s too short – a wide-angle lens, for example, doesn’t get you close enough to the moon to make it appear of any significant size, nor does it allow you to capture the detail of its surface. Since wide-angle lenses make distant objects seem smaller, it stands to reason that wide-angle photos of the moon aren’t impressive at all.

To get up close and personal with the moon as seen above, you’ll need a telephoto lens. Typically, moon photographers recommend at least 200mm, though the longer the lens, the greater the magnification and the more pronounced the compression.

Where other types of astrophotography, like photographing the Milky Way, benefit from a fast lens, speed for moon photography isn’t as much of an issue.

For starters, the moon will be very bright and provide enough illumination on its own (plus you can bracket and blend exposures, as discussed below). Secondly, you’ll have your camera on a tripod, so you can utilize a longer shutter speed to compensate for the darkness of your surroundings.

So, when looking for a lens, worry less about the largest aperture available and focus on focal length. Solid options include the Nikon AF-S FX NIKKOR 200-500mm f/5.6E ED Zoom Lens. Neither lens is cheap, but to get photos in which it seems the moon is very close (and large), a long lens is required.

Tripod

Naturally, with a long lens and long shutter speeds, a sturdy tripod that will give your camera a stable base is of the utmost importance. It won’t matter how beautiful the composition is if the shot is blurry due to camera movement!

There is a mountain of tripods available with a wide array of features that can make your head spin. But the most important thing to look for is stability, quality construction, good feet that provide a stable base, and a center column hook that allows you to add weight to improve stability. Check out our recent list of the best tripods for some solid recommendations.

Mount

If you really want to take your lunar photography to another level, using a dedicated mount is certainly the way to go.

The Star Adventurer Mount from Sky-Watcher USA is an ideal tool for taking photos of the moon because it tracks celestial bodies. Keep the moon (or the sun or stars) in full view by using the mount to track it across the sky. With built-in shutter release control, the Star Adventurer also gives you the power of firing your shutter remotely, thereby helping to reduce the possibility of blurriness due to camera shake.

What’s more, if you want to create a beautiful timelapse video of the moon moving across the sky, you can! The Star Adventurer has preprogrammed parameters for creating timelapses both quickly and easily.

The setup shown above is Sky-Watcher’s special photo package, which comes bundled with the Star Adventurer mount, a polar scope illuminator, and a ball head adapter.

That means that right out of the box, you’re ready to head out, get set up, and take some stunning photos of the moon! Get to know the Star Adventurer Mount in more detail by checking out the video above from Sky-Watcher USA.

Here’s what you need to get this set up:

Camera (Nikon D810 shown)
SkyWatcher Adventurer
Sturdy tripod (Sirui W-2204 shown)
Strong ballhead (Acratech GP shown)
Shutter Remote (RFN-4 Wireless shown)
StarAdventure image image

Consider the Composition

As beautiful as the moon is, and as awe-inspiring as it can be, photos of the moon can easily be boring. This is especially true if you take a large view, like the image above, in which the moon is relatively small in the frame.

In those instances, it’s necessary to pair the moon with interesting foreground elements, just as you would with any other type of landscape shot.

There are a myriad of possibilities here. If you live in a city, incorporate a structure of some sort into the frame – a building, a bridge, or the like, that adds some scale to the shot as well as provides visual interest that makes the image more complex.

If you can head out to less populated areas, pair the moon with natural elements like mountains, trees, or even reflect the moon in a still lake or pond to make the photo more visually appealing.

You might even find that photographing the moon at sunrise or sunset is advantageous because you can incorporate Golden Hour or Blue Hour lighting into the scene, which elevates the interest of the image with the addition of the warm, bright colors of the sky.

In the video above, Bryan Peterson of Adorama TV explains why shooting near sunrise and sunset is so advantageous, and also offers some tips on how to expose the image at this time of day.

Blend Your Exposures

The benefit of using environmental elements in the shot is that you create a more interesting image.

The difficulty, however, is that adding foreground and midground elements can make getting a well-exposed photo more difficult.

Part of the issue is that the light reflected off the moon can be incredibly bright, which can trick your camera’s meter into thinking that the scene is much brighter than it really is.

The result of that is a shot in which the moon might be well-exposed, but the rest of the scene is pitch black.

An effective way to overcome this issue is to bracket your exposures. Take a series of shots, each differing in its exposure by one stop. Then, simply combine the images in the software of your choice, like Photoshop or Lightroom.

If you’re unfamiliar with this process, check out the video above. In it, Serge Ramelli gives us an in-depth tutorial on exposure blending such that the final image has a spot-on exposure throughout.

From planning your outing to composing the shot to processing the images, you now have a better idea of what it takes to create gorgeous photos of the moon.

Though it’s a lot to take in, just remember that all it takes is a little bit of practice. Set aside some time to work on the tips and techniques outlined in this article, and you’re sure to develop the skills needed to capture some truly stunning lunar photos.

