Travel Photography Workshops

10 Countries, 10 Days, 10 Tips: Day 4 - Galapagos, The "Enchanted Islands" of Ecuador

Photograph by Rick Sammon
It's Day 4 of my series on travel photography here on my blog. Scroll down for past posts in this series.

Location: Galapagos Islands, Ecuador.

Tip: For wildlife, bring your wide-angle and super wide-angle lenses as well as your telephoto lenses. Because the animals are not hunted, they are not afraid of tourists and photographers - so you can get very close to them.

Above, marine iguanas: Canon 15mm lens. Below, sea lions: Canon 17-40mm lens.

Note: marine iguanas "sneeze" a saltwater spray, so perhaps you don't want to get too close. :-). If you do get a "sneeze" on the front element of your lens or filter, wipe it off carefully with a lens cleaning cloth. The salt can scratch a lens or filter.

Photograph by Rick Sammon
When it comes to a telephoto lens, I'd recommend the Canon 100-400mm IS lens. I used that for the photos below of the blue-footed booby and the giant tortoise.

All my gear recos: My Gear.

Photograph by Rick Sammon
In Galapagos, when you are not on the beach, you must stay on the paths. Keep that in mind when thinking about your lens selection.

Photograph by Rick Sammon
Finally, plan to visit the Galapagos on a live-aboard boat. . . the best way to see as many islands as possible in a relatively short period of time.

You can see more of my Galapagos images in my SmugMug gallery.
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If you like traveling and photography, check out my workshops and photo tours.

If you want travel photography tips at your fingertips, check out my app: Rick Sammon's 24/7 Photo Buffet.

Explore the light,

10 Countries, 10 Days, 10 Tips: Day 3 - Mongolia

Photograph by Rick Sammon

It's Day 3 of my series on travel photography here on my blog.

Location: Mongolia.

Tip: Plan your trip for June.

Each June, the Nadaam festival takes place just outside of Ulan Bator, Mongolia’s capital. During the festival,  500 or so soldiers from the Mongolian army get dressed up like the soldiers in Genghis Khan army and put on a spectacular reinactment. Witnessing the festival, you can see why at one time Khan’s army scared the hell out just about everyone in its path.
Do you homework on the web. Note the show hours. Find out the earliest possible arrival time so you can get in a good shooting position. The more you plan, the fewer surprises you’ll have on site.

Photograph by Rick Sammon
On site, ask for a general timeline of events. This info will help you plan your day so you don’t miss festival highlights. In addition, take behind-the-scenes shots of performers getting ready. Ask if that’s okay and find out where to shoot.

Here are my recommendations for sharp shots of fast-paced action: set your shutter speed to 1/1000th of a second to freeze action, set your auto focus to AI Servo or Continuous Focus to track a moving subject, and set your frame rate to the max for the greatest number of frames per second.

When it comes to choosing an exposure mode, go for Shutter Priority. In that mode, once your shutter speed is set to 1/1000th of a second, if the light level changes, the shutter speed will remain at 1/1000th of a second. To get that fast of a shutter speed, on a cloudy day you may need to boost your ISO to 400, 800 or even 1000.  Don’t worry about shooting at high ISO settings. If digital noise is added, you can reduce it in Photoshop and Lightroom. 

Lens recos for photographing festivals:

Canon 70-200 f/4 IS lens
Canon 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 IS lens

If you like traveling and photography, check out my workshops and photo tours.

If you'd like travel tips at your fingertips, check out my apps.

Explore the light,

Photograph by Rick Sammon
P.S. Explore the countryside, too. You'll find many more people photography opportunities. While in Ulan Bator, take in a cultural show.

Photograph by Rick Sammon

First HDR with Canon 5D Mark III

We see the world in HDR, cameras do not. Enter the Canon 5D Mark III.

One of the many cool features of the new camera is its ability to shoot and process HDR images in camera. You set set the exposure range (+/-1, +/-2, +/-3), select a processing type (Neutral, Art standard, Art Vivid, Art bold and Art embossed), and choose to save only your HDR image only or your HDR image and your original images. Your HDR image is saved as a JPEG.

