Summer in Asia is a hot embrace, thanks to the dry spell that covers most part of the continent. In the southern and southeast regions, there’s an occasional rain; this is the cooling part of the climate. If not, you’ll be wrapped up with a thick, humid air – that’s all thanks to the body of water that surrounds most archipelago. Your summer Asian holiday, however, is all worth it, for you’ll be blessed with many enchanting structures and spectacles that only happen on this side of the world. So, pack your bags, and get ready to roll; turn your watch a few notches forward, and experience an unusual summer away from your regular window.

Summer in Asia #1
Tokyo, Japan

Summer in Asia is especially exciting in Tokyo
Culinary Suprises at every corner – Summer in Tokyo will be super special

Even with the skyscrapers towering all over you, you’ll find Tokyo unrelentingly hot. People around walk sluggishly as if melting under the gravity of the sun. Your best companion? A hat and a fan. The wonders start at night, where, during this season, local festivals called matsuri are held. This celebration is a delight to see; floats are paraded, lanterns are lit, and locals dress in their native kimonos as they gather in shrines to pay for their gods. You too can join them, and perhaps find luck for yourself too!

The streets will be crammed with food stalls where you can eat the local fare – takoyaki balls, candy-dipped apple, and other favourites. Deep within the evening, the sky will explode with fireworks, and people will be partaking with their favourite sake in full festivity.

Summer in Asia #2
New Delhi, India

Summer in Asia is pretty nice in New Delhi, India
Each corner is worth being featured on a photo, what a busy Street Life

The warm glow of the sun setting through the skies is one of the best views in New Delhi, which offers a plethora of activities for you to enjoy. If you’re looking for new hobbies, you’d love staying at Noida, where India’s first natural ice skating rink is lodged. People come together, zooming with their skating shoes as if it was winter. The heat outdoors might be too much to take, but you can definitely find comfort in sweet treats like Ice Gola, the local summer coolers, which sports a rainbow of colours – an easy feast on the eyes. Mangos are the country’s special treats, for they are only available during this season. If you’re lucky, you might even chance upon a mango festival in Pitampura, which features more than a thousand varieties of this fruit!

Summer in Asia #3
Seoul, South Korea

Summer in Asia - Seoul
Beautiful photo motives at the rose festival in seoul

In Seoul, you’d be sweating buckets, but around you are people dressed in brightly coloured clothes, fashionable sunglasses and easy sandals that help them survive the weather. Find some relaxation at the green parts of the city, where you can take a sit on the hilly side for a relaxing contemplation or gaze at the serene wonder of Han River. What do the locals do to conquer the heat? Eat bingsu, a dessert made from shaved milk, topped with cream, fruits and some adorable sprinkles. The red bean bingsu is the main flavour of this concoction, but you can try less foreign options, like a strawberry or mango variant.

At night, Seoul lights up with its beautiful castles aglow under the evening sky. Spend your time with your friends at one of the stalls, drinking and eating.

Summer in Asia #4

Summer in Asia in Singapore, Cloudforest
The Place to be in Summer: The Cloudforest in Singapore

The world-class city is sizzling during this season, but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the holiday. Instead of staying out in the sun and watching Merlion spit out water, you can, instead, enjoy the many fun venues the city has to offer. During the day, visit Universal Studios and enjoy rides to your heart’s content. At night, rediscover your love for animals as you take a ride at the Night Safari. Embark on a journey that takes you from the views of Africa to the Himalayas; tigers, lions, tapirs, leopards and other wild animals proudly show off their beauty during the ride.

If you’re an avid shopper, Orchard Road will quell your cravings. At Fifth Avenue, carry your bag and explore the line of stalls, ready to serve you with great deals.

Summer in Asia #5
Beijing, China

Summer in Asia can be awesome in Beijing in China
What a beautiful view on Beijing from the Summer Palace, Source: Shutterstock.com / Parichart Patricia Wong

China’s capital becomes verdantly sun-lit with its many summer activities. Up the mountains, the weather is cooler, but if you’re staying in the city, one thing you can do is to enjoy the outdoor and public pools. Order up cold dishes, ice pops and iced coffee from your favourite restaurants to cool your body down. One thing the locals do to defy the heat? Spicy dishes!