Tips To Photographing Lightning Without a Tripod or Wireless Remote


Hints and tips on how to shoot lightning in a storm
I’m in Turkey and just as I’m getting ready to go to bed, there’s an almighty boom from outside. I open the curtain to see a thunderstorm is creeping up on us from the Mediterranean.

As silly as it sounds I get a rush of adrenaline. I’ve never had a legitimate chance of photographing a storm before. I have a good idea how I’m going to approach it and my experience in travel photography tells me one thing – do not wait around.

Make a split second decision if you’re going to go, and if you do go, go all out. Stand by the curtain wondering whether to step outside and every flash is a potential photo gone. I grabbed my Nikon and 10.5mm fisheye lens – that’s all I need for this situation. There are plenty of objects that can substitute for a tripod. Also any lens other than a fisheye won’t be able to capture the scale of the storm.

Using a pier post as a tripod
Photographing lightning without a tripod or wireless remote

After a brief jog down to the beach I’m faced with an oncoming storm. It’s a big one and its approaching land from the south. I walk along to the end of the pier and set up. My tripod consisted of resting the camera on a post at the end of the pier with the strap firmly round my wrist in case it fell. I wanted to capture the bolts of lightning so I set the up camera accordingly. I went for a three-second exposure with a wide open aperture and a low ISO. The low ISO meant the photo wouldn’t be grainy but the wide aperture meant the depth of field might be a problem. It turns out it was. In my haste I didn’t double check the focus of the camera.

And now a fold up chair and a wallet

Disaster! The setup was brilliant. The angle, field of vision and placement was spot on. But the camera had focused on the rail to the bottom right and I hadn’t noticed. Gutted. I decided that I should move back and give the storm more scale. Also, I was worried that if the spray from the sea increased I’d have a soaked camera. I retreated to a fold up chair as a tripod and my wallet under the lens to point the camera towards the sky. The trick to not jolting the camera when pressing the button is to keep your finger on the camera. That way the camera will just keep taking photos as quick as it can. You don’t move the camera as you are not pressing the button repeatedly and you don’t miss any of the action. Your finger may get tired after 20 minutes of doing this but you have another 9 digits to take over. I kept the same settings apart from increasing the shutter from three to four seconds to allow more light in and make the photo more dramatic. Zeus, the Greek god of thunder and lightning, smiled on me around 1am.

Keep your eye on the coming storm potential

After seeing this I settled down a bit and started thinking more rationally. Happy in the knowledge I had captured a great shot I noticed that this wasn’t the only storm. I’m not too hot on the nature of storms but there were a further two lighting areas approaching from the left and right. All three looking to clash right above my head. So I turned the camera to the storm on the left. There are three main types of lightning. The most common is the one captured and that is lightening that travels within the cloud it originates. Then you have lightning that travels between clouds. I was seeing this on the right of me but to be honest it wasn’t particularly spectacular. The third and most studied type is cloud to ground lightning where a fork will come down like a silver finger and touch some poor tree or cow. This was the lightning approaching fast from the left. It would have looked great coming down and zapping a pylon and making 5000 kettles simultaneously boil but alas it was probably touching some poor dolphin or fisherman.

Be patient and set up your shot

The photo above gives a nice feel of an incoming storm but it’s not intimidating. I went with a 30-second shutter to try and get the stars and sea in, but I don’t feel that the photo gave the right impression of three converging lightning clouds. I relaxed and waited a while for the clouds to approach. I decided to go with settings halfway between the two previous setups. I ended up on an eight second exposure and raised the ISO to 400. I wanted a bit more light to give a stormy feel knowing it would white out the strike itself. The photo I ended up with I was very happy with.

Stay safe!

Soon after this the main storm came close and the rain started. Being on a pier 50 metres out at sea during a storm standing next to a 10 metre flagpole was not the safest place to be so I retreated back to my ground floor hotel room and set up again. The following hour was a delight. The storms as far as I could tell did converge right above us and produced a phenomenal show. I could count how close it was getting using the age old “one Mississippi, two Mississippi, two Mississippi…” BOOM! The photos captured don’t even look real, but I assure you they are not photoshopped.

The final photograph of the storm

So there you have it. Just a camera and a fisheye is all you need to photograph a storm. Oh and a wallet to prop up the camera to point it at the sky.

Tips for Taking Gap Year Photos

Gone are the days of taking a cheap disposable camera on your gap year – now, anyone can get their hands on a camera that’s capable of capturing great images. But how do you achieve shots that are truly jaw-dropping and stand out among the mass of shared photos online?

Make sure you read these top tips before you head out on your travels.

1. Pack the right gear

Have you ever tried capturing that once in a lifetime experience on camera, only to find that you don’t have a back-up battery to hand when your current one inevitably dies? Battery life is crucial to ensure you capture the best footage, but there are dangers to recording for long periods of time.

Keep in mind that your camera can overheat, which can damage it or stop you getting your footage or photo. Look out for cameras with their own heat management system to help avoid overheating when capturing high-resolution footage. Ensuring you pack the right gear is vital for ensuring you get the perfect shots without any setbacks.

