I just got back from a four day visit with relatives on Martha's Vineyard, a small island off the coast of Massachusetts. It's a popular spot for summer vacationers and retirees who are looking for a place to relax and reconnect with friends and family. The architectural style of the homes there is quaint without being kitschy and displays of affluence are restrained. Many of the houses there date back to the late 1800s and even the newer ones mimic their New England cottage style.
As if that weren't enough to whet a photographer's appetite, the Vineyard is surrounded by ocean, with plenty of accompanying beaches, boats, dunes, marshes, ponds, and woods. It's easy to get postcard shots here--sharp, colorful images of the landmarks and scenes that tourists typically marvel at. The challenge is to come up with images that evoke the mood, lighting, and atmosphere of the place. That's the approach travel and landscape photographers take and that I tried to mimic during my brief stay. For those of you who'd like to do the same, here are a few basic tips.
1. Get up early.
The light will be great. Traffic and crowds will be non-existent. During summer months the temperatures will also be more comfortable in the morning than at mid-day.
2. Hang around for the "golden hour."
This is the hour before sunset. The low angle is similar to that of sunrise but the light itself often has a flattering warm glow.
3. Take advantage of low winds.
One of the best times to photograph bodies of water is when the wind speed is low. This mimimizes ripples and makes the surface look like one large mirror. If the mirror reflects something beautiful or dramatic, so much the better.
This is where a telephoto lens comes in handy. It allows you to get closer to spots you otherwise might not be able to reach and lets you crop out all but the essential elements of your composition. That said, you can practice isolation even if you're shooting with a wide-angle lens.
5. Limit your color palette.
This is similar to isolation, except in this case you're limiting the number of colors. The colors can either be complementary or contrasting, and the fewer the better. You also have the option of shooting in black and white or converting to monochrome.
6. Capture human activity.
This is one of the hardest yet most gratifying things to do: to capture the warmth of the sunshine, the salt in the air, the aroma of fresh seafood, the joy of children playing on a beach, the rough texture of clapboard-covered houses. If you're in a large city, try to capture its sophistication, edginess, pace, or whatever else make the strongest impression on you.
These are simply the first six things that came easily to mind. If there's anything you think I've overlooked, feel free to add to the list. In the meantime, here's a small selection of photos from my visit. I hope you like looking at them as much as I enjoyed shooting them.