Through the Gadling Lens: 5 photography subjects that are the same and different everywhere

Do you remember those Where the hell is Matt? videos that were taking the internet by storm in recent years? I was thinking about those videos the other day, and wondering why they affected so many people, causing the videos to go so wildly viral. And then it dawned on me: the reason we love that video so much is because as different as all of the people featured in the video are, from all over the world, they all held something in common: they loved to dance.

This, of course, is true for more than just dancing: despite how different we all are, we all share or do or having things in common: we all eat, we all wash, we all hope, we all live. And so this week, I thought I’d share some of my favourite subjects that I like to shoot when I’m traveling — things which are so different from place to place, but really, are so often the same.

1. Food. Hey, we all gotta eat. The beauty, of course, is that food varies wildly wherever we go (and frankly is usually one of the great pleasures of traveling in the first place). In fact, there are certainly countries where I’ve been where the highlight of my trip was the food (Egypt? Don’t even get me started. I ate my way through that country. My God, the food was good).

So when you’re traveling, I strongly suggest taking some photographs of your meals — bonus points if you bought your meal from a street vendor. A couple of tips when shooting food:

a) If you have a macro lens (or a macro setting on your point-and-shoot camera), this is often the best way to go. The beauty of good food is usually the taste and the smell; since your camera won’t be able to accurately capture either of these, maximizing your sense of sight can help compensate.

b) Make sure the food is well-lit. Otherwise, the food will likely simply look like an amorphous blob. Not very appetizing.

c) Check your background, colour and texture. Ideally, you won’t want to have anything in the background competing with the food for the viewer’s attention; similarly, when composing your shot, consider looking for patterns in colour and texture, and maximize accordingly.

Some inspiration from our Gadling Flickr pool (both, coincidentally, from Japan):

This great triptych was shared by pixelskew in the Gadling Flickr pool, and is, apparently, of cooked whale. I love how beautifully he captured these images: the food is very well let, the background is simple, and I would guess he used his macro lens, which helps him closely demonstrate the texture of the food. In fact, this is so well done, that while before, I might have said I’d never try whale, these delicious-looking images make me curious enough to consider it.

I mean, I probably won’t. I’m a vegetarian. But still.

Another example: I love this photograph of dyed octopus in Japan shared by FriskoDude. Again, this image is pretty masterful: the background is simple (the green fern leaves), and the repition of colour and pattern by the multiple octopi add for fantastic visual interest. Very well done.

2. Places of worship. One of my favourite subjects whenever I travel is to photograph places of worship — in most countries they’re pretty easy to find, and while the religions may be the same from country to country, often the structures in which the citizens worship, aren’t. Besides, it’s always lovely capturing photographs of structures that are sacred or special or holy. A few tips:

a) Consider capturing your images during the Golden Hour (discussed in last week’s Through the Gadling Lens) — it will make your image seem even that much more magical.

b) Be mindful of worshippers: if there are people worshipping at the time, you might want to consider waiting for another time to take your shot, to avoid being disrespectful. In addition, if you go inside the building, you might want to confirm whether photographs are allowed, and if so, whether you will be required to turn off your flash.

Some more inspiration:

I love this shot of a New Zealand church shared by the world is my wanderlust — the solid, sturdy bulding, almost sombre from the dark, heavy stone, juxtaposed against the light, bright sky, and the white, fluffy clouds. Really lovely.

This shot shared by StrudelMonkey is a classic example of taking a photograph of a place of worship during the Golden Hour — see how the light makes the structure look almost magical? And I love how the simple trio of crosses in the background let you know exactly what you’re looking at. Simply stunning.

