Say you’re planning to vacation in a place you’ve never been, and you’re looking to make some impressive images. Or, say you’re returning to a familiar place, and you want a different take on the tried-and-true.
We bring this up because we had the chance not long ago to explore these “what if” situations with Nikon Ambassador Deborah Sandidge, who was showing us some photos she made in both situations.
There were differences in her approach, but in both cases the common factors were lens choice, creative ideas and Deb’s awareness that technology aids creativity. The results were cool pictures and our story about how to get them no matter where you travel.
The first thing we asked Deb was the kind of question we throw out to get things started with photographers who are wise to our belief that ultimately photography is really about thinking.
“Why do we take travel pictures, anyway?” we asked. “Why stick a camera between our eyes and what we’re seeing?”
Deb quickly cut to the basics: pictures are visual nudges to our memories; they are stories to share with others; they are hoped-for communication; they are attempts to get as close as possible to what it felt like to be there; and they are ways to have some fun with all these feelings, expectations and intentions.
Deb regularly travels to familiar and favorite locations in Florida, her home state, challenging herself to see them in different ways. But a trip to Acadia National Park in Maine was a first visit. “You can take I-95 all the way from Florida to Maine, but it’s an entirely different coastline, and the difference drew me in,” she says. “I was interested in the ruggedness and the vastness of that area, and I wanted to see what it was like and to experience it. I guess I wanted to see how I’d react to it.”
It was also, she says, something of a scouting trip. “I knew I’d want to go back in a different season to see what that was like, so part of this trip was exploratory—scout, shoot, have fun.”
Whenever I travel, there are three lenses that will get me just about everything, from a landscape to homing in on a particular section or detail.
Eyes of the Camera
She brought along two Z cameras and the essential trio of NIKKOR Z lenses: 14-24mm f/2.8, 24-70mm f/2.8, 70-200mm f/2.8. Plus, for extra reach, the Z Teleconverter TC-2.0x.
“Whenever I travel—to a Florida beach or on an overseas trip—those are the three lenses that will get me just about everything, from a landscape to homing in on a particular detail. And now, having those focal lengths in Z NIKKOR lenses—super sharp, advanced, lightweight and made for the Z system—makes it perfect. They’re versatile, workhorse lenses.”
A quick, pragmatic guide to their general workhorse categories might go like this:
• The 14-24mm is the go-to glass when the subject is a vast landscape, seascape or cityscape; when the idea is to go for the overall effect of the big picture. You know, the “Oh, wow!” factor.
• The 24-70mm will pull in more detail, handle street photography and environmental portraits. It’s Deb’s perfect walking-around lens for exploring the town from marketplace to harbor. “The 24-70 will give you a bit of a wide-angle to a bit of a mid-range tele—and that’s a pretty versatile combination.”
• The 70-200mm ranges from portrait lens, with those classic focal lengths of 85 and 105, to versatile telephoto to get you visually closer to your subjects. Deb loves to use it to tame the territory by isolating and drawing attention to something within a scene she’s likely captured with the 14-24mm.
For examples of how “technology aids creativity” and “photography is really about thinking” apply when you’re actually taking pictures, consider two of Deb’s photos.
“The Maine lupines were beautiful to look at,” she says, “but they were a clutter of color and form, so I played with that, using the 70-200mm for a multiple exposure that represented the entire field of flowers in a different way than a straight shot would have. Then the job was to isolate, and that same lens took control and delivered a clear view of one flower, with blurred-out background flowers that suggested the overall scene.”
And then there’s Boulder Beach. “People will often get to a great location and go with their first impression and just start shooting,” Deb says. What she did was to take some time to think about how she was going to make the photo particularly expressive. “I needed to be at a low angle,” she says. “That was the key. The idea was to get close to the water with the camera as low as I could get it—the tripod was basically flat out, and I used the tilt-up LCD to compose from that level. It made all the difference—if I’m standing up, the rocks don’t have that dominance.”
Near the end of our talk Deb pretty much summed up her approach to her photography when she said, “Here’s what I see. Now, what do I want to get from what I see?”
We recognize a perfect story ending when we hear it.
Author, instructor and world-traveling photographer, Deborah Sandidge uses and teaches creative techniques to achieve dramatic and compelling images. Information about photo tours, workshops and events is available at deborahsandidge.com.