The NatGeo Photo Contest Winner : Multi-awarded photographer George Tapan reveals tips for budding travel photographers

The NatGeo Photo Contest Winner : Multi-awarded photographer George Tapan reveals tips for budding travel photographers


The NatGeo Photo Contest Winner : Multi-awarded photographer George Tapan reveals tips for budding travel photographers
'INTO THE GREEN ZONE.' This photo by George Tapan won the 2011 National Geographic Photo Contest

The National Geographic Photo Contest is the most prestigious annual International Photo Contest capturing the beauty of the world through captivating imagery. 

In the places category, a photo titled Into the Green Zone won for its capture of a rainbow bending over a smooth ocean at the Philippines' Onuk Island.

The Story about the Photo:

The photo was taken in Onuk Island, Balabac in the south of Palawan, Philippines. The island is 3 hours away from Puerto Princesa and is near the Jewelmer Farms in Palawan. 

It was taken while George's team was stranded on the island during their photo expedition of Palawan. It was raining hard and the strong wind created a nice flowing effect on the hair of the lady. The rain which stopped in the far distance created the rainbow effect in the horizon. The fisherman in the background is looking for turtles.

This is what you call the Photographer's Moment, where you are in the right place, at the right time, with the right subject and background, and with a camera on hand to take the shot.

'Small things can sometimes make a big difference,' he finished.

Let's meet the Master Photographer and know his tips for budding travel photographers.

The NatGeo Photo Contest Winner : Multi-awarded photographer George Tapan reveals tips for budding travel photographers

The NatGeo Photo Contest Winner : Multi-awarded photographer George Tapan reveals tips for budding travel photographers

He is a frequent traveler and he roams the country and the world with his camera for work. What is more fun than getting paid to live your passions in life?

For Sir George Tapan, at the age of 68 and with silvery hair, photography and traveling are the things that define his life. For many years now it has been his bread and butter; the craft that lifted him to prominence.

And he has gone to a lot of places. Every region in the Philippines has been the subject of his camera. He has captured images all over South East Asia, China and Europe.

The NatGeo Photo Contest Winner : Multi-awarded photographer George Tapan reveals tips for budding travel photographers
MAGIC HOUR. Shooting at the right time of day does wonders for this photo of Mt Mayon in the distance. Photo by George Tapan
Though there are many other travel photographers who outstrip his travel log, his accolades speak for themselves. George has won two Pacific Asia Tourism Association (PATA) Gold awards, an ASEAN Tourism Association award and first place in the 2011 National Geographic Photo Contest. He has worked for the Department of Tourism and Philippine Airlines and has published 5 travel photography books.

The NatGeo Photo Contest Winner : Multi-awarded photographer George Tapan reveals tips for budding travel photographers
MOVEMENT. The lines and details of this photo are as dynamic as an Impressionist painting. Photo by George Tapan

What makes a good travel photograph?

A good travel photograph is what you see in the place combined with what your eyes see as a traveller. You add a detail from your perspective that makes it more interesting. If you don’t, it’s just a postcard. There’s no personality.

The NatGeo Photo Contest Winner : Multi-awarded photographer George Tapan reveals tips for budding travel photographers
A night with the Tbolis of Lake Sebu (c) George Tapan


What elements can add “personality” to a photo?

If you’re taking a landscape of, for example, Palawan, the people who see your photo shouldn’t have to ask, “Where is this?” You can add something else to identify that it’s Palawan. You can include a person wearing native clothes in the picture.

In all my pictures—even landscape photos—I put people. That’s where you see the relationship between the photographer and the place. There should be people.

Kaamulan Festival, Bukidnon (c) George Tapan



Are photographers born or trained?

For me, I am a born photographer. My father is a photographer; we were raised with his photos. I am living as a photographer now. But, I cannot speak for other people.

Some photographers might be popular but that doesn’t make them born photographers. Well, maybe they were. They worked hard for it. They can speak for themselves.

The NatGeo Photo Contest Winner : Multi-awarded photographer George Tapan reveals tips for budding travel photographers

What are “don’ts” of travel photography?

Don’t make your photos artificially beautiful using post-editing. Stick to what’s real. Don’t add colors that aren’t there because that’s not what the eyes see.

Don’t saturate the colors. Stick to colors that are as close as possible to the real thing. Don’t make the background stronger than the foreground. When shooting horizons and you want your photos to be published, don’t tilt. Publications want a straight horizon.

The NatGeo Photo Contest Winner : Multi-awarded photographer George Tapan reveals tips for budding travel photographers
MT MAYON. Putting people in landscape photos can help the viewer connect with the image. Photo by George Tapan

What are useful tips for travel photography?