3. Doors. I’m not talking about moody 60’s bands, here, I’m talking about actual doors. These are actually my favourite vacation subjects to shoot, because they very so wildly from location to location, plus they always hint to what local life must be like inside the the building, just behind them. The best way to illustrate is to look at the following:

This beautiful shot was captured and shared by Bernard-SD, in Hyderabad, India. The first thing that captures your attention, of course, is the vibrant blue of the door — showcasing one shocking colour always makes for an interesting shot. But there’s more: the fading gold adornment at the bottom of the door, the dried vegetation covering the top of the door, and of course, the scooter parked alongside, making us wonder who’s behind the door. Really lovely interesting shot.

Contrast this with the following:

This amazing photograph of a gate/door shared by was taken in Barcelona, Spain is a wonderful example of a historic door that not only makes you wonder what’s going behind it, it darn near invites you in. A lovely shot.

4. Laundry
. Last month, I was sitting with a well-traveled friend of mine who mentioned how she was intrigued by the many ways in which people do laundry around the world. “Have you ever noticed?” she said. “People do laundry different everywhere. They use a laundromat. They hang their laundry to dry on a line. They leave them lying on rocks. They do their laundry at public standpipes. In the river. It’s different everywhere.” I hadn’t really noticed, but what an amazing observation. And to illustrate her point further, here are some great examples:

This first image shared by Lobelia48 is so compelling because of the movement she capture when she took the shot in Kerala, India. You can instantly tell how hard this woman was working while doing her laundry. And the pop of colour from the clothing and the basin adds so much visual interest.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the planet:

LancasterTrip captured this lovely shot of Amish quilts drying in the sun in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, United States. The image itself — the still way the quilts are lying on the line, the long shadows cast by the sun, the absence of any person or animal in the image — evoke the peacefulness of the Amish in a beautiful way. Well done.

And finally:

5. Flowers. I admit it: I have a weakness for flowers, particularly because they’re so fun to shoot with a macro lens. But also, I really feel like the flowers of a region often define the region — you can almost tell what part of the world you’re in (or at least what latitude) just by looking at a great image of a local flower.

Besides, they’re just pretty.

Case in point:

This fabulous lotus flower, shared by RedHQ (and capturing a bee in mid-flight!) is exactly what I’m talking about: it comes as absolutely no surprise that this photograph was taken in Thailand. The colours are breathtaking. And that bee — that bee!

And finally, let me blow your mind with this image:

Dude, are you getting a load of this thing? According to LadyExpat, the photographer, this is a Rafflesia flower, which she shot after hiking two hours into the jungle in Borneo to see it. Not only is this thing REALLY funky to look at, it’s apparently also really funky to smell: according to the Wikipedia entry, “the flowers look and smell like rotting flesh, hence its local names which translate to ‘corpse flower’ or ‘meat flower’ … The vile smell that the flower gives off attracts insects such as flies and carrion beetles …”

Ew. EW!

Anyway, I think my point is made.

So on your next trip, consider making one of the aforementioned subjects the focal point of your shots — or if you have any other suggestions, please share them here, in the comments section below. As always, if you have any questions or suggestions, you can always contact me directly at karenDOTwalrondATweblogsincDOTcom – and I’m happy to address them in upcoming Through the Gadling Lens posts.

Karen is a writer and photographer in Houston, Texas. You can see more of her work at her site, Chookooloonks.

Through the Gadling Lens can be found every Thursday right here, at 11 a.m. To read more Through the Gadling Lens, click here.

Through the Gadling Lens: Photography tips I learned on my summer vacation

I just got back from a long weekend in Oregon. This was the second year that I joined 13 friends in a beautiful coastal town, where we rented this huge rustic beach house, and spent the entire time resting, relaxing, and generally making art. As it happens, all of us make all or most of our living being creative, and many of us are professional photographers. And even though we all pretty much know our way around a camera, having all of us together resulted in us learning and sharing various tips and tricks to creating cool images. And so, since the experience is particularly fresh in my mind, I thought I’d share with you my very favourite vacation photography ideas that I picked up this week.

On with the show.
1. Wake up early.