If you’re not into tangy flavours, you can ease into comfort by spoiling yourself in one of the local spas. And then, stay at the city’s tree-covered parks where you can watch the modern skyline while being surrounded by nature.

Summer in Asia #6
Manila, Philippines

The Greenbelt Park in Manila is a great destination for Summer in Asia, Source: Shutterstock / Jon Bilous
Manila is a nice destination for spend a summer in Asia.

In the Philippines, Manila shines in summer, being used to the heat. Here, you can take a stroll at the national parks while riding a kalesa – a horse-driven carriage which is still a popular form of transportation in the city. Visit its many museums, including Fort Santiago, one of its war traces, and Rizal Park, where the national hero Jose Rizal stands tall underneath the clear, unobstructed sky.

For foodies, you’re in for a treat; the locals love international fares as much as they adore their homegrown gastronomy, including adobo and sinigang. Make sure to ride a jeep, and visit one of its majestic cathedrals, some of which still carry Hispanic artefacts.

Summer in Asia #7
Bangkok, Thailand

Summer in Asia is exciting in Bangkok
Summer in Bangkok can be exciting: Visit the Floating Market by boats and buy asian food Source: Shutterstock.com / aphotostory

Here, the weather is less oppressive than the country’s drier seasons: April and May. The air is balmy, the nights are steamy. Carry an umbrella and expect a drizzle to cool down the parched earth. Walk around in slippers, just as the locals do, and explore the temples during your stay. Head to the Grand Palace and take wonderful pictures of the sacred shrine of Wat Phra Kaew, which stars a reclining Buddha.

Refresh your eyes with the watery walls of Siam Park City, which features giant aquariums, water parks and rides. At night, enjoy a walk at Patpong, which lets you get great bargains as you haggle with the local vendors.

A delight in the eyes and the heart, spending summer in these Asian cities will leave you with a pleasant memory. Take photos, write a blog, and tell all about your exciting journey, for these stories are too wonderful not to share.

The first thing we need to consider is that travel photography is just photography. Or rather, travel photography encompasses many genres of photography all in one. Portraits, landscapes, street photography, documentary, food, architecture: all of these are part of what we mean by the term “travel photography”.

It’s also important to remember that, just as travel photography includes elements of all these styles, it doesn’t really have any specific techniques of its own. Again, it’s just photography: composition, exposure and other technical considerations remain exactly the same as with other types of photography.

This guide assumes that if you’ve got to the point of wanting to learn more in-depth techniques about a specific genre of photography – in this case travel photography – it means that you already know how to use your camera. You will not learn about exposure settings and the rule of thirds here. Instead we’ll go deep into the parts of shooting travel photography that are neither strictly photography nor strictly travel. The philosophy and approach of the travel photographer.

Sure, we’ll talk about equipment and techniques; tricks and methods, But before we get that far, we need to go back to the beginning. What are we trying to achieve by shooting travel photography? What’s the point?

Why Travel Photography?

Reasons for Travel Photography

Travel photography communicates those things which make a place truly special. It also surprises, intrigues, excites, and inspires wanderlust. Good travel photography doesn’t just confirm what we already know about a place, rather it challenges our preconceptions, making us question what we think we know.

You saw elephants in Thailand? Gondolas in Venice? Sand at the beach? Astonishing!

The best travel photography goes further than this.

As a travel photographer, your task is to try to identify the character of a place. Every destination has a certain atmosphere that may return to us even many years after we’ve left the place: in the scent of jasmine on the evening breeze; the heat on your skin; the pungent smoke of street-food on the grill; the sound of a child’s laughter, echoing through the cold mountain air from the far side of a valley. Your job is to shoot images that communicate these diverse sensations visually.

But, just as equally, remember that these are the first impressions of an ignorant foreigner (that’s you). You are a toddler crashing around in an adult world which you cannot fully comprehend. Don’t jump too readily to conclusions. Stay open to having your assumptions challenged. Perhaps entirely overturned.