2. Know your equipment
Get used to your equipment before you head off on your travels. Having the right size camera is crucial too; something that’s small and easy to fit in your pocket is ideal if you need a camera that’s convenient to use at any time and in any place. Be sure to gain a good understanding of what its strengths and weaknesses are so you don’t miss out on the opportunity to capture something amazing all because your camera takes a few seconds to fully switch on.

Explore different settings on your camera, experiment with burst mode and slo-mo, and don’t forget about the self-timer as it gives you the chance to get into that shot you’ve spent so long setting up. Of course, settings such as Electronic Image Stabilisation (EIS) are ideal for when you need to compensate for any tilts, bumps and shakes when recording footage.

3. Add a human touch
There’s nothing wrong with capturing the view of a vast landscape which looks totally untouched by humans, but it can feel like something is missing. Try adding people to your photos to give the shots some more personality and to provide a real sense of scale. This will help you to showcase how amazing a location really is to visit. If you can get yourself in the pictures, then it also gives you bragging rights to prove that you’ve actually been there.

Don’t forget to make the most of the range of accessories you can get for your camera. Additions like selfie sticks and handlebar or head mounts can take your pictures to the next level to help you take even more amazing shots.

4. Go waterproof
You never know when you might need to protect your camera from an accidental splash, or when you want to take a dip in a lake surrounded by beautiful scenery. When finding the right waterproof housing for your camera, be sure to choose something that’s designed to be compatible. You can even attach a floating grip to your camera if you’re worried about it sinking into the abyss.

An extra tip: if you are worried about damaging your equipment, then make sure it’s all covered by your insurance.

5. Have fun

Don’t forget to have fun when you’re out exploring every nook and cranny of each new place you visit on your gap year. Get locals involved, try striking new poses, and don’t be afraid to do something that you’ve never tried before. The more you get stuck in, the more you’ll relax.

Remember to use a camera that makes downloading your pictures and footage straight to your phone easy and quick, so you can instantly edit and share that amazing shot to your social media channels for your friends and family to see.

Ensuring you have the right equipment is key to capturing great photos. Thanks to advances in technology, many cameras are capable of capturing every step of your travels whilst staying extremely lightweight and compact. This is the perfect combination that allows you to see and do more as you continue on your gap year.

Don’t Let One Small Repair Turn into a Substitute Windscreen or Windshield!

It commonly happens something such as this view – you happen to be driving along, maybe singing towards the radio, not to mention minding your own business. Consequently, suddenly, you sort of feel yourself flinch as you discover something soaring upward through the roadway right in your direction. BAM! It’s a really big pebble, part of tough soil, or possibly perhaps via debris thrown back again as a result of the wheels on the vehicle just ahead. What ever it was actually, it took a compact piece away from your beforehand fantastic windshield. Luckily, although – the actual chip is actually within the more compact side not to mention the windscreen is not really damaged. Typically, windscreen repairers want to replace a horribly ruined or cracked windscreen/windshield. In fact, most of the time, a damaged windshield, even if it’s been mended, will have to be changed long before the interstate professionals will give it their own seal of approval.

If a rock flies upwards from the street plus causes harm to your dashboard or windscreen, the probability is excellent that the windscreen repair will likely be minimum in breadth and price as long as the restoration is remedied rapidly. This last note can’t be mentioned clearly enough. If you keep on to drive when using the windscreen or windshield within a weakened condition, the rumbling may well result in the damaged section to grow, turning a chip in a spiderweb associated with small breaks on into more substantial plus much more harmful breaks. Choose to get this chip filled at your earliest convenience and your windshield shall be as good as brand-new.

Try Low Angle Photography

There are plenty of things you can do to try and compose a more interesting photo.

You can add layers to the shot – foreground, midground, and background elements that give the image greater depth.

You can look for dramatic lighting that gives you the opportunity to use shadows and highlights to create visual interest.

You can also strive to frame your shots from a unique perspective, like from up high or down low.

Low angle shooting, in particular, is an interesting compositional trick to use.

Here’s why.

Low Angles Add Depth

The whole point of photography is to represent a three-dimensional scene on a two-dimensional medium such that it looks three-dimensional.

It sounds confusing, but it really isn’t!

A print, laptop screen, or smartphone screen is a two-dimensional space, but by creating a photo using a low angle of view, you can increase the perceived depth of the shot.

In the image above, kneeling down allowed the photographer to incorporate more foreground into the shot, which increases the perceived depth. The addition of the texture of the sand, and the associated shadows gives the shot more visual interest as well.

Low Angles are More Interesting

The vast majority of photos are taken from the photographer’s eye level.

And even though that’s a comfortable and familiar shooting position, it often results in photos that are also comfortable and familiar, and that’s not necessarily a good thing.

Part of our jobs as photographers is to help viewers engage with the shot, and by giving them an unique perspective from which to view the scene, you can more easily help them be engaged.

In the image above, the low angle of view again incorporates more foreground into the shot. Additionally, the leading lines created by the bridge’s structure give the photo more depth, and the runners appear to be taller and more imposing in the frame, which immediately commands the attention of viewers.

