Travel and photography come together to create a harmonious union. It does not take much effort to take pictures while travelling.
The real test presents itself when it comes to taking photographs that tell you a story while combining emotions and the beauty attached to it while being informative. Delhi based travel photographer, Ajay Sood is one such photographer who has taken photography and used it not just in a creative way but also as a way of expressing a story about the places he visits. His images are laden with bursts of colour and oodles of energy.
Travel photography takes you all over the world. Apart from your personal choice of D-SLR, which gear is particularly important in your work flow?
Photography is more about composition, while equipment are simply facilitators. Besides, the D-SLR body, accessories include an extra card and battery, and a couple of lenses. As a travel photographer, I always carry Canon 24-70mm EF-L f/ 2.8, while the TS-E 24mm f/3.5. 24-70mm is my bread-and-butter lens. Additionally, I am equipped with a Gitzo Traveler tripod.
In addition, I have a Black Rapid, as well as a C-Loop, Split Strap and M-Plate. M-Plate also helps when you have to change battery (the battery compartment’s flap opens, and isn’t blocked, as it provides flexible adjustments in its set-up. C-loop’s free-rivet makes sure that my camera does not get tangled around my neck, and is available to shoot at will.
How did you get into Travel photography? How different is it from the other genres of photography?
Travel photography is a diverse genre. It offers you the choice of shooting landscapes, cityscapes, people, street, heritage and architecture, details and much more. In the other genres I have pursued, light is always controllable. You could also ask the model to pose again. The food you shoot is not running away. We could add a fill, use a reflector, a cutter, or whatever.
In travel photography, we cannot do any of that. You have to work with the light available. In my case, I work with the shadows available. There are times when you can’t use tripods, or the crowds are hostile and don’t want you to shoot, there’s haze, you can’t use flash, etc. I relish these experiences and the uncertainties that come with it.
My work makes me travel to the most exotic of places. The newness of a place, the sights, the sounds and the stories out there are fascinating. Another crucial point is that I get to develop memories.
In your assessment what makes a good travel photograph? Secondly, what are the important qualities that a travel photogra-pher needs to possess?
A good travel photograph needs to reflect the basic character and essence of the place being shot, the locale, or the story being captured. In short, a viewer should feel the place – its beauty, character, and drama.
Personally, some of the qualities I aspire for are – viewer should end up saying, “I wish I had captured this”; or “I haven’t seen this”; or simply, “Wow”. What I love hearing is, “I want to go there too.” Ideally it is advisable to read up about the place you are visiting in advance and also understand the lens you plan to take. I typically step out with one lens for an entire day’s shoot.
What is the most inspiring encounter you have had in your travels?
The inspiring view from the 33rd floor of Hotel Shangri-La in Sydney. I was put up there for 3 days. The view was simply overwhelming with the Sydney Harbour Bridge to the left, and the Sydney Opera House to the right. I kept shooting this view for hours during my 3 day stay. I shot in the morning, night, blue hour, day, harsh sunlight, at all times and just couldn’t get enough of it.
Could you list out your top three places to photograph and why?
The top 3 places would have to be Cape Town, Beijing, and Bundi (Rajasthan, India), and in that order.
Cape Town is a 300-year old city with no building older than 10 years. The authorities make it a point to keep the city spanking new. The entire idea is refreshing.
As far as Beijing is concerned, I went there with the intention of shooting this great heritage city extensively. I was there for a week or so. This place offered so much thrill that I did not find it monotonous to keep shooting images there.
Bundi is in a time-warp. A large city, with a relatively small population (just 1.22 Lac). The place is magnificent, it has heritage and street life which is any travel photographer’s dream. It has a fort, a palace, and a 50 step well. Many of these are being restored by ASI and INTACH.
Your ability to post process an image is consistent throughout your imagery. Can you elucidate on how this style was developed?
When it comes to post processing, I am still old school. I am a purist who considers it important to keep the feel of the image intact. For that, I take care of metering and exposure while shooting. In fact, I always shoot in RAW. While in bright daylight, I always shoot one stop under. In fact, I detest burnouts, high-ISO noise and HDRs.
My post processing is all about composing and addressing the dynamic range of light. As a travel photographer, it is not always possible to use graduated filters or polarising filters, as these hamper movement and flexibility (given the diversity of subjects and the limited time you have). I address these issues in the post-processing phase.
I use Lightroom, and extensively rely on some of its versatile tools like Graduated Filter, Crop tool, Fill light, Lens correction, and Contrast. There are times when I fall back on the good old B&W to lend adequate character to my images. For this, I either use lab colour in Photoshop, or Silver Efex 2.0. This provides the necessary character to otherwise common-looking images.
Creating an image exactly the way I imagined, while not ruining its integrity is what I aim for. Mathew Thottungal