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How to take your outdoor photography to the next level – and eight trips to book now

Hong Kong workshop and exhibition by British landscape photographer George Turner, 27, focuses on photography-themed travel, and showcases his images of Northern Europe across the seasons

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 18 October, 2017, 6:03pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 18 October, 2017, 10:57pm

When you reach a destination that you’ve always wanted to go to, it’s tempting to whip out your smartphone and take a photo that replicates the one you’ve seen on Instagram or postcards.

Whether it’s Big Ben from Westminster Bridge in London or Hong Kong from the observation platform at The Peak, these same images have been taken millions of times. So stop taking them and look for your own angle.

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So says award-winning professional landscape and wildlife photographer George Turner, 27, from Dorset in the UK, whose free exhibition of his landscapes from Norway, Finland, Scotland and Iceland, “In Search of Light”, is coming to The Haven on Wyndham Street, Hong Kong from October 21 to December 9.

“Look for the details,” he advises budding landscape photographers. “Northern Europe’s landscape is so epic that it becomes too easy just to shoot the ‘grand vista’ shots all the time.”

“In Search of Light” showcases Turner’s images of Northern Europe across the seasons, in which he captures the beauty of roads less travelled. However, as the title suggests, it’s not the places, but the light levels that are so important.

“It’s absolutely vital to get up before dawn and be out for pre-sunset,” he says. “Get to know the sunrise and sunset times and, of course, where that all-important light hits the landscapes.”

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Turner also advises researching locations before you get there, ensuring you have good gear, and bringing all the necessary clothing, though none of that will be required for his upcoming outdoor photography workshop on the streets of Hong Kong. On 20 October, Turner will be hosting a half-day photography workshop (HK$2,000 per head, 9am to 2pm, breakfast and lunch included) on location in Hong Kong, meeting at The Haven and proceeding to photograph the city and countryside. Participants will be able to rebate the cost against a trip with organiser Jacada Travel ([email protected]), which has just launched custom-made trips to Northern Europe, with a particular focus on Scandinavia.

Photography-themed trips accompanied by a noted photographer tend to be expensive, but the access they give you to wildlife and wilderness is tempting – whether you’re aiming for photographic glory or not.

Most trips are best described as a “soft adventure”, and typically include interactive workshops, one-on-one reviews and constructive feedback to help improve photographic skills, as well as dedicated photographic excursions – timed to take advantage of the best light.

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However, there are other reasons to take a photography-themed tour aside from just getting better at imaging. Australia’s largest photo tour operator, Chris Bray Photography runs small group luxury photography tours that take amateurs and professionals to the best places, at the best time of year.

“I love to travel, but I hate being stuck with loads of other people, being taken to the regular, overcrowded tourist attractions, or wasting hours in an amazing country just relaxing by some pool,” says Bray, who tries to show his clients hidden gems off the beaten path as they meet new friends with similar interests, and take some beautiful and unique photos.

Anyone who’s ever been forced onto a tour bus by an impatient tour leader minutes before sunset just to get to a hotel restaurant will see the attraction of the increased flexibility and dedication a photography trip offers. However, don’t expect much time for lazing around if you venture into Scandinavia in search of that ultimate Northern Lights photo – not only will you need to bring a good winter coat, but steely dedication. “To travel around Northern Europe, one needs a strong, determined mind,” says Turner. “Staying warm is easy!”

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Eight photography trips you can book now

1. Grand Outback Australia Photography Tour (HK$90,759 per person)

This 14-day tour from Air Adventure Australia (June 7-20, 2018) is led by Australian photographer Ewen Bell. A private charter photography tour in your own private plane, the tour takes in iconic Australian landscapes, working cattle stations, wetland wildlife shoots, Milky Way photography, Boabs in the desert and indigenous rock art.

2. Photography Cruise on the Aqua Mekong, Cambodia (HK$40,116 per person)

Aqua Expeditions is offering its first speciality photography cruise with photographer Francisco Marin aboard the Aqua Mekong (December 8-12, 2017). Includes hands-on outdoor photo workshops at Buddhist temples, floating Khmer villages and fragrant riverside markets.

3. Iceland and Greenland Photography Tour (HK$146,488)

This 13 day small-group trip (July 1-13 and 17-27, 2018) accesses the best of Iceland’s spectacular landscapes, but also travels to the more remote Greenland. “Everyone knows and loves Iceland, but Greenland is really out of the way and not many people go there,” says lead photographer Chris Bray. “It has so much to offer, from the 24-hour sunlight that makes ‘golden hour’ last forever, to watching humpback whales swim around giant icebergs, sledge dogs, and the colourful houses.”

4. Northern Lights Photography Holiday in Iceland (HK$29,285 per person)

This 10-day photography workshop (departing February 6 and 16, and March, 16, 2018) in the southeast and western regions of Iceland, run by local photographers who know the locations intimately, takes you to some of the best photography spots on the island. Photography tuition is included and this holiday suits all levels of photographers.

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5. The Strand Cruise Photography Cruise, Ayeyarwady River, Myanmar (HK$14,634 per person)

Professional reportage photographer Lucas Gurdjian will join passengers for this four night cruise from Bagan to Mandalay (departing March 26 and September 17, 2018) on the Ayeyarwady River in Myanmar, coaching different styles of photography, including landscapes, food photography and portraits. Will also include tips on framing, lighting, aperture, depth of field, and post-production techniques.

6. Behind the Lens Photography Tour, Chiang Mai, Thailand (HK$7,100 per person)

This 3-day tour (October 2017 only) from Akyra Manor Chiang Mai is with editorial and commercial photographer Kevin Lander-Johan, who has 20 years’ experience and whose work has been featured in TIME Magazine. The emphasis will be on learning and storytelling through photography, with Lander-Johan explaining everything from aperture, shutter speed and ISO to how to best compose a shot, and how to sensitively photograph people.

7. Snow Leopard Tracking, India ((HK$32,662 per person)

Crooked Compass offers Snow Leopard Tracking for 16 days in India (departing January, 20, 2018 and 2019) with adventure travel photographer and expedition doctor Andrew Peacock. This epic adventure takes you to Hemis National Park, Ladakh – India’s most protected Snow Leopard area – with expert trackers on hand to trace the cats’ scents, trails and markings.

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8. Spitsbergen Encounter&Photographic Symposium (HK$44,450 per person)

Some trips have not just cameras, but conservation in mind. Environmental photographer and conservationist Daisy Gilardini leads One Ocean Expeditions’ nine day trip around Svalbard, Norway to document the changes taking place. “It is our duty to capture the beauty of places and species at risk, and to raise awareness through the images that we capture,” says Gilardini.