Your set of images is magically aligned in camera. In the alignment process, you might lose some of the edge of your frame - so shoot a bit wider than normal.

I made this HDR shot in Sitka, Alaska about an hour ago. It's my first Canon 5D Mark III HDR image. I needed HDR to capture the shadow detail, the detail in the hull of the boat in the foreground, and the detail in the snow on the mountain in the background. My settings: +/-2 and Art Vivid. Handled.

To learn more about HDR, check out my iHDR app on my app page.

For discounts on the HDR programs I use, click here.

I also teach HDR on all my workshops. Speaking of which, I am in Alaska with Bull Schmitt teaching a wildlife, landscape and travel photography workshop for Light. Pictures to come when we get back to shore in about a week. Hal and I hope to see you at the California Photo Fest.

Click here to read about all my gear.

Explore the light,

Be My Guest Monday 1/10/11: Rob Knight Shares Thoughts on Guides and Costa Rica

It's "Be My Guest Monday," the day of the week that's turned over to a talented guest blogger for a quick tip, trick or technique

Today's guest: Rob Knight

Tip: A great guide can make a big difference in your travel photography.

First five Costa Rica photographs by Rob Knight; last three Costa Rica photographs by Rick Sammon.

Take it away Rob!

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It’s easier than ever for a photographer to research a new location before taking a trip. You can search for a location by name on SmugMug and see the shots others have made there. You can use Google, message boards, iPad apps and more to find out endless information about when and where to shoot. All of these things are handy to get a feel for the types of photos you may want to make when you travel, but they are no substitute for a good local guide.

An experienced local guide will not only take you to the typical places to photograph, but he can show you things you didn’t even know to ask about. Tell your guide what types of  subjects you want to shoot and he can recommend locations for you. Chances are, he can give you access to places and events that most tourists wouldn’t get. He can tell you the best place to shoot the sunrise or sunset, and the overcrowded spots to avoid. A good guide can also tell you about the history and culture of a new location. For me, this adds another dimension to my travels and shapes the way I photograph a place. 

When you’re shooting wildlife it is practically essential to have a guide that knows where to find the animals and the best times to look for them. Someone familiar with the local wildlife can often point out animals that you would not even see. My friend Enrique in Costa Rica can see a 6” long, leaf-colored Eyelash Pit Viper in the jungle from 20 feet away... and he found three of them! My group would have walked right by these beautiful snakes if we had not had an experienced guide.

There are a few ways to find a good local guide. I have had good luck using the guides recommended by the hotel or lodge where I will be staying. If you have friends that have visited the area you’re traveling to, ask them to recommend someone. You can try searching online using Google or even sites like You will usually want to arrange for a guide before your trip because the best guides are usually booked in advance.

You may want to avoid large guided tours that are not photography related. They are usually less flexible because they have to cater to a larger variety of people and interests. Larger tours generally stick to the more popular tourist sites, so you probably won’t get a lot of unique photo opportunities. You may have fun and learn a lot, but you might not have the chance for good photo ops.

One way to be assured of good guide service and lots of photo ops is to attend a photography workshop in a place you want to travel to. A good workshop includes an experienced guide (sometimes a photographer familiar with the area) and is geared toward providing photo opportunities beyond the usual tourist routes. A photo workshop gives you the advantages of an experienced guide and the benefit of tips and techniques to help improve your photography.

Rick Sammon and I are leading the second annual Arenal Eco Adventure Photography Workshop in Monterrey, Costa Rica (near the Arenal Volcano) next September. I had a great trip last September, and a big part of my success was my friend and guide Enrique Molena. This area of Costa Rica has such a wide variety of subjects to shoot and Enrique makes sure we don’t miss a thing. In this one week you will be shooting landscapes, wildlife, portraits, a parade, and much more! 

For more information about this unique, all-inclusive workshop, contact Rick at or visit

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Thank you Rob for a great post. Costa Rica will be blast!

Explore the light, 

P.S. Planning a photo tour or workshop this year? This book may help! Click here to order.