Road Trip USA – Shooting the Sights

In the sixth of a series of articles on travel photography, Senior Travel Expert Photo Editor, John Esser, gives advice on how to get new slants on well known sights, illustrated with pictures from his recent road trip in the South of the USA, with a transit stopover in New York.

The Author Shooting the Grand Canyon
The Author perched over the Grand Canyon!

Most of us will encounter famous views, buildings or monuments when travelling and the reality is they will all have been photographed millions of times before. The challenge then is to come up with something a bit different to the standard fayre seen in travel brochures.

So, before pressing the shutter button take a little time to think how you might compose the scene to make your pictures stand out from the crowd.

Try framing the scene under an archway or branch, experiment with snapping the subject from different angles, getting down on the ground or seeking a higher viewpoint can often yield more interesting images than those taken at eye level. However, safety first! Don’t put yourself in danger to get that perfect shot.

Revisiting the same spot at different times, under different lighting conditions, particularly early morning or late afternoon can be very rewarding.

It’s also worth trying your hand at night photography; night scene modes on modern cameras make stunning pictures readily achievable without having to resort to tripods or complex calculations.

The beauty of digital as opposed to film is that you can afford to experiment – all that is necessary is a little time and imagination. And as a senior who travels independently, I do now have the time; I don’t need to be watching what the kids are doing out of the back of my head or be rushing back to the tour party coach!

By way of illustration I have selected a few photos taken during my recent Road Trip USA. (Click on the photos to enlarge them.)

New Orleans BayouThe bayous near New Orleans have been the source of many fine landscape photographs.

Here, I have used the trunk and roots of the tree to frame this view of a bayou. The Spanish moss completes the frame and adds a sense of location.

New Orleans

The city of New Orleans provides a profusion of photo opportunities particularly in the French Quarter during the Mardi Gras season.

When visiting famous places it is often worth closing in on the detail. This colourful kerb-post was spotted in the French Quarter.

Monument ValleyWhilst Monument Valley lends itself well to panoramic landscapes, for this image I zoomed in on a single mesa to capture the directional lighting and shadows which revealed a Christ like figure on one side of the formation.

Gulf Coast TexasTexas may be big, very big, and brash, but a detailed photo can sometimes give a real feel of what the state is all about.

By crouching down and setting the zoom at its widest angle I was able to include both the bike and sign in an image the shouts ‘America’. The deep blue sky provides a nicely contrasting backdrop.

Monument ValleyTo take this picture I ventured a little off the beaten track to the floor of the Canyon de Chelly.

It was late afternoon and the soft pink light was magical – the trees take on an almost ghostly appearance.

Las VegasLas Vegas provided a complete contrast to the earlier stages of our road trip. By taking this photo at night I have revealed ‘The Strip’ in all its colourful glory. I simply used the hand-held night scene setting on my Canon EOSM and braced myself again the bridge railing to reduce camera shake.

Statue of LibertyA ‘post card’ shot I know, but I was one of very few photographers on the ferry to wait to take this picture of the Statue of Liberty set against the Manhattan skyline rather than standing by itself.

Route 66This picture of the famous Route 66 was taken along a non-touristy section of the road.

The freight train and road receding into the distance create a sense of space.

Rattle SnakesWhen subjecting friends and family to the holiday slideshow, it’s well worth including a touch of humour.

Although this sign taken in Arizona was providing a warning in deadly earnest.

MemorialThe site of the former World Trade Centre now has evocative Reflecting Pools occupying the foot-prints of the towers.

The rose on the pool name plaques really brought home the emotion and sense of humanity in a very bleak place.

See also the first article in this series by John Esser which gave advice on equipment the senior traveller should take to get the best photographs when travelling abroad, the second article Photographs in Languedoc, the third article Photographs from Tuscany, the fourth article Photographing the Locals – Smiles from Around the World and the fifth article The Big Picture: Panoramic Photos.

Full details on my road trip USA are given a series of eight articles starting with: Road Trip USA: Memphis to Las Vegas via Houston – Planning.