There are certain things you simply have to get shots of. As a travel photographer you can never exhaust the photographic possibilities of the world around you, whether it’s the people or the places or the natural phenomena. I know I am fortunate to have had the opportunity to tick off quite a few items on my photo bucket list. On the other hand, if you don’t go looking for those opportunities they’re not going to fall into your lap. So luck is only part of the story. You need to be at least a little bit adventurous and resourceful.
Here are six images of things I really wanted to photograph and managed to. Some of them, like the Northern Lights, I could happily photograph daily – or nightly – if I had the chance. But then I wouldn’t have time to shoot all the other amazing people and things I see on my travels.
Walking on water: I live in Finland and large parts of the Baltic Sea freeze every winter, although climate change is affecting the extent to which ice forms. But it’s still possible to walk on water – an enthralling experience. I shot this during a cruise on the Sampo icebreaker, converted to tourist use from the north-west port of Kemi.
2. An erupting volcano: Shooting an active volcano has always been an ambition. I went through a period of travelling throughout Central America peering into dramatically smoking craters, even glimpsing red hot lava just a few metres away. But I didn’t see a properly erupting volcano until I went to Sicily and the island of Stromboli, probably the most frequently and visibly active volcano in Europe. When I was there the lava spewed out every 20 minutes or so. This was shot from a ledge about half a kilometre from the eruption. Less intrepid volcano-watchers have the option of viewing more distantly but very comfortably from the terrace of a pizzeria further down! Or like my even more intrepid companion, trek for several hours almost right to the rim of the thing, where shooting has to be done at far greater speed.
3. Wild tigers in India: The first time I tried this, I got one shot of a tiger’s head emerging from the bush and another of its tail disappearing into the undergrowth on the opposite side of the track! My second visit to the Bandhavgarh tiger reserve in the state of Madhya Pradesh was much more fruitful. This little family (minus Dad) came strolling along the track towards our jeep and passed within a few feet of us. A breath-holding moment.
Thanks to my hosts at http://junglemantrasafaris.com/ for helping me on this one.
4. The Taj Mahal: This extraordinary building has a lot of hype to live up to as India’s most famous tourist destination – but it succeeds. It really is magnificent. It also is really crowded during the daytime, so get up early (getting up early is an essential thing for photographers to do if they want to get the most interesting light) and head across to the other side of the river just before sunrise. When I did this I was rewarded with this wonderful view of the marble domes wrapped in mist. The night before I had seen it in moonlight. Go out at different times, see the same places in a different light…
5. The Northern Lights: The aurora borealis is without question – in my view at least – the most magical, transfixing and addictive spectacle on the planet. It reduces me to blubbering infancy every time. You can’t just see the Northern Lights once, you have to keep trying to see it again once you’ve seen it. It casts a spell. I still haven’t got what I think is the perfect shot and the alerts I have on my phone frustratingly let me know that activity is sometimes strong – even when the sky is covered in cloud! This shot was from a lakeside near Rovaniemi in Finnish Lapland, almost bang on the Arctic Circle. Note the reflections on the water – this was taken in September before the lake was frozen and snow-covered. So you don’t need freezing temperatures but you do need clear skies.
6. The Himalayan Mountains: This dawn shot of Kanchenjunga, the summit of which is in Nepal, was from Darjeeling in India. I love mountains, all the more for their rarity in Finland where I live! I remember waking in a village in Nepal on the Annapurna trail and parting the shutters on my guesthouse window and seeing the Annapurna range in this kind of light, shaking my room mate awake and telling him: “Juha, you have to see this!” Is there anyone who cannot be humbled and awestruck by a view of mountains?
That is my bucket list shortlist. If you have enjoyed this visit (and thanks for dropping by), do come again, and feel free to share, but contact me if you have something commercial in mind – copyright for all photos is mine, all mine. If you’d like to find out more about me and my photography, visit my website at www.timbirdphotography.com
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