A Low Angle of View Emphasizes Perceived Power

As noted above, a low angle of view helps the subject of a photograph take on a more imposing position in the shot.

By virtue of that, the subject also seems more powerful and important.

This is true of just about any subject, from a landscape to a portrait to even a building.

In the image above, we see this concept in action. Though the subject is a group of small, delicate leaves, the low angle of view makes them seem more imposing, more powerful.

This is in spite of the fact that these plants are actually just inches high. Just imagine this photo had it been taken from eye level – it would be far less interesting.

Tips For Beginner Photographer

think we can all agree that being a beginning photographer is a lot of fun.

I think we can also agree that it can be a little overwhelming!

When I think back to my first days toting around my camera, I shutter at the thought of everything I didn’t know.

Back then, there wasn’t the wealth of information we have today right at our fingertips.

There weren’t handy guides to clue me in either!

Lucky you, though, because you have in your grasp a quick guide that will help you become a better photographer.

Of course, part of becoming a better photographer is building your skills.

However, you need to be properly equipped if you’re to build the requisite skills for becoming a solid enthusiast.

With that in mind, consider these three items as absolutely necessary for your photography adventures.

Filters

Nyumon Kit image

Photoshop, Lightroom, and other post-processing programs are definitely worth their weight in gold.

These powerful platforms give today’s photographers a great wealth of possibilities in terms of how their final images turn out.

But for beginners, these programs can add to the overwhelming nature of photography. There’s just a lot to learn!

And while you should definitely learn how to process your images, there’s something to be said for knowing how to get things right in-camera.

One of the best tools for perfecting your images in the field is a set of filters.

There are a variety of filters at your disposal, including protective filters and polarizing filters.

Protective filters do just that – protect your lens glass from dirt, smudges, or worse – scratches. Simply screw it onto the end of your lens, and you can rest assured that your expensive glass won’t be adversely affected by dust and other debris.

Another must-have is a circular polarizing filter.

These filters help reduce glare off of a reflective surface, such as sunlight off of a body of water. This action enables you to capture the scene in greater detail without the distracting element of glaring light.

What’s more, polarizing filters also create a more dynamic sky by enhancing the blue color of the atmosphere and making the white color of clouds pop, as seen in the image above.

Polarizers help dehaze landscape scenes as well. For example, if you’re photographing a feature that’s far away, like a mountain range, the mountains might appear to be hazy, or even bluish in color. A polarizing lens filters out that haze and decreases polarized light, resulting in a photo that has much more impact.

When thinking about filters for your photography kit, consider the Kenko Nyumon Starter Filter Kit, which comes with both a protective filter and a circular polarizing filter.

These filters come with coated and polished optical glass, so your images remain clear and sharp. Kenko’s filters resist elements like wind, dust, and rain that can cause smudges and damage to your lens’ delicate glass. The polarizer is mounted in a slim ring, so even if you use a wide-angle lens, you’re assured that vignetting will be at a minimum.

The Nyumon Starter Filter Kit is designed specifically with new photographers in mind. That means you get the lens protection you need and the power of a polarizing filter in one, budget-friendly package. With sizes ranging from 37mm to 82mm, these filters will fit a wide range of lenses. That means that no matter what gear you use, you can reap the benefits of better colors, less haze, reduced glare, and more dynamic skies today! Learn more by visiting Kenko today.

A Nifty Fifty Lens

No matter if you shoot with a Nikon, or some other brand of camera, a 50mm lens should be one of the first things you add to your photography kit.

But why?

It’s simple: 50mm lenses are cheap, but often have outstanding image quality.

In fact, if you could compare the image quality of a 50mm lens and your kit lens that came with your camera, you’d be convinced to buy a 50mm lens right then and there!

Part of the difference is that the optics in a 50mm prime lens are much better than those found in a kit zoom lens. The result is sharper images from edge to edge.

In addition to being cheap and sharp, 50mm lenses are versatile. Use it to take portraits, landscapes, photograph street scenes…you name it! It will quickly become your go-to lens because of that versatility.

And…that versatility extends into the realm of lighting. Many 50mm lenses have a very large maximum aperture of f/1.4 or f/1.8. That means you can shoot in a much wider range of lighting conditions, all with the same lens.

As if that isn’t enough, a solid 50mm lens with a large aperture gets you gloriously blurry backgrounds. That means you can blur the background of a portrait much more easily, bringing greater attention to your subject.

What’s not to like about that?

An External Flash

You know those big flashes attached to cameras you often see the pros using, like the one shown above?

That’s called a speedlight, and even if you’re a beginner, you should snag one.

Why, you ask?

For starters, like the 50mm prime lens, there are many budget-friendly speedlight options. That means you can get an essential piece of gear that will drastically improve your photos, all without spending tons of money.

Additionally, having a quality flash in your bag gives you much greater leeway in terms of when and where you can shoot photos.

With a speedlight, you’re able to take portraits in the dark. You can use it as fill light for a landscape shot as the sun is setting. Heck, you can even use it to add additional lighting to a macro photo of a flower or bug, and much more.

