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Prayer flags on the road to Monger, Eastern Bhutan
Phase One A-Series 100MP, 23mm lens, 30 seconds @ f8, ISO 50, 10x ND filter

What makes an interesting travel photograph? The correct answer depends on who is viewing the photograph! I imagine that these prayer flags in Bhutan are relatively uninteresting to a Bhutanese or Nepalese local because prayer flags are everywhere in these countries. And interestingly, prayer flags are in a constant state of change, beginning life like the flags above, with bright, clean colours, but gradually fading, tearing and falling apart with the weather and sunshine. You could drive past this location today and just see a set of tall sticks, but tomorrow there could be a new set of flags in place.

So, what makes an interesting travel photograph depends on your viewer, but if we're bringing photographs home to show our friends and family, it's reasonable to assume that they will find interesting the same things we do. What do we photograph? A subject that is different. This could be as simple as different faces, different clothing, different houses, different landscapes. Our role as travel photographers is to experience where we are and to communicate what we find interesting. No point trying to second-guess what others will find interesting as that is an exercise fraught with disappointment! The only person you can be confident of making happy is yourself - and besides, people will want to know what you found interesting.

The next challenge is to photograph it in an interesting way. For me, this means finding and isolating these points of difference. I have thousands of street photographs and general landscapes from all around the world, and while they are obviously travel photographs, they are so messy and complicated that they are meaningless. There are soooo many general travel snaps out there! The photos that stand out to me have just one aspect of travel carefully framed and presented. So, work out what interests you, then work out how you can capture that interest and make it dominate your photograph.

In the example of the prayer flags above, I've used a few techniques. Firstly, I've come in close to my subject and excluded the surroundings (the road, other buildings and trees), so it's very clear what this is a photograph of. Second, I've chosen a low camera angle so I can isolate the prayer flags against the sky. If the prayer flags were backed by other trees and a busy landscape, they wouldn't stand out. The plain background is a key ingredient which allows the subject to dominate. And finally, I've used a 10X ND filter which gave me a 30 second exposure. This creates a sense of irreality with the clouds and flags moving during the exposure.

I hope you like it!

You can see a YouTube video taken on the Bhutan photo tour David Oliver and I did last year - here's the link:

And David and I have places available for our November/December 2019 trip to Bhutan - which for the first time will include Eastern Bhutan where the photo above was taken. Why don't you come along?

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