Because Oregon’s time zone is two hours earlier than mine here in Houston, while on vacation I found myself waking up earlier than most of the women with whom I was staying at the house. Since I didn’t particularly want to lie still in bed for fear of waking up the other houseguests, I found that the better option was to just go ahead and get up, pull on my wellies and go for a long walk on the beach. And naturally, I took my camera with me.

And this is how I learned my first lesson: every location has a much different personality early in the mornings, before its inhabitants have woken and began their day. In the case of this particular beach, the morning often brought a considerable mist or fog rising off of the ocean, and the light was invariably quite blue and grey. The beach was littered with the ashes of the evening’s bonfires and the remains of sandcastles from the day before, and save for the occasional morning jogger or yoga practitioner, I was the only person on the beach. It was a far cry from the bustle of the kite surfers and horseback riders of the middle of the day, and I relished the solitude and the calm, peaceful, vibe.

So on your next holiday, while it is tempting to sleep in, I’d strongly recommend taking at least one morning and waking up early, just to experience your vacation spot at the start of the day.

2. Use the ground or the sky as a backdrop.

I learned this trick sort of by accident: I was sitting on the ground taking a picture of a baby, when suddenly I noticed a friend of mine watching what was going on above me. The sky was amazingly blue and absolutely clear, and I realized that it made a perfect backdrop for my very fair, blonde friend. So I took the shot.

In the second instance, I was about to take the portrait of a different friend, and she stopped me: “Would you mind taking the shot from above?” she said, sitting on the grass. “I always prefer pictures of myself from that angle.” Since I’m always thrilled to take portraits of someone who have great body self-awareness, I was happy to oblige — and she was right: shooting from above is a great way to get a lovely, doe-eyed look from your subject.

It works particularly well with women and children.

3. Speaking of backdrops, don’t be afraid to get creative.

I was sitting in the house, when through the window I noticed a few of my friends standing on the lawn holding up a giant white sheet. Curious, I got up and went outside.

“What are you doing?” I asked.

“Prom pictures,” came the response.

The sheet was held so that the low light from the afternoon sun was shining right through it, diffusing the light and creating a lightbox effect. The result was this amazing glow around each subject:

I learned such a valuable lesson here: just because you’re on vacation doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t spend some time capturing creative portraits of your travel companions. Let’s face it: vacations tend to make people relax. What better time to capture their best sides? It was an inspired idea.

4. In addition to shooting in the early morning, shoot during the Golden Hour.

During every sunny day, there comes the time as late afternoon turns into early evening, when the light becomes shockingly golden, making everything and everyone it falls on glow beautifully. The actual time of the Golden Hour obviously varies depending on the time of year; nonetheless, It is really a lovely time to shoot, so be sure to keep an eye out for the changing light, and save some space on that memory card to capture a few images during that time.

5. Finally, break all the rules and shoot into the sun.

I know, I know — they say you should never shoot into the sun. I can’t help it, though: the fact is that you can get some amazing silhouetted shots by shooting into the sun. However, if what you’re looking for are just some great back-lit shots, but you want your subject’s face to be clear, the best thing to do is to again wait until the sun is lower in the sky (but not too low so that it’s dark), and then set your ISO exposure for the light reflecting from your subject’s face (rather than the actual sun). The result is that the light from the sun will be “blown out” (read: almost white) but your subject’s face will be well lit.

So those are my lessons from the weekend: some of which I sort of knew already (like the shooting into the sun, or shooting during the Golden Hour) but I needed to be reminded; others which I had never considered (the fabulous sheet trick comes immediately to mind). I’m definitely taking these tips with me on my next trip. And of course, thanks much to my friends Alex, Ali, Andrea, Jen, Jen, Jen, Tracey and little Anna for letting me take their amazing portraits you see above, as well as sharing their fantastic photography tips with me, since they’re all profe
ssional photographers themselves.

Well, all except little Anna. She’s just sort of a supermodel rockstar, wrapped up in a sweet 6-month-old package.