In part, what you see (and photograph) is what you have been raised to see (and photograph).
As much as your photos are “about” your destination, they are also about you, and your place of origin. They show your own cultural values as much the new and exotic things that you see all around you. There’s little you can do about this of course, but it can help to keep it in mind when photographing scenes and situations you know little about.

Remember, too, that every destination is also somebody else’s home, and you are a guest. Likely an uninvited guest (although hopefully not also unwanted). And, as an outsider, the responsibility is on you to do most of the hard work.

Before you go on your Travel Photography Trip
Tip #1 – Study the Terrain

Escape the Terrain when Travel Photography

In order to come back with images of the unexpected, you’ll first need to find out what to expect.
So your first task begins before you’ve even left home: research.

This applies to the culture and customs of your destination as much as it does to the physical terrain. You’ll need to gain a good understanding of how things are done there, and how they differ from back home. What is considered polite and what is rude. What are the dominant spiritual beliefs and traditional social norms. What is sacred and what is taboo.

Although we might associate many of the above words with anthropological descriptions of “exotic” peoples and lands, remember that they just as equally apply to ourselves and our immediate neighbors as they do to those on the other side of the world. Many things that we take as “natural” or “common sense” are really just social convention and habit. So this is also a good time to think about where your own culture sits in the big picture, especially in relation to your destination.

This isn’t merely about avoiding causing offense to others, but also about not becoming offended yourself when in fact no offense was intended. By developing greater awareness of these issues you will likely find yourself more open to fully immersing yourself in the novel sights and experiences which await you at your destination: pretty much essential when it comes to shooting good travel photography.

Cultural sensitivities aside, you will also need to get a good idea of the physical lie-of-the-land long before you arrive at your destination. Perhaps you are not specifically interested in photographing landscapes, but instead more of a street-photographer? Nonetheless you should familiarize yourself with the local geography (both natural and man-made). This will help you to get an idea of the kind of photographs you might be able to shoot there, and any challenges you may face with regards to weather, lighting, and environment.

Travel and photography forums are of course a great place to start your research. Then, once you’ve got more of a feel for where you’d like to go, it’s probably time to turn to Google Street View and geotagged images on Flickr in order to pinpoint more precise locations. Dedicated travel photography community sites and apps such as ReallyGoodPhotoSpots or ShotHotspot may be of some help too.

Tip #2 – Plan

Making Plans when Travel Photography

You know those spectacular Nat Geo-style views of the sun rising over a sea of bubbling clouds filled with archipelagoes of mountain-peaks stretching off into the hazy blue distance? We can assume that they weren’t just chanced upon while the photographer was out grabbing breakfast. You’ll need to do some careful planning and preparation if you want to be in the right place, at the right time, and with the right gear, in order to capture stunning images like these.

Realistically, you are unlikely to encounter the most amazing and unique views right outside the tourist information center in the car park by the freeway exit ramp. Be prepared to do a bit of hiking if you want to capture something truly out of the ordinary. Check travel forums or ask in your hotel to find out how much time is required to reach potentially interesting viewpoints, and plan your arrival there to coincide with the best light.

Tip #3 – Don’t Plan

Dont plan when youre doing Travel Photography

Just as equally though, you should allow plenty of time (and patience) for the unexpected to occur. Plan meticulously, yes, but once you’ve done all you can, then it’s time to just let destiny take over and do its thing. Revel in chance meetings and opportunities. Make an ally of serendipity. Then seize the moment when it arises.

Your Travel Photography Equipment
Tip #4 – Which Camera Should You Use For Travel Photography?

Which Camera you should use in Travel Photography

The short answer to this questions is: “your camera”. Or at least whichever camera you can (legally) get your hands on.

Consider this: does it matter whether an author uses a PC or a Mac to write their novel? What about Word or Pages, which produces better books?

Nobody wins the Nobel Prize in Literature due to their choice of word-processor. So, yes, you’ll probably have heard it before, but the gear really does not make the photographer. It just needs to be good enough to get the job done.

You’ve got money to burn on a second camera? Nice. In that case, you’ll likely want to go for a relatively compact and lightweight model instead of some enormous tank of a DSLR. Otherwise, use the camera you normally use: if it works for you at home, then it’ll work for you elsewhere too.