1. Travel photography is for everybody. You don’t even need a DSLR. But never use a cellphone. Why? In a cellphone, the photos look nice on the monitor but when you print it out, it’s not as nice. You can’t blow up a cellphone picture.

2. Master your tools. You should know the colors, megapixels, exposure ratios and ISO because if you don’t know these things, you will be forced to post-edit. Know your camera, know your settings.

The NatGeo Photo Contest Winner : Multi-awarded photographer George Tapan reveals tips for budding travel photographers

3. Know your location. Before taking a picture of a certain object or place, go around and look for a better vantage point. Study what the right time is to take the picture. Who should you wait for? What should you leave out of the picture? What should you include? The place can be beautiful but because you get too excited, you don’t see the posters of Smart or Globe or whatever ads. So when you use that picture, there will be distractions that you didn’t see. To make your photograph timeless, you have to think of what you should leave out. Timelessness is important for travel photography.

The NatGeo Photo Contest Winner : Multi-awarded photographer George Tapan reveals tips for budding travel photographers
DRAMA. The light of the setting sun heightens the drama and mood of the scene. Photo by George Tapan

4. Shoot in a magic hour. For a beach, it needs to be noontime so that there are no shadows and the sun is white. Magic hour is after sunset and before sunrise. Wait for the sun to sink because the sunlight reflected in the sky creates beautiful colors yet your lens will not get burnt.

The NatGeo Photo Contest Winner : Multi-awarded photographer George Tapan reveals tips for budding travel photographers

5. Know the risks in street photography. Ask yourself, what will I use these pictures for? Is this for publication, photojournalism? You might accidentally take a photo of a restricted area like a military installation. When you take photos of people, don’t just take close-ups left and right. You might be taking photos of famous personalities. Research about the place. Taking photos of people in Tondo can be dangerous. If you want to get an establishing shot, go to a vantage point that’s safe. Don’t just click and click. Ask if you can take their pictures. Diskarte lang (It’s just improvisation).

6. Wear comfortable and appropriate clothes. Dress in a way that won’t call attention to the fact you’re a photographer. Don’t bring a big camera bag. Your subjects will get conscious.

7. Make a list of what to bring. Extra battery, extra protection for your camera (anything plastic), extra lens, extra CF card.

The NatGeo Photo Contest Winner : Multi-awarded photographer George Tapan reveals tips for budding travel photographers
SIMPLE YET POWERFUL. Colors, composition and perfect timing make this photo magical. Photo by George Tapan


What is your recommended lens?

For travel photography, you must have a wide-angle lens and telephoto lens. There are zoom lens nowadays that go from wide-angle to telephoto. For wide-angle, I recommend 14 millimeter or 18 millimeter.

What cameras do you use?

For digital, I use Nikon D800 and Fujifilm XPro. I have Leica and Hasselblad film cameras.
The NatGeo Photo Contest Winner : Multi-awarded photographer George Tapan reveals tips for budding travel photographers
COMPOSITION. Interesting composition and the creative use of colors can turn a snapshot into a work of art. Photo by George Tapan



What would you advise travel bloggers?

What do you really want to be known for or be really good at: as a writer or as a photographer? You can only choose one.

Your story can support your photos or your photos can support your story. But if you can create stories just through your photos, choose to be better in photography. 

The NatGeo Photo Contest Winner : Multi-awarded photographer George Tapan reveals tips for budding travel photographers


What would you advise in taking portraits of people?

First, know your subject. Be creative in doing that. You don’t have to spend a day to know the person. You don’t have to break into their privacy just to know their story. The personality of your subject is attached to her/his craft or what she/he is doing.

Like with Lang Dulay, how do you photograph her as a weaver and present her as a distinctive character? Remember, there are many known weavers like her too all over the country.


What’s your secret in taking great photos?

I pray before I shoot. I did that with my entry in Nat Geo. Look at all the elements in the photo: the rain, the rainbow, the sea, the wind that blew the woman’s hair perfectly and the boatman behind her. That would not have happened without His intervention.

The NatGeo Photo Contest Winner : Multi-awarded photographer George Tapan reveals tips for budding travel photographers



What’s your ultimate goal as a photographer?

I believe I have a calling: I want photographers to be respected as artists too. I look at photographers and artists on the same level, but the society and the government don’t view it that way. We have national artists for painting, for weaving and literature. They create their art pieces and our photographs are art pieces we create too. Why don’t photographers get the same respect?
That’s my mission.

The NatGeo Photo Contest Winner : Multi-awarded photographer George Tapan reveals tips for budding travel photographers
  

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