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Audley Travel specialist Mark

Written by Mark
Southeast Asia Specialist

Photographers David Fettes and Jamie Marshall share their top tips and expertise with us. We've also consulted some of our best photographers here at Audley (believe me we have a few!) and asked them to talk us through their favourites.

Jamie Marshall
'Eye contact can have a powerful effect'

Photos of People

Professional photographer Jamie Marshall

As a professional photographer with a background in cultural anthropology, Jamie has travelled extensively, accumulating an impressive archive of images. Recent trips have taken him to Myanmar, Cuba, Japan and Uzbekistan, with images used by National Geographic and other leading travel publishers, newspapers and magazines.

Jamie's top tips:

Learn a few simple words

It is true that approaching a stranger and asking if you can photograph them requires a certain degree of confidence. If you don’t speak the local language, try and learn at least a few simple words — this helps break the ice, and does so by showing respect for your subject and an interest in their culture. Be friendly (yet always respectful) and use hand gestures to indicate your photographic intentions. It’s usually easy to strike up a rapport with people — showing postcards, or photographs of home and family can also help break down social barriers.

Eye contact

Eye contact can have a powerful effect and encouraging your subject to look into the lens can be a sure way of making them connect strongly with the viewer. Retain eye contact with your subject whilst composing and framing up to the point of releasing the shutter.

Step back and zoom in

Using a zoom or telephoto lens can be much less intimidating for a subject than shooting with a standard lens close up. Mid-range telephoto lenses (and zoom lenses used in the circa 70 to 120 mm range) produce pleasing results. Such focal lengths also help to blur the background, ensuring that your subject is the focus of the image.

Women of the Ann Tribe, Burma
'Getting to know my subject helped me capture this natural image'

Southeast Asia specialist Mark Robinson

'I’ve always found the best way of creating images of people is to take the time to get to know your subject. Whether that’s sharing a cup of the local brew, joking and bartering, repeating a few of their local words, or using hand gestures and facial expressions to tell a story.

In this photo, the lady of the Ann tribe in eastern Myanmar wanted me to buy a bag, I didn’t. However the way we communicated and the laughter that ensued meant that I both bought a bag and captured a very natural image. We both walked away happy, and smiling. Which is how it should be.'

Bird in flight by David Fettes
'Have your camera settings ready for action shots'

Photos of Wildlife

Professional photographer David Fettes

'Part of the joy of wildlife photography is in working with a medium over which you have no control, and yet capturing the seemingly impossible moment. More importantly, through photographing animals we learn so much about them, their characteristics, their habits, their behaviour. To do it well, we have to study them. By doing so, we not only learn to predict what they might do in any given situation, but learn to understand their individual place in the ecosystem and their relative importance in it. In this I believe it is impossible not to be humbled by the complexity and wonder of nature and this world we live in, and to be determined to help preserve our wildernesses and wildlife for the generations that will follow us.'

David's top tips:


When we turn up at a spot — a waterhole; a beach; a woodland — often there is no wildlife about. That can often be because we have just turned up! Be patient. If you have the time, sit quietly and wait. Over two or three hours — or longer if you have it — animals will come and go, and those that have hidden but not left will become habituated to you and may well re-emerge into the scene.

Study animals

By studying animals we learn their behaviour, and in doing so learn to predict how they might react or behave. So watch them and learn about and from them. They are often very predictable — birds generally fly away from you when they take off; generally baboons in a tree will run down it when approached, vervet monkeys up it; a lion walking past another that is lying down often rubs its face against the prone one’s face, giving a touching moment. In this way you get some control over the final outcome of your image and it becomes more than just about the photo — it immerses you as observer and recorder in the lives of your subjects.

Camera settings

Animals are either static, or running about. Have your camera settings ready for action shots because when the action happens, it is usually sudden and you won’t often have the time to change the settings. If the animal is static, you will usually have that time. After taking a posed, inaction shot, put the settings back to be ready for an action moment.

Lioness, sunset, Masai Mara
'This photo epitomises the Masai Mara'

Africa manager Katie Fewkes

'This image was taken in the Masai Mara, in the Musiara marsh region near Governors’ camps. Watching a pride of lion, a herd of elephant came into view in the background and I waited patiently to time the composition — to me this photo epitomises the Masai Mara and always makes me want to go back!'

A few of Katie's tips

  • A telephoto zoom lens makes a big difference to wildlife photography — 300 mm is ideal and I’d recommend one with image stabiliser technology to avoid blurry photos.
  • Take a spare jumper or similar that you can rest the camera on, particularly when using the zoom, to help stabilise the camera. Some safari lodges offer beanbags for this purpose.
  • Try to get as close to ground level as possible to get the best angle on your subject — looking down from a vehicle on a lion won’t give you the same impact.
  • Make sure you focus your camera on the eye of an animal or bird — if that’s sharp, the rest will fall into place.
  • Get to know your camera settings before you travel — understanding the light settings, motion settings and depth of field make all the difference in getting the shot you want!
Grand Canyon, USA
'The subtle colours of the rock layers are best viewed just after dawn'

Landscape photography

USA specialist Matt Lynch

'For me, the single biggest factor that can affect a landscape photograph is the quality of light in which it was taken. This is especially the case in the USA’s spectacular south west and in particular the iconic Grand Canyon, where the subtle colours of the rock layers are best viewed just after dawn and before dusk, known as the ‘magic hours’.

Before embarking on a classic American road trip, it’s also worthwhile doing some ground work before you travel. With only one night at the Grand Canyon, a simple map and compass helped me research and choose Hopi Point as the location from which I wanted to photograph the sunset.'

Varanasi, India
Varanasi, India

Perfect places for photography

Varanasi, India

India’s spiritual heart and a city with an abundance of colour and activity as well as a fantastic variety of people due to the spiritual and religious importance of the country's longest inhabited city.

Kaingo Camp, Zambia

The camp has several photographic hides which are a photographer’s dream — you can get much closer to the wildlife at waterholes by waiting patiently than on a game drive. One focusses on hippos, one on elephants and another on the carmine bee-eaters which the park is famous for (best visited in October when they are seen literally in their hundreds).

Yangshuo and Longji, southwest China

Yangshuo for its spectacular karst peaks and the strikingly beautiful countryside of the Guangxi Province.

Longji for the panoramic water-filled rice terraces. Also known as the 'Dragon's Backbone', it's an awe-inspiring location to experience Zhuang minority culture first-hand.

Petra, Jordan

An iconic site, nothing prepares you for the splendour of the Treasury Tomb. The light formations in the Siq and the rose-red colour of the ruins make it a stunning location for photography enthusiasts.

Galapagos Islands, Ecuador

The fearless wildlife means you can get within touching distance (without touching!) of the wildlife. No telescopic lenses required and no blurred photos as the wildlife does not scarper in the presence of humans. There are also incredible volcanic landscapes and picture-postcard beaches.

The Temples of Angkor, Cambodia

Best photographed in the early hours or late afternoon/early evening when the light is soft, as opposed to the harsh light of the midday sun, this is one of the most evocative and atmospheric temple complexes in Southeast Asia.The smiling faces of the Bayon and the tangled roots that envelop Ta Prohm make fantastic photos.

The Polar regions

The captivating, icy landscapes of Antarctica and the Arctic are ideal for the keen photographer. Whether you enjoy watching migrating whales, capturing penguins or polar bears or simply filming icebergs, you won't be disappointed.

New Zealand

Everywhere is pretty much a photographer's delight but Milford or Doubtful Sound are renowned for their grand mountain scenery.

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