Travelling light seems to be a priority for many a globe-trotter these days, be it to avoid waiting at the luggage carousel or to avoid that hefty additional charge for a suitcase. Mainly for the latter reason, I hopped on the hand luggage only bandwagon for my trip to Prague.
We arrived at the airport, hungry and tired (most likely the reason we stood in a 45 minute long queue unnecessarily) ready for our flight to Prague. Having only hand luggage and a less than generous weight allowance, camera equipment was always going to be limited. So I chose my Canon 5Dm3 body and the faithful 24-70mm Tamron f2.8 - my best ‘all-round’ lens and I was off.
We stepped off the plane in Prague an hour late after a bizarre delay in Stansted and it wasn’t long before we realised the beauty that Prague has to offer. We dropped our bags at our hotel (Hotel Ariston and Ariston Patio – a fantastic hotel for those trying to quench their thirst for wanderlust without breaking the bank) and made our way for Prague Old Town. Being in Prague for the best part of 5 days we decided to use our first day as a recce, a trial run to scout out some locations to visit later in the week. Combining this recce, Trip Advisor, YouTube and Instagram we made our plan.
Having only one lens on this trip was going to force me to think a lot more about my composition and positioning when taking photos. It is easy for photographers to be lazy and use the extra zoom on a lens to compensate for sub-par composition.
Our first full day tested my composition aptly – with a trip to the zoo (I shall delve deeper into the zoo in a future blog). Knowing I was unlikely to get frame filling shots of animals, I was forced outside of the 'zoom in and shoot' mindset a telephoto lens can so often put you in. A few tips and tricks can help you to nail the composition to take a range of shots with a single lens (disclaimer - you will most likely look a bit, well more than a bit silly using them).
Adopting a squat position to line up the horizon according to the rule of thirds (cheetah shot) or pressing your lens right up to the glass as though you can't get enough of the gharial, when in reality you're just avoiding any reflection (make sure to pop on a lens hood so you don't scratch your lens!) can result in images with great composition.
My moody cheetah shot
A nice little squat helped me to get level with the water to add another dimension to this image
With the zoo ticked off, our next few days were spent exploring the city. We made sure we did the classics of Prague; Charles Bridge, the Old Town Square, Prague Castle and so on. From suggestions, we made sure we got to these tourist hotspots early, arriving at 6:45am two mornings in a row ensured we missed the hoards of slow-walking tourists who have the special ability to get in every single photo you take. Getting there early enables you to miss 99% of the tourists - turning crowded photos into photos to frame. Before I move on, if you are planning on going to Prague, or any other city an early morning (as hard as they may be) will 100% be worth it, especially as a photographer.
Charles bridge on the same day, 6:45am vs 12:00pm
One other thing about going somewhere as popular as Prague is that any photo you take, has most likely been taken 1000s of times before. Sometimes this is for a good reason, you can’t beat a perfectly centred shot of Prague castle, but 9/10 times changing where you’re stood, your elevation or your foreground can result in a photo that will turn people’s heads, rather than being just another picture of say, Charles Bridge.
For example, the photo below was taken at Prague Castle, where the constant sound of camera shutters (which without a doubt were generating near-identical photos as there were about 100 people in a square meter) urged me to try and get a unique shot of this beautiful city scape.
My probably not so unique shot of Charles Bridge
A couple of minutes of scouting went by when eventually I found it, a couple of arrow slits in the wall were screaming out, so I got onto my knees, framed Charles Bridge and started snapping. A couple of other tourists seemed to appreciate my creativity as they were soon taking a similar shot. I also mentioned placing things in your foreground (I only recently started thinking about this aspect of photography), it seems simple, and well, it is, but the results can be extremely effective. Having something out of focus in the foreground immediately gives an image depth and draws the viewer's eyes to what's really important, the subject of your photo.
Notice how in the left image, you're not quite sure what to look at, where as in the right image, your eyes are drawn immediately to the tower.
So, no matter where you are, be it Prague, The Amazon or your local park, take a minute to try and take a picture no one has before.
Thank you for reading,