As always, if you have any questions (or would like to comment on the tips you see here), you can always contact me directly at karenDOTwalrondATweblogsincDOTcom – and I’m happy to address them in upcoming Through the Gadling Lens posts.

Karen is a writer and photographer in Houston, Texas. You can see more of her work at her site, Chookooloonks.
Through the Gadling Lens can be found every Thursday right here, at 11 a.m. To read more Through the Gadling Lens, click here.

Through the Gadling Lens: picking a good travel camera bag

This week, I’m going to be traveling again — and I decided that I finally had it with my cheap little roller bag that I’ve been using as a carry-on and carry-all for my camera equipment. To date, every time I’ve gotten on a plane, I have shamefully packed my laptop into a protective sleeve, and tossed into the bottom of this rickety little roller bag. And my camera and lenses? Merely packed carefully at the bottom of the bag, in amongst a ton of pairs of rolled socks.

Yes, you heard me, rolled socks. You know, for padding.

I know. I know.

Anyway, this week, I decided to finally act like a grown-up photographer, splurge and by myself a real travel camera bag. So I thought I’d tell you how I went about it.
Lest you think I’m completely beyond hope, this isn’t my first camera bag. Last year, I bought myself a Crumpler bag, which, actually I love:

For clarification, this bag is the Crumpler Sinking Barge. The reason I’ve been a fan of this bag for so long is because it generally doesn’t look like a camera bag. It also appealed to me because it has a compartment to pack my laptop, in addition to a camera body and a couple of lenses. Plus, I’ll admit that I liked the little dreadlocked dude as a logo.

The thing is, though, that I haven’t used this bag nearly as much as I thought I would. The first reason is because once I’ve loaded it up with my camera, my lenses, my laptop, chargers, and then crammed in my phone, its charger, some a paperback (or my journal), a small makeup bag, my wallet, passport and other documents and say, a tin of roasted almonds into the small space that remains, this thing is heavy. Plus, rarely did all of those other things fit in the small remaining space anyway, requiring me to get a second carry-on bag — and frankly, I resented having to have a second bag when this first bag was so heavy. And so, this bag eventually got left behind in favour of the small rickety roller bag. I use the Crumpler solely for day photo trips in and around town.

So this week, I headed to my favourite local camera store to look for a new bag. An aside: every person should have a favourite local camera store — not a photo lab that happens to sell some stuff, but an actual, honest-to-God camera store, staffed with knowledgeable employees who have actually picked up a camera or two before. In Houston, for the past 15 years, mine has been Houston Camera Exchange. I often visit this store when I have no idea what I want; however, on this particular day, I walked in with a list of requirements:

1. The bag had to be large enough to carry at least one camera body and at least 2 or 3 lenses, as well as my laptop with its power cord.

2. The bag had to be large enough that it could carry my journal and my roasted almonds, in addition to my laptop and other photo-related gear.

3. The bag had to be small enough to fit in the overhead compartment of a plane.

4. The bag had to not look like a camera bag, screaming to passers-by that it was full of expensive camera equipment.

5. The bag had to have roller wheels, so I didn’t get back strain carrying it.

Luckily for me, one of the first people I ran into was Mallory, who apparently has been described at the store as the “Bag Lady.” If there was one thing Mallory knew, it was camera bags. So I asked her to share with me her favourites.

The first bag Mallory showed me was the LowePro Slingshot 200:

A good-looking bag, no doubt, and the coolest part is (as Mallory demonstrates, above), you don’t have to actually take the bag off to take the camera out. This, my friends, is huge, when you’re out in the field — sometimes there’s nothing more annoying than having to get out from under your camera bag to take one fleeting shot. The bag even has a compartment to carry those roasted almonds. And, quite obviously, there’s lots of room for camera bodies and lenses. It even has an all-weather cover in the bottom of the pack, so you can cover it in inclement weather. At around US$ 89.00, this bag has a lot of bang for the buck.

