A couple of weeks ago I wrote an article on how to improve your travel photography. Tips like becoming familiar with your equipment, getting close instead of excessively using the zoom and a little trick for the street photographers out there. Since it was well received, I decided to add a few more points to this list which will hopefully help to improve your skills and to bring better pictures back home. Continue reading
Do you know that feeling? You come home from a great trip, having had the most amazing experiences, saw breathtaking landscapes and met fascinating people. Still overwhelmed by all of these impressions, you look at the pictures you took and feel somewhat disappointed. Something is missing; the pictures just didn’t turn out the way you wanted but you can’t really tell what it is. I am sure we have all been there and the good news is that we can do something about it.
My recent trip across Southeast Asia not only expanded my own personal horizon but also helped to immensely improve my photography. By lots of trial and error and the help of some amazing photographers I met on the way, I gained some important insights on how to become a better travel photographer. Some of these tips I want to share with you and hopefully help you to bring better pictures back home. Continue reading
The last two traveler portraits have been about travelers from Western countries – Holland and the U.S. And it is true that traveling the world, going abroad and having a what is called nomadic lifestyle is somewhat easier for people from that part of the world. But my next portrait will provide a different perspective and show that is also possible for someone born and raised in Southeast Asia. Yen has not only lived in five different countries and extensively traveled the globeb but is also an award winning photographer with accolades by National Geographic and her pictures having been featured in international publications. I find her story absolutely inspiring and I am really happy to have her on Escapology – Meet Yen Baet from the Philippines. Continue reading
One of my two entries at the 2014 NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC Traveler Photo Contest got nominated as editor’s pick of the week. I didn’t even know about it until Sree, one of my blog readers who is also participating, told me about it. So it was quiet a surprise and a very pleasant one. The image is the Khmer Boxer during a fight in Phnom Penh. This time I edited it in black and white which I actually like a lot better than than the color version. You can find the contest and my epicture here.
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A few weeks back and thanks to a hint by one of my blog’s followers, I submitted some photos for the annual Garuda Indonesia World Photo Contest. I haven’t heard of this award but apparently it is pretty big and by now a bit prestigious as well. At least that’s what I was told. The contest features three categories, people, nature, culture and every participant was allowed to submit a total of 15 pictures. I think the majority of mine was people with the exception of two landscape shots. My hopes were pretty low as I saw the incredible quality of images photographers from all around the world had submitted. It is really amazing and admittedly also a little intimidating, to see at what level people are photographing these days. BUt today the top 1000 for each category were anounced I found out that actually one of my images it. Top 1000 in the people category – among 74,782 photos submitted from 15,478 participants from more than 100 countries. What an honour and such a surprise.
The funny thing about this is that I didn’t think that this picture would have any chances to make it. Actually it was among the last that I had chosen for submission. I also liked most of my other submissions way better than this one. I guess one of the judges must have like it the more. Whoever it was, thanks a lot. And if you want to know the whole story behind the picture, just click here … and here is the link to the picture in the contest …
As I started out my trip, my biggest struggle in terms of photography was taking good portraits. It seemed like every time I was taking photographs of people, the outcome was never what I was aiming and hoping for. It was frustrating sometimes as I came across the most unique situations, beautiful and photogenic, and just didn’t seem to be able to get that one shot. At one point I realized that I had to deliberately put time and effort in order to improve my portraits. It took a lot of practice, trial and error and it was hard. It was hard to overcome that awkward feeling when approaching complete strangers, not knowing their language and the natural reservation we have when it comes to other people’s privacy. But by constant trial and error and the help by some amazing photographers I met on the way, things slowly improved.
I still have a very long way to go, I still have a lot to learn and I am not sure if I will ever get where I want to be but I wanted to share the things I realized during this journey of becoming a better photographer. The guys over at digitital-photography-school.com gave me the opportunity to cover this topic – you can check out the article here. I hope it can be of help for some of you guys and of course, if you have other tips on how to take better portraits while on the road or have further questions, let me know and drop a comment below.