Better still, speedlights create much more pleasing light than the pop-up flash on your camera. If you’re going to learn how to use flash, do so with a quality speedlight so you can create better photos sooner!

With that, you’ve got a better idea of what tools you should seek to add to your kit sooner rather than later. Get one or get all three – either way, adding filters, a 50mm lens, and a speedlight to your kit will have a measurable impact on how your photos look.

Learn More To Shooting Without A Tripod Step by Step

Without a doubt, you should have a good, solid tripod as part of your kit. After all, a stable base is one of the most important elements of capturing the best photos, particularly long exposures or photos in low-light situations.

But sometimes, lugging a tripod around just isn’t in the cards. You might also find yourself in a situation in which your tripod is broken or you simply forget it at home.

Then what?

Rather than raise the white flag and give up, there are plenty of tricks to use that will help you overcome the lack of a tripod and get pleasing images in challenging situations.

Hold the Camera Like You Mean It

Look around at people taking photos with a DSLR or mirrorless camera, and the chances are that you’ll see a lot of folks not holding the camera in a way that maximizes stability.

What’s common is for people to hold the camera body with one hand, then grab the lens on the side, but without much of a grip.

Instead, try bringing your elbows in toward your chest so they have something to rest on, then move the hand on the lens to its underside, as seen in the image above.

This does two things: first, your elbows now act as a sort of tripod, gaining stability from your core. Second, the hand on the lens takes more responsibility for keeping the camera steady because it’s positioned under the lens, not to the side.

Another option is to use your elbow and knee together to form a tripod. In this instance, you create a stable base by sitting or kneeling on the ground, with your arm then supported by one knee. As seen in the image above, this will work with just about any lens, including a heavy, long telephoto.

Find Something to Rest On
For even more stability, pair a proper hold of the camera with a stable object on which you can either rest your body or rest the camera.

For example, you can use a tree, a fence post, a column or wall, or even the body of your car to lean against, thereby helping you to maintain a more stable base.

Sure, it might not be ideally comfortable to lean against something, but if it helps stabilize your body, and thereby your camera, it’s worth a few seconds of being uncomfortable if it means the photos you take are nice and sharp.

You can also use objects around you as makeshift tripods. A rock here or a table there provides more than enough stability to keep your camera nice and steady. Of course, if the surface of the object on which you rest your camera is uneven, you might need a bean bag to help keep the camera level.

Use a HandlePod
One of the best options for working without a tripod is to have a device like HandlePod that offers all sorts of options for supporting your camera.

Not only can you use HandlePod as a tripod by sitting it on a flat, even surface like a tabletop, but you can also use it as a rock solid grip, pressing it against something like a fence post to give your camera a substantial amount of stability.

HandlePod even comes with an integrated elastic cord, so you can attach the device to just about anything – a post, a fence, or even a tree branch – and your camera will be steady for the shot.

Even if the surface upon which you attach HandlePod isn’t level, no worry! It has three-axis movement, so you’re sure you can adjust your camera such that the photo is level.

Perhaps best of all, HandlePod is small enough to fit in your pocket, so it’s easily transportable. It’s also a breeze to use – literally just pull it out of your pocket, attach it to your camera, and you’re ready to go.

That makes HandlePod an ideal solution for taking photos without a tripod. After all, that’s why it’s one of our 12 Things Photographers Shouldn’t Leave at Home.

Make Your Own Monopod

Yet another alternative when a tripod isn’t available is to construct your own monopod.

This can be done quickly and simply:

Buy a threaded eyelet that you can screw into the tripod mount on your camera.
Buy a length of cord (here I’m using a bungee cord) that is long enough to reach the ground, with several inches of extra slack left over
Tie the cord to the eyelet.
Secure the string/bungee cord by stepping on it with your foot, using the tension in the string as a makeshift monopod.
That’s it! As simple as a string monopod is, it provides a surprising amount of support.

It’s a method that requires finesse, however. Too much tension will cause the camera to be pulled downward; not enough tension defeats the purpose. As a result, you’ll need to practice using your DIY monopod to find the ideal amount of tension to keep your camera nice and steady.

Change the Camera Settings
If you find yourself in dire straits with no tripod and no tripod alternative, you can always adjust your camera settings to make camera shake less likely:

Increase the aperture so your camera collects more light, allowing you to use a faster shutter speed.
Boost the ISO setting, that way your camera’s sensor is more sensitive to light, again, allowing you to use a faster shutter speed.
Now, there are some complications to this strategy.

If you increase the aperture, the depth of field will be reduced. So, if you’re taking a photo of a landscape, which benefits from a large depth of field, some of the scene will become blurry.

On the other hand, increasing the ISO causes digital noise, which appears like grain in the image. Though noise isn’t all bad and can be used as a creative element, it can also become too prominent and just serve to distract the viewer’s eye.

As a result, it might be most prudent to use a larger aperture and a higher ISO. Doing so gives you more light, but without reaching the extremes of the aperture and ISO ranges that cause the most significant blur and noise.