The downside? It looks like a camera bag, to me. Also, it doesn’t have any room for my laptop, or much of anything else, for that matter. So while this is Mallory’s favourite bag (and admittedly, looks like a pretty good daypack), I decided to pass.

The next bag Mallory showed me was the National Geographic NG W5050:

“Dude, National Geographic makes camera bags?” I asked, incredulously. “That’s sort of… brilliant.” Mallory agreed, and I have to admit, I almost fell for this bag. It’s got great room for camera body and lenses, and it doesn’t scream “camera bag.” There’s some room in the top compartment that would definitely hold my journal and my almonds, and there’s a hidden compartment in the back (against your back, if you were wearing it) where a laptop could easily fit. Not only that, it’s kitted to hold a full size tripod, if necessary, as well. And at $150, while not cheap, it also isn’t in the realm of really expensive bags, either.

Thing is, though, I rarely travel with a full size tripod (I have a Gorillapod that does the trick, when necessary). And the problem of the bag being too heavy isn’t really solved by this bag. So we went on.

Next up, the LowePro ComputrekkerAW:

Holy moly, does this thing carry a lot of stuff. Like, a LOT of stuff. And when it’s closed, it doesn’t look any different than any other backpack, which is very, very cool. It has a secret compartment for your laptop, so more bonus points. The bag retails for about US$ 150 — but since this is quite a heavy bag, you might want to upgrade to the rolling version of this bag. But it’ll cost you: the wheels take the price up to US$ 275.

So. This bag, you would think, would pretty much be right up my
alley — except, to be honest, while it appears to hold every type of camera gear I could possibly imagine, I couldn’t imagine it holding much else — like my journal, or makeup bag, or my beloved almonds. So I put this bag on the short list, and kept wandering around the store, until I finally came across …

… the Jill-e rolling camera bag:

People, I had found my bag. It has enough compartments for a camera body and several lenses, as well as for my MacBook laptop, and all associated chargers. There’s enough room above the compartments for me to stash my journal, a few toiletries, and yes, my beloved almonds (not to mention that the room exterior pockets). The bag doesn’t even begin to look like a camera bag — in fact, it just looks like a regular weekender. But the best part? Even though the bag is heavy, it comes with wheels — without compromising the design of the bag. It wasn’t cheap — this bag retails for US$ 289 — but frankly, I was willing to pay the extra money. And while I wouldn’t use this on a day trip, I have smaller bags that I can fold up and pack in my suitcase for quick daytrips. This is a hell of a bag.

So, that’s my Great Camera Bag Adventure. I’d love to hear what bags you use, and if you’d recommend any other makes and models. And of course, as always, if you have any questions, you can always contact me directly at karenDOTwalrondATweblogsincDOTcom – and I’m happy to address them in upcoming Through the Gadling Lens posts.

Karen is a writer and photographer in Houston, Texas. You can see more of her work at her site, Chookooloonks.
Through the Gadling Lens can be found every Thursday right here, at 11 a.m. To read more Through the Gadling Lens, click here.

Through the Gadling Lens: The best summer photographs from the Gadling Flickr pool

It’s so hard to believe that July’s over — how did this summer pass so quickly? I know, I know — it’s still August, and here in Texas, this means that we’re really entering the blistering heat of the summertime, but I can’t help it: historically, August has always meant back-to-school shopping, and getting ready for that first day of the semester. And yes, it’s been a few years (*cough*decades*cough*) since I was in school, but what kind I say: old habits die hard.