After a more than 24 hour train ride from Hanoi to Hue thanks to a huge delay caused by a typhoon which had just passed the coastal region, we finally arrived in the former capital of Hue. On our first day we were headed for the Citadel and the old forbidden City as we passes by what seemed like a wedding. Loud music and laughter was sounding from the nicely decorated venue across the road. Curious as ever we wanted to have a closer look. As we were snooping around the entrance we were all of a sudden approached by a man who belonged to the wedding party. As we later found out, it was the bride’s father. Apparently he wanted us to come in and after a bit of hesitation, he insisted and pulled us in. We first had to sign the guestbook and put a little bit of money in what seemed like a donation box. Once inside, we realized that this was actually a big event with probably more than 200 people there, live music going on and the pretty couple giving a little speech on stage. We were a bit overwhelmed but our host took care of everything. We were placed at a table with about 6 other people, all men and all of them a little bit tipsy already it seemed. I instantly had to drink glasses of beer with all of them – a custom which then continued throughout the entire party. Shortly after, the waitresses started bringing out the food. It was traditional Vietnamese with a touch of Chinese with more than 5 dishes being served one after another. And every single one was so good. After cutting the cake and pouring champagne into the glass pyramid, the couple went to every single table to thank the guests for their attendance. It was a great time, a lot of laughter, singing and lots of drinking. It was great to get such an authentic insight into the Vietnamese culture.
As I roamed around the venue, taking pictures and drinking glasses of beer with other guests, I saw the bride caught in a moment of contemplation. For a split second she seemed detached from everything else around her. With the most important part of the ceremony behind her, she was perhaps imagining what her new life will be like. What do you think? What was on her mind in this moment?
How come the people that have the least are the most generous and hospitable? This phenomenon has been accompanying me during my entire trip and once again in Vietnam. We had set off for a three day motorbike excursion into the far Northeast of Vietnam. A remote and mystical region named Ha Giang, a region characterized by sheer limestone walls, granite outcrops, hanging valleys and often referred to as Vietnam’s final frontier. It was on the way from Ha Giang town to Dong Van when we took a hidden side road which led us across a rusty bridge into a traditional village. After exploring for a bit and playing with the village kids we noticed a house at the end of the little main road. Smoke was rising out of the chimney and loud laughter filled the inside of the house. Driven by my usual curiosity I wanted to see what was going inside and had a peek through the door. As soon as the family inside spotted me all hell broke lose. Everyone was talking to me and dragging me inside instantly. It was a big family with kids, their parents, grandparents and what seemed like aunts and uncles, all gathered in one big room. To officially welcome us, we were offered some homemade rice wine. Strong stuff, especially at midday. We didn’t want to be impolite and had one, then two and then a few more. The grandmother was pretty assertive about it so refusing was no option here. Already a bit tipsy, we tried to have a basic conversation which wasn’t even too bad thanks to my phrasebook and a loose tongue due to the rice wine. Meanwhile the mother of the kids was cooking food for the whole family on an open fireplace. The house was filled with smoke but it smelt nice. After a bit we thought it would be best to leave since we didn’t want to impose ourselves on the family as they were about to eat. But no way, everybody was shouting, pointing at the floor and insisting that we would stay, sit down and join them for lunch. It was incredible. These people were living in a simple wooden house, cooking their food on open fire and did not even have running water. But they still invited two foreigners inside their house to share their meal with them. It was a really humbling experience and I couldn’t help myself but asking if something like this would ever happen in our developed societies back home….
After my amazing trip through Myanmar, my next destination was Vietnam. My plan was to travel from the far North all the way down to the South into the Mekong Delta. Big parts of this journey would be done by motorbike, supposedly the best way to explore this beautiful country. This picture was taken during one of these bike trips. It was a three day tour along the Chinese border through Vietnam’s far North. Still very rugged and untouristy, the region around Ha Giang and Dong Van offers a scenery which is hard to match in South East Asia. The loop took me along narrow and windy roads, carved into the gigantic mountains, past vast rice paddies and through villages which are seldomly visited by tourists. We were running late on the first leg of the tour but couldn’t help but stop to enjoy the sunset dipping the surrounding mountains in warm pastel colors. One of the few local buses plowing the route Ha Giang – Dong Van was just crawling up the windy road which, for a moment, almost looked like a snake making its way up from the valley below.
I had actually planned to travel Myanmar right at the beginning of my trip. Uncertainties about the needed budget and the accomodation situation (it was high season back then) eventually kept me from going. But I could never really get it out of my mind. The things I had read and the stories I heard from fellow travelers who had been there just made me more and more curious. At one point I thought that I had to go and from then on it all went pretty quickly. I booked my tickets, arranged my visa in Kuala Lumpur and got a big stash of clean and crisp dollar bills. I was excited and was expecting a country very different from all the other places I have visited and with hopefully less tourism. At that point I didn’t know that my expectation would be more than exceeded. Continue reading