Of course, if your camera sucks at home then it will also suck on the road, but claiming that you can’t do travel photography because you don’t have a “travel photography camera” is just making excuses: admit it, you don’t actually want to take photos. That may seem a little harsh, but as we said, travel photography is just photography. And in order to do photography, all you need is a camera.

By the way: You have to protect your camera, your lenses and your equipment. Learn more about in my Article about Tips for Camera Protection.

Tip #5 – Which Lenses For Travel Photography?

Which Lenses when youre doing Travel Photography

Lenses, on the other hand, are a somewhat different matter. Yes, of course, you can shoot with any lens that you’d normally be happy using – so you certainly don’t need to go out and spend money on a new set of glass just for the sake of a trip. But this is an area where your choice of equipment can actually make a significant difference.

Not only to how you shoot, but to your back.

At best, anyone embarking on a round-the-world trip carrying a huge backpack filled with bulky zoom lenses will likely end up shooting very little, as all that heavy gear will just be left sitting in the hotel room most of the time. At worst, at the first port of call they’ll be down the local bazaar haggling for a good deal on a carpet in exchange for premium photo-optics. The best equipment for travel photography is small and weighs relatively little.

Not only that, but big telephotos and zooms are also intrusive and will broadcast the message “professional photographer making money” far and wide. Consequently, you shouldn’t be too surprised if in return people expect you to pay them for taking their photos. If you’re really “lucky”, someone may even relieve you of the burden (at knifepoint). In short, when it comes to travel photography, big, expensive-looking lenses are just unnecessary hassle.

Not only that, but successful travel photography is about getting in touch with the local people, being in the heart of the action. It’s not about sniping victims from the hotel window 200 meters away with your mega-tele-ultra-zoom.

These problems are easily resolved by packing only a handful of prime lenses: a 35mm, a 50mm, and one around 100mm is all you need (and perhaps something wider like a 28mm or 24mm if you really must). Small, discrete, lightweight and cheap-looking, you’ll be glad you left the zooms at home (and so will your back).

Other Essential Travel Photography Equipment: Be sure to pack your laptop and external hard disks for back up. Plus don’t forget batteries, extra power, and all your chargers. Also spare flash cards, card-readers and any cables.

Once you’re on your Travel Photography Trip
Tip #6 – Shoot and Don’t shoot

When to shoot and when not to shoot in Travel Photography

If we were to condense this guide down to one single sentence, this is the only rule you really need to know: get out there and shoot.

A lot. Now!

When not to Shoot? Having said that, there’s also a lot to be said for putting your camera down from time to time in order to directly experience what’s around you. To really look. Not through glass or on an LCD. But directly, closely, consciously.

Now start shooting again.

Wanna laugh? Photographers (doesn’t matter which Style of Photography) are sometimes a reaaaally funny and a little bit quirky Species when it’s a matter of making pictures: These funny and bad photographer habits you should avoid while taking a photo:)

Let’s summarise the Travel Photography Guide
What you learned till now…

  • Make a place truly special
  • Communicate diverse sensations visually
  • Research the culture, customs and special terrain
  • Go visit Travel Photography Forums
  • Plan the most important things – but the best things are unexpected!
  • Use your normal camera, no special things needed
  • Keep the technique simple and light weighted
  • Fixed Focal Lengths are better than huuuuge Zoom Objectives

That was an intensive but helpful Beginning, wasn’t it? But every Beginning is sometimes a little bit difficult. All the better that now you have the Basics and the understanding of Travel Photography. Before starting to travel and celebrating the world on Photos you should understand what’s the meaning when making pictures of unknown cultures and foreign landscapes.

In our Travel Photography Guide Part II you’ll learn a lot about the Technique and the Approach in different Photography Sectors and I’ll give you general Travel Photography Tips. After our full Guide you’ll be definitely ready to go to your Photo Trip!

Another by the way: Need Tips for your perfect Travel Postcard? Nooo Problem. Learn more about here.

Stay tuned,
Nadja from MyPostcard.