Let’s Learn A Guide to Photography for Beginners

Let’s dispel a myth right away – you don’t need to be a professional to take travel photos. You just need to know the basics of your camera and follow a few rules. Some of the best photos you’ll take will be from being in the right place at the right time, and that happens often when you’re travelling.

I have broken this short guide into five sections to give you some fast tips on travel photography. Happy snapping!

Equipment

There is no standard equipment for taking photos but when travelling you best make sure you have the necessities with you. Most people will be taking a point and shoot or a DSLR due to space constraints. For both cameras the following is recommended:

Make sure you have a big enough memory card for the camera – Rather than buy one huge memory card, I would recommend buying three or four smaller ones and keep them separate from the camera. That way if you lose your camera you don’t lose all of the photos.
Bring a charger – Nothing is worse than being in a foreign country and the battery on your camera dying, and spending all afternoon trying to find a place that might sell your charger.
A padded bag – There is a strong chance you will be knocked around on trains and buses. Make sure you get a bag padded enough to take these blows. Nothing is worse than opening up your bag to find it in pieces after being kicked on a bus.
A small tripod – Most cannot take a bit 6ft tripod. But there are some really nifty 1-2 ft fold down ones that fit in a handbag. They aren’t very big but if you want to do self photographs, scenery or night time shots they are a god send.

Using the Camera
Before you go look at your itinerary and see what landmarks there are. But more importantly look at what else there is. Remember that the locals know the best places. If they talk about a park or a museum then it might be worth a look. Most countries know what a camera is and most countries are used to tourists. If you are in a place where there is a lot of action then keep your camera to hand. But not obviously. Do not walk around with it hanging round your neck all the time. I tend to have a hoodie on that it tucks into or if it is warm it sits at the top of the backpack.

Don’t just look. Observe. With your camera to hand and an eye for a picture you can often get very spontaneous photographs. If you are in a place where there aren’t a lot of tourists and you wish to photograph the locals the best way to approach it is to not have your camera out. Put it away, go up to the locals and talk to them. Mention you are taking photos and get it out. Show the camera to them and to an extent let them have a go. Once they are comfortable with it then ask if you can take some photographs. The trick with kids is to take one photo and show it to them. Often enough they then laugh and play up to the camera creating a better photo.

Remember you are just a tourist taking photos. You are not doing anything wrong. So don’t act like it. Be friendly, and talk to people. Don’t just walk up take a photo and run away.

Settings

When thinking about settings the best thing you can do is learn about what you have got. If it is a point and shoot then learn what each setting does. Most have settings for indoors, low light and outdoors. Make sure you know when to use these settings. There are no perfect settings to take a photo but there can be wrong settings. So learn what each of them does. If you have a DSLR your horizons are massively widened but so are the settings. If you camera has a manual setting then learn to use it. Start by grasping a basic knowledge of Shutter speed, Aperture and ISO. There are plenty of YouTube tutorials showing you how to use these. All have an effect on the light and texture of a photo. The best tips to have are to leave it on auto if you are unsure. But when you get to grips with how to use light in the manual setting the world is your oyster.

If you are comfortable with the manual setting then here are a few tips:

For photographing people, use a high shutter speed as they move and become blurry otherwise.
For scenery you can have a slow shutter speed. A slow shutter speed often makes things like a sunset look more glowing.
If you have a tripod, use it. Especially at night. Slow shutter speeds at night need a tripod otherwise they come out blurred and/or ruined. Unless you are an abstract artist that is.
Place the subject off centre. A simple photo of a girl leaning against a wall is much more interesting and aesthetically pleasing if she is off centre. It’s not rocket science but placing the subject off centre and following a rule of thirds can turn the most boring photos into something worth looking at.
Depth of field is an important setting. This is controlled by the aperture. A small number means a short depth of field and a large number means a bigger one. The rule of thumb is that for people use a small number. This focuses more on the person and not the background. For buildings and landscapes use a large number as this gives you the longer depth so more of the subject is in focus.

What to Look For
If going to a place where there are lots of tourists try to give another angle on things. For instance rather than just standing by the Eiffel tower, go to one of the side streets covered in graffiti and shoot it from there. Give the viewer something different. Once you find your subject, find your angle. How do you want your image to end up?

Side streets and off the beaten path is where I shoot my best stuff. Go to the places you wouldn’t have considered before. You can do this while still staying safe. Don’t just rock up into a ghetto with your camera out.

While people are shooting the landmark, shoot the people. Sometimes the most interesting thing about a landmark is the people there to see it. You could take a photo of the leaning tower of Pisa. Or you could take a photo of the girl on her dad’s shoulders pretending to push it over not realizing her ice cream is about to fall on his head.

Most importantly, capture what you are doing. If you are having fun at a bar with some new friends get the camera out. Don’t worry about being all artsy with it, capture the moment. If someone tells a joke take a photo of everyone laughing. You will look back on that photo and remember the joke.

