For about four years from 2013 – 2017, I spent most of my time travelling across Europe and Asia with my wife, sometimes staying in one place for a time, sometimes moving every few days, taking photos as we went. It’s not a bad way to live, in the short term at least, but like everything, the negatives start to outweigh the positives after a while: Having to constantly research and plan your move from place to place, never feeling quite at home, always packing and unpacking your bags.
Now, we’re back in the UK, in a city we like, in an apartment we like, surrounded by the objects and memories from our journey, living a totally different, and happier, life from when we were last living in the UK, back in 2013. That we have been able to do this is undeniably because of travel, and the changes it has brought to our perspectives and approach to life.
Travel is often portrayed as both easy and enjoyable. Although it’s often at least one or both of these, it’s regularly neither.
Travel in countries culturally diverse from your own does bring a substantial share of stress, frustration and disappointment. This isn’t to say that travel is bad or somehow not worth it. Dealing with these stresses and frustrations is the point, because the skills you must learn to overcome them are where the value lies in travelling.
Those skills are the ones that have a lasting, positive effect on all that you do. You don’t learn anything from watching a beautiful sunrise over Angkor Wat — that’s the reward — you learn something by getting to the spot to watch the sunrise over Angkor Wat (ie. how difficult it is to get out of bed at 4am).
And this logic bleeds into photography.
I have come to realise that for me, and I suspect for a lot of other people, the fun in photography lies in the doing, not the result. Sure, it’s nice to be able to print out photos and put them on your wall, but that isn’t why we do it. We do it because there is a certain pleasure in making plans, getting up early, taking the photo of a sunrise while halfway up a muddy hill, then getting home and working on it on our computers and turning it into something like what we felt.
But sometimes we can’t.
How the Photo was Made
Before & After
Rome must be one of the best cities in the world to catch a sunset.
This was taken from the top of Castel Sant’Angelo, looking towards the Vatican and St. Peter’s. If you take the time to explore most cities then you can usually find an interesting viewpoint.
Technically, you aren’t allowed a tripod on the roof of Castel Sant’Angelo, but I, and some other people, got our tripods out and no one told us to put them away. I guess that’s the difference between Italy and the UK. In Italy, as long as you aren’t getting in anyone’s way, you’re free to do what you like. A useful position for us photographers!
To process this photo, I used the Lightroom Develop System (based on the preset in Recipes ‘1a Low Contrast HDR’ and in HSL Colour Grades ‘1c Sunset/Sunrise Boost ++’).
I added a graduated filter to reduce highlights in the top part of the sky, cooled the photo using white balance and reduced highlights, boosted shadows and boosted exposure, along with some clarity. Although this doesn’t seem like a very large change on paper, in practice, small changes like this can have large effects on the final photo.
After exporting the photo to Photoshop, I used the saturation masks to adjust colour balance and contrast according to the get colours like the pros tutorial, then I ran the pro contrast, highlights glow and shadows sharpening actions found in the free Photoshop Colour Control ActionPack.
If you want to create them yourself, without using the actions, take a look at the end of the Landscapes Masterclass tutorial. I finished with some dodging and burning to enhance the shadows on the buildings.