Anyway, this week I thought I’d share some of the coolest summer photographs that were taken around the world this summer, and shared in our Gadling Flickr pool. Think of it as a walk down International Memory Lane; or, if you’re not ready to let go of summer yet, let these images serve as inspiration as you squeeze those last drops out of the waning season.
May 9, 2009 — Portugal

To start things off, take a look at this great shot shared by t3mujin. I love this shot for a couple of reasons: (a) to me, a holiday really hasn’t begun until I’ve got a fruity beverage in my hand (although, I must say, for my liking this one is lacking a paper umbrella), and (b) t3mujin did a great job of capturing the light and the colour of the beverages. No flash here: the use of the light source from the left, with the dark background make the vibrant colours of drinks look most enticing. Great job.

May 21, 2009 — Coney Island, New York, United States

Next up: this cool shot shared by Rubys Host. This image was taken during Fleet Week — an event which occurs every Memorial Day since 1984, where the United States Navy and Marine Corps dock several of their ships in New York for the public to tour, and in honour of the enlisted men who have lost their lives in military service. I love the editorial feel of this shot: the uniformed officers next to the tourists in beach attire; the military helicopters next to the giant ferris wheel. I particularly love the vignetting of the photo, as well, giving the feel of looking at the entire scene through a telescope or periscope. Great shot.

May 23, 2009 — Le Marais, Paris, France:

One of my top two favourite cities in the world is Paris (the second is Buenos Aires) — there’s nothing like Paris in the summertime. There’s just something about a good glass of wine, some great stinky cheese and a crusty baguette, while sitting in a sidewalk cafe, just watching the world go by.


Anyway, you can see why I’m particularly drawn to this photo, shared by Luke Robinson: the cobblestone streets, the cafe with its little sidewalk blackboard proclaiming the specials du jour, even the little dog — you can almost hear the accordion player in the distance, can’t you? And I love that the photograph was processed in black-and-white — because the scene truly is timeless.

July 4, 2009 — Warwick, Rhode Island:

Ah, American Independence Day: a day of crowds, bad junk food, warm beer and cranky kids staying up way past their bedtimes in order to watch the 20 minute of fireworks that end all too soon. At least, that’s how I used to spend July 4th. But in recent years, my family and I tend to spend our July 4ths more quietly — just a few friends and family, a homecooked meal, and staking out a spot in the city away from the crowds, where we can still see the fireworkd. That’s why, I think, I love this photograph shared by insEyedout — I love the sense of solitude, and quiet and peace conveyed in this image that he took on July 4th — and those adirondack chairs feel like their just calling me to sit comfortably to look at the fireworks across the bay. Beautiful emotion captured here.

July 11, 2009 — Victoria, British Columbia, Canada:

If you’ve been reading Through the Gadling Lens for a while, you know I’m a sucker for a photograph with graet colour, so it’s likely no surprise that I would feature this shot shared by Bryn Tassell of an electrical storm in British Columbia, Canada. I love the long exposure (read: allowing the shutter to stay open for a while — I’m guessing the camera was sitting on a tripod), which softens all of the details of the water, and, of course, the serendipitous strike of lightning, illuminating the shot. I also love how, in essence, every colour of the spectrum is represented in this image, slowly merging one to the other. A truly amazing shot.

July 19, 2009 — Barrie, Ontario, Canada:

For some reason, in our family this summer has been full of taking my 5-year-old daughter to play in fountains — both here in Houston and in New York City. Which probably explains why I was drawn to this image shared by Bryson Gilbert of a swimming area on a lake in Ontario, Canada. The lake, the marked swim area, the huge towering fountain the background — I don’t think this image could scream “summer” any louder if it tried.

July 25, 2009 — Mount Rainier, Washington, United States

And finally, I love this astonishing photo shared by fiznatty of Mt. Rainier in the distance, towering over the lush green fields and trees at lower altitudes. This might be summer in Washington state, but the snow capped mountains in the distance remind us that cooler weather isn’t far away. Really breathtaking.