Scenery
When taking photographs of scenery, take one or two. Get the setting right and move on. There is no point taking 10-15 photos of the same object. Try to make use of the golden hour. The golden hour is the hour before sunset where everything looks magical. People walking along a beach look like they are from Baywatch. The sun setting over tall buildings makes them look like mountains. Use it. Your surroundings may be boring during the day but during the golden hour they have a whole new perspective.

Look up! Don’t keep your camera street level. Look up to the sky and the scenery up there. The quagmire of coloured roofs in Amsterdam or the spiral buildings of Moscow.

Look down! Get on your hands and knees, take photos of things a foot off the ground. A flower sprouting in the middle of a Berlin pathway. A hedgehog sleeping in a bush by The Louvre.

All these things are around you but you do not see them as most people’s cameras are glued to their face in a region between 5-6ft high.

Let’s Photographing Your Way

Have a guess where the most photographed spot in the world is. Go on. Have a think.

The Eiffel Tower? The Taj Mahal? The Statue of Liberty?

Nope. According to Sightsmap’s map of the most photographed places in the world it’s the Guggenheim Museum in New York. This place:

Snapping the Big Apple
Where better, then, to start the ultimate photographic trip round the world than this most iconic city? Photographers have been drawn here for as long as cameras have existed and with good reason. From the obscure corners of the Bronx to Times Square in the heart of Manhattan the scenes of New York have played host to some of the most famous frames in photography. Ever.

While the Vivan Maiers, Diane Arbuses, Bill Cunninghams and Elliott Erwitts of the world had years to explore New York, your gap year might leave you with only a few days or weeks. So, make the most of it. Don’t hold back. Take those shots of the amazing busker on the subway, that incredible sunset from the top of the Empire State Building or that abstract photo of the Guggenheim, and add yours to the photographic tableaux that captures every moment of life in New York.

Although hard to top for cityscapes, street photography and diversity, there is a lot more to America beyond New York, regardless of what kind of photographer you are. Whether you want to fly straight to the likes of Chicago, San Francisco or Las Vegas, to shoot more iconic urban scenes, or travel overland and follow in the footsteps of photographers like Ansel Adams and Stephen Shore, there’s an unbelievable amount to see and shoot.

Get trigger happy in South America
While North America is practically synonymous with photography, South America also has much to offer. From old coastal towns in Colombia’s tropical north, right down to the snow-capped mountains of the Torres del Paine, in the far south of Chile, it really is astonishingly beautiful and more varied than you could ever imagine.

Not only that, but it’s a dream to photograph, the light is fantastic and the people, scenery and climate are conducive to great photos. Mario Testino, one of the greatest living photographers, comes from Peru. It is easy to imagine how while growing up there these elements helped influence his style and formation as an artist. Maybe you’ll find the inspiration you’ve been waiting for there.

Travel and all the new sights it offers are the best inspiration for any kind of photographer. Your gap year is the perfect way for you to discover or hone your photographic style and try something completely new in completely new surroundings. Perhaps you’ll branch out from those beautiful landscapes and try some portraits of the locals, or maybe you’ll find yourself captivated by the colours in a local food market where normally you might focus on the lines of the local architecture.

While you’re travelling through South America in search of that perfect photo, whatever your style may be, you’re pretty much guaranteed to stop off at a few cities – Rio de Janeiro, Buenos Aires and Santiago to name just a few.

South America is well known for its beautiful landscapes, but it also has these vibrant, colourful and downright crazy cities. La Paz, surrounded by snow capped mountains, is the world’s highest capital city. Rio is possibly the most scenically located city in the world and is home to both the best beach on the planet – Copacabana – and the best party – Carnival. Santiago is the gateway from South America to the South Pacific so you never know who or what you might meet there!

From Santiago go west and cross the international dateline and end up in New Zealand. The Land of the Long White Cloud is where you can practice your wildlife photography – perhaps snap some whales from Kaikoura – and walk the Tongariro Crossing, maybe trying your hand at some winter photography before winding up in Christchurch to explore in search of some haunting urban shots.

Right next door to New Zealand is what is jokingly referred to as the ‘mainland’ – Australia. This mammoth island is more continent than country and its diversity reflects that. For photographers it’s got everything, from the opportunity to study the maze-like Sydney Opera House, to the beautiful Great Ocean Road with its famous rock formations. And then there’s the verdant beauty of tropical North Queensland, home to ancient rainforests and some of the best beaches in the world.

Beyond the more obvious and well-trodden side of Australia, there’s also a wealth of diversity in people and settlements. Everywhere from the busy streets of Sydney to the remote Aboriginal settlements in the Outback, there are fascinating places and people with stories to be captured.

Lights, camera… Africa!
From Australia, head to South Africa, a brand new continent with awe-inspiring environments.

There’s a good reason we associate images of Africa with pictures of lions, elephants and vast savannahs and that simply is the fact that it is home to some of the most amazing wildlife and their natural habitat is these primeval plains.

Wildebeest Migration

Regardless of whether you are planning to explore the backwaters of the Okavango Delta, the ancient Rift Valley or just simply the national parks that are dotted about Africa, there’s something that will catch the eye of any photographer.

