Through the Gadling Lens: the best vacation photos from our Gadling pool

A few months ago, I wrote a post describing the types of shots that I always try to take when I’m traveling — the kinds of shots which will make a complete album capturing all of the memories and images around my trip. Well, this week, I’ve culled through the Gadling flickr pool to pick some of my favourite images from some of the wonderful photographers out there, and I thought I’d describe what makes these images pretty terrific … in my opinion. Obviously, beauty is subjective, so I’d love to hear your thoughts about the images in the comments — nothing like some great debate to spark some inspiration.
1. Landscapes

I love this amazing shot of Machu Picchu in Peru, taken by magnusvk. Now granted, in a setting like this, it’s probably pretty hard to take a bad shot; still, the balance of colours is amazing, and in particular, I love that it wasn’t taken on a picture-perfect day — the clouds add such interest. In fact, magnusvk described the process he used to capture such a great image:

“Go in the rainy season, get up as early as you can, take the first bus up and just ignore the rain. That’s the only way to have Machu Picchu more or less for yourself for a couple of minutes. The morning mood, as you can see, is beautiful and really does reward all hardship.”

Really great advice, and it’s actually something to keep in mind no matter where you are — early morning shots are often a beautiful way to watch an area waking up to the day.

Above is another stunning scenery example, taken by arex in Yosemite national park. What makes this image so stellar is the contrast: if you notice, the whites at the tops of the snow-capped mountains in the distance are completely white, and the blacks from the shadows of the trees in the still water are totally black. Having these tonal shades throughout the image make the photograph completely striking to the eye — you can almost image the total stillness and quiet that must have been there at the time the photograph was taken. Really breathtaking shot.

2. Iconic images

Oh, how I love this photo, captured by jrodmanjr — I mean, do I even have to tell you where this image was taken? It is truly the quintessential image of San Francisco. But what I love about it is how it was taken — it’s not just a quick snapshot of a passing cable car. It’s shot from right on the tracks, in silhouette. It’s in black and white, which makes the image so timeless. But, of course, what makes this image so incredibly striking is the way it has been framed and cropped — the long, tall image draws your eyes immediately to the shape of the cable car, and the passengers hanging out of the side. Can’t you just imagine this image blown up to an enormous size — 5 feet by 10 feet, maybe — and hanging in an industrial loft home in San Francisco? Such a great shot.

3. Portraits

As you know, I love a good portrait. But the only thing I love more than a portrait is a portrait with a sense of humour. The happy photo captured by gypsysoul73 above is one such photo — I love the laughter and life of the people in the image juxtaposed with the inanimate statue on the bench they share.

Even more brilliantly, however, is the shot below, taken by PDPhotography:


The point is, obviously, that some really great portraits can be inspired from the words, art, graffiti, or whatever happens to be around you at the time. About 5 years ago, my husband and I did a whole series of portraits of ourselves imitating each item of art we saw on exhibit in the Art Institute of Chicago — one of my favourite vacation albums to date. I mean, I don’t have any idea of the image above was staged or not, but really, does it matter? It’s a great shot, and thanks to the image I suspect PDPhotography is never going to forget where he was or what was going on at the time he took that photograph. Well done.

And finally, as an idea for a great portrait of the travel companion who is reticent about being photographed, take a look at this fantastic image captured by StrudelMonkey while traveling in Bali:

Isn’t this great? Nothing like an image of sandy feet to really capture the spirit of relaxation on a beach holiday. And I love how you can just make out the word “Bali” on the book being read in this shot. A truly unusual portrait that communicates exactly how restorative a seaside vacation can be.

4. Nighttime

Finally (although we haven’t talked about this in the past), it’s also a great idea to capture a few nighttime shots while you’re traveling. It can be very tempting to reserve all your your photo-taking to the times of day when you’ve got wonderful bright sunshine, but remember of course that many memories occur after the sun goes down.

When you do take your nighttime shots, try taking a few without the flash — it really can help capture the mood of the evening in a way that flash really can’t. Of course, in darkened spaces, you’re probably going to want to hold your image very steady, so be sure you have your portable tripod with you (for some discussion on how to take photographs in dark places, check out the Through the Gadling Lens post of a couple of weeks ago, on how to shoot in caves — the philosophy is the same). And for some inspiration, check out the following:

Remember that sunsets don’t just happen on the beach: ultraclay!, above, shows that you can get some equally stunning sunset shots in the city, as well. A word of caution, however — as much as I love a good photograph shot into the sun, the truth is that shooting into the sunlight can cause some wear on the light sensor in your camera, so shoot this way sparingly.

Cities often come alive at night, and a few images of the streetlights, cars, and illuminated skyscrapers like the one captured by CaptBrando, above, will bring back memories of those times you tripped the light fantastic on your vacation. Just remember to keep your camera very steady as you take your shot.

And finally, of course, be sure to get pictures of the places where you have memorable meals or drinks. The one captured by Geir Halvorsen, above, is particularly great, because of the bartender’s illuminated face — and again, notice that no flash was used in the image. The result is that you feel like you’re actually sitting right next to the photographer as he enjoys his evening.

Fantastic images, and kudos to all the photographers featured in this post — hopefully you received some inspiration from their great images.

Incidentally, please note that Through the Gadling Lens will be moving to Thursday mornings at 11 a.m. EST, starting next Thursday — so this should give you some extra time to come up with any questions you might have that you’d like me to address. As always, send them to, and I’ll do my best to answer them in future posts!

Karen is a writer and photographer in Houston, Texas. You can see more of her work at her site, Chookooloonks.
And for more Through the Gadling Lens, click here.