So nice job, Gadlingers! Also, if you’ve taken a photograph this summer that you’re particularly proud of, please add the link to the comments below — we’d love to see it for some late summer inspiration. After all, in this, the last few weeks of summer, we need to keep clicking, and grab as much of the warm weather as we can while it lasts. And of course, as always, if you have any questions, you can always contact me directly at karenDOTwalrondATweblogsincDOTcom – and I’m happy to address them in upcoming Through the Gadling Lens posts.

Karen is a writer and photographer in Houston, Texas. You can see more of her work at her site, Chookooloonks.
Through the Gadling Lens can be found every Thursday right here, at 11 a.m. To read more Through the Gadling Lens, click here.

Through the Gadling Lens: 5 of the best travel photographers of all time

I’m in the middle of a crazy travel time: I’ve been to both New York and Chicago in the past two weeks, and there doesn’t seem to be much relief in sight in the upcoming 2 or 3 months: Portland, Atlanta, London and Paris are all distinct possibilities. And while being away from my family for all of these trips doesn’t please me in the least, I can’t help but be a little excited at the prospect of some great photo ops coming my way.

Like most, I often search Flickr and other sites for some inspiration. In addition, I’ve been known to pour through the work of some of my photography idols — Herb Ritts, Annie Leibovitz — the people who got me interested in photography in the first place, to get some ideas. But since I’m in the throes of traveling, I thought that this week, I thought I’d share the photographers who, in my opinion, are absolutely the tops when it comes to travel photography. Greater minds may differ, though, so I hope you’ll challenge me in the comments.

With that, on with the show:

Landscapes: Ansel Adams

I think it’s arguable that Ansel Adams is the most recognizable name in photography — I’d heard of Ansel Adams and his stunning images of Yosemite before I’d ever heard of an SLR camera. According to the official website, American photographer Ansel Adams was born in San Francisco, California, at the beginning of the last century. Originally, he was training to be a professional piano player, but eventually left music to pursue photography. In addition to being a photographer, he was also an avid environmentalist — and his passion for the environment is obvious in his images of Yosemite, and other areas of the Southwest United States.

Of course, the subject matter of Adams’ photographs is pretty breathtaking, but the reason I love his work is not because of his composition, so much as the way he processed the images. Again, from the official website: “Adams developed the famous and highly complex “zone system” of controlling and relating exposure and development, enabling photographers to creatively visualize an image and produce a photograph that matched and expressed that visualization. He produced ten volumes of technical manuals on photography, which are the most influential books ever written on the subject.”

In other words, Adams was one of the first photographers to codify the idea of visualizing the resulting image before you actually squeeze the shutter, and then using the developer chemicals (or, these days, Photoshop) to ensure that the resulting image accurately reflects what you visualized. He was one of the first photographers to think of the image as a form of expression, rather than documentation. And for this, in my mind, he will forever be a rock star.

(For more information about Ansel Adams, be sure to visit the official website.)

Portraits: Steve McCurry

You may not know his name, but chances are you’re familiar with his famous photograph of the young Afghan girl with the piercing green eyes, which graced the cover of National Geographic Magazine in the mid-1980’s. Steve McCurry is an American photographer born in Philadelphia, and graduated cum laude from my dad’s alma mater, Penn State University, from the College of Arts and Architecture. But my favourite part of his official bio describes how his career got its start:

“His career was launched when, disguised in native garb, he crossed the Pakistan border into rebel-controlled Afghanistan just before the Russian invasion. When he emerged, he had rolls of film sewn into his clothes of images that would be published around the world as among the first to show the conflict there. His coverage won the Robert Capa Gold Medal for Best Photographic Reporting from Abroad, an award dedicated to photographers exhibiting exceptional courage and enterprise.”

See what I mean? Rock. Star.