These are the images that any explorer of Africa searches for. The ones that convey the scale of the place, the nature of life there and how everything else seems small by comparison. Africa will give you some perspective on your photography and teach you quickly what you are best at and how to put your photographic skills to best use.

Work your way overland through Africa snapping those elusive Big 5 and all the myriad other animals that dot the landscape, before winding up in one of Africa’s cities. Whether you stay in South Africa and head out along the Garden Route, before flying out of Johannesburg or Cape Town, or decide that you want a bigger adventure and make your way overland to Nairobi, the photos you will come away with are sure to be some of your best.

Frame the organised chaos of Asia
Taking a step back there’s a whole other route you could take from Australia – via Asia. Again, the options are pretty much unlimited, pack your kit up and head for Indonesia in the south of Asia or fly straight up to South East Asia’s crown jewel – Bangkok.

If you choose the former you’ll get to trek through jungles in search of the Old Man of the Forest (Orangutan) and climb active volcanoes through steam-shrouded rainforests. For almost all photographers these will be completely new environments to explore and work out how to shoot in, so not only will you come away with these amazing photos, but you’ll have a chance to really stretch yourself photographically too.

Or, if you head to South East Asia, on that classic backpacker route, you’re bound for the nightlife of the Thai islands, the gold-clad Buddhist culture that runs throughout the area and the intoxicating chaos of the cities. All of it just begging to be recorded forever in your photos.

Should Know About 7 Things To Do Besides Take Photos

There comes a time in everyone’s life when they’ve had enough of clicking the shutter on their camera. It may take years, months, hours or even minutes but at some point I can guarantee the average person will get photography fatigue and just want to put the camera to one side.

I travel with a Go Pro, an iPhone and a point and shoot camera, I feel ridiculous but they’ve all got their purpose. Sometimes I even add a DSLR on top of that too. I’ve increasingly noticed lately that I’m just not in the photography mood, and as a full time blogger, my snapping can come more from duty than from love.

I just feel like people are taking all these photos, thousands for every trip, but what do they do with them all? Is it not better to live an experience for real, rather than view it from behind the lens?

1. Look up
When I went on safari in the Ngorongoro Crater in Tanzania everyone was stuck to their viewfinder. You can get the same view as they did if you Google ‘Ngorongoro Crater’ and for a lot cheaper too. The fun of actually being on safari is looking up, looking around and trying to spot the wildlife for yourself. Safaris are all about feeling the savannah air and looking out to the expanse of the landscape. I understand wanting a photo of the wildlife, I want one too, but when you get home all you have is a photo of a lion like everyone else who’s ever been on safari. You won’t have that feeling of what it was like to be on a safari because you were too busy setting up the camera for the shot.

2. Talk
Instead of looking down, sorting out your camera or clicking the shutter for the tenth time, how about talking to someone? We’re so quick to hide behind our technology these days. In the olden days of disposable cameras, which I just about remember, you’d ask someone else to take a photo (and make a new connection) and you’d take the one or maybe two because they cost 30p per photo to develop. Now it’s all selfies and 7 snaps before you’ve even sorted your hair. Trust someone else to take a photo once in a while and strike up a conversation while you’re at it.

3. Draw or paint
Do people still paint anymore? I’m guessing that if ever anyone made some sort of graph showing the amount of paintings done per day compared to the amount of photos taken, the lines would cross somewhere around the late 1990s. From 2005ish the photo line would be off the chart. Painting a scene is a great way to really look at an image, to notice all the nuances and characteristics and to record them for yourself. Instead of taking the obligatory photo of a landmark or site as you walk on through, painting gives you the time to actually really sit and look at it properly.

4. Write
Sure, a picture paints a thousand words and all that, but what about writing a few verses on what you see? It doesn’t have to be for any sort of publication but the notes you write now on how you feel will me sacred memories when your gap year is over. If you’re quickly progressing from destination to destination it’s surprisingly easy to forget the details and how you felt at the time. Writing when you’re on you gap year gives you the perfect opportunity to actually sit down and think about all the amazing things you’ve done, rather than just relying on your memory or the photos on your iPhone.

5. Experience
How about you don’t do anything but just soak up the experience and live in the here and now? Put the camera down, any other thoughts to one side and just focus on the here and now. Work your way through your senses when you reach a moment in life you’d normally photograph and think about how it affects each one and enjoy it.

6. Take your time
It’s easy to get caught up in attractions, to follow the crowd and eagerly get onto the next thing before you’re ready all to get the perfect shot, orshots. Take time out at a destination. Have a cup of tea, a picnic, or simply sit and people watch. Find out what it’s like to actually be there rather than just to see it and snap it.

7. Quality photography
Obviously I’m not suggesting you give up taking photos all together, but maybe cut down on the snap happy attitude and go for quality over quantity. Think about how you want to frame the shot and take time to set it up. Don’t fill your phone with half hearted attempts at photography that waste time and memory – go for the money shot. Done!