I seriously can’t get enough of McCurry’s work, and frankly, he’s my very favourite photographer of those I’m featuring here on this post. In particular, I love two aspects of his work:

a) He is masterful when it comes to understanding colour and light. When you look at his images, it’s clear that the colour palates of compositions are at least as important as the subject matter itself. The light of his images is always breathtaking, and the catchlights in his subjects eyes’ always draw you right into the image; and

b) He is prodigious when it comes to capturing a glimpse of the spirits and souls of his subjects. When you look at his portraits, you’re not just looking at a pretty face, or a weathered expression, you’re catching a glimpse of the thoughts and emotions of his subjects as well. I absolutely believe that this ability of capturing a quick flash of someone’s soul in a photograph is one that is truly a gift, and can’t be taught. But that’s not to say I don’t try to tap into my own ability to do this every single time I click my camera.

(For more information about Steve McCurry, visit his official website. Also? Be sure to check out the posters and fine art prints he has for sale. I purchase the portrait of the woman in Peshawar, Pakistan to hang in my studio for inspiration.)

Wildlife: Jim Brandenburg

American photographer Jim Brandenburg has been a photographer with National Geographic for more than 30 years. As I look through the gallery on Brandenburg’s website, it occurs to me that his portfolio entirely and decisively debunks the myth that all you need to take a good wildlife photograph is a long lens: his images of the animals in the prairies and other wild locations show emotion in these animals; whether it’s the sheer, frozen determination on the faces of the bison caught in the blizzard, or the apparent hysterical laughter on the face of rabbit on Brandenburg’s image, entitled appropriately, “Laughing Rabbit.” In addition, his panoramas of wide open spaces are wonderful studies in colour and pattern and repetition. Really inspirational work.

(For more information on Jim Brandenburg, be sure to visit his official website.)

Architecture: Julius Shulman

If you’ve ever been struck by the way many historic images of mid-century modern houses are shot, chances are you have photograp
her Julius Shulman to thank. Shulman was widely considered the most innovative architecture photographer of all time — and sadly, he died at the age of 98 this month. In the obituary announcing his death in the L.A. Times, the late Robert Sobieszek, former photography curator at the Los Angeles County Musum of Art, described Shulman’s work as follows: “He has a sense of visual bravura of composition, so that he can take a rather mundane house and make it look exciting, and take a spectacular house and make it look triply spectacular.”

His most famous image is the one you can see above, and I can tell you that it must have been a doozy to capture. The multiple light sources — the ones hanging on from the ceiling of the house, the lights of the city below, and the fact that the women seated appear to be lit from a source near the floor as well — makes this nearly an impossible image to expose properly, and yet Shulman does it flawlessly. The women add perfect scale to the image, without distracting. And he did all this without a digital camera. Amazing.

(For more information about Julius Shulman, see his Wikipedia entry, with links to external sites discussing his work.)

Underwater: Chris Newbert

I’m a scuba diver, but one type of photography I’ve just never been able to nail down is underwater photography. I’ve been diving in some of the clearest, stillest water possible, but still — the water never seems still enough to get a sharp image, it’s difficult to hold the camera steady while you’re floating, and the diffused light through the ocean totally distorts colours. I just can’t get it right, and unfortunately, I don’t get enough opportunity to dive in order to practice.

Which is why, I suppose, I’m absolutely blown away by the photography of Chris Newbert. Newbert is also a photographer for National Geographic Magazine, and his images of translucent underwater creatures is breathtaking. Are you looking at those? Incredible. According to his official bio, Newbert has been shooting underwater since the early 1970’s, and has received worldwide accolades for his work. It’s truly breathtaking.

(For more information on Chris Newbert, visit his official website.)

So, that’s my take on the top 5 travel photographers ever. If you have any other photographers you’d like to add to my list, be sure to leave them in the comments, below. As always, if you have any questions, you can always contact me directly at karenDOTwalrondATweblogsincDOTcom – and I’m happy to address them in upcoming Through the Gadling Lens posts.

Karen is a writer and photographer in Houston, Texas. You can see more of her work at her site, Chookooloonks.
Through the Gadling Lens can be found every Thursday right here, at 11 a.m. To read more Through the Gadling Lens, click here.