There are lots of professional photographers out there – including me – offering some great photography tours to the keen enthusiast, promising to lead the way to some pretty exotic and sometimes remote destinations. So I thought I’d put together a few words on what I – as a tour provider – think the ingredients are for a successful photography tour. After all, they’re not cheap, and so anyone considering signing up for one wants to be sure that their money is going to be well spent.
Looking for the right ingredients
Naturally, different types of tours will appeal to different types of photography enthusiasts, but here are a couple of things to bear in mind with any tour:
- Select the right subject matter. Make sure that the tour(s) you’re looking at cover(s) the subject matter that’s of interest to you. It’s no good signing up for a tour that will concentrate on photography of people if it’s landscapes that you’re into.
- Get the right destination. Ensure that the offered destination(s) are right for you, whether that means the climate, the food or the general environment. This is important not just for your interest as a photographer but also for any health issues you might have.
- Get the travelling right. Is there the right balance between time spent travelling from place to place and time spent photographing? You really don’t want to spend hours travelling in a minibus, or indeed hiking over rough terrain, to get to a photo location and then be told that you’ve only got 10 minutes there. Travel times should be relatively short and not arduous, allowing plenty of time and energy for photography.
- Check the time of year. Has the tour been arranged to happen at the right time of year? You don’t really want to visit a tropical country at the height of the rainy season, for example, or go photographing wildlife when the animals have all migrated away.
- Is the accommodation all right? This is a pretty difficult one to be sure of until you’ve done the tour, even for those arranging the trips, but do your best in advance to check that the accommodation being offered is of the standard you’d like.
- Is the photographer/group leader up to the task? I’ve saved this one for last, but for a photography tour it’s obviously of huge importance. If the photography tour includes photography tuition then is the leader sufficiently knowledgeable about photographic techniques to be able to teach? And more than this, is he/she able to give leadership, companionship and encouragement in unfamiliar environments in a foreign country? This issue goes well beyond their ability to take photographs and/or teach photography, but is about their people skills.
What I offer on my tours
My two 2017 photography tours to Ladakh (Tibetan India) and Iceland have both been put together with all the above points closely in mind. Here are a few pointers to my thought processes in designing both tours:
Ladakh; 1-11 July 2017
- Subject matter. This tour is a very varied mix of both landscape and cultural/people photography, covering both the rugged Himalayan landscapes and the unique Buddhist culture of the region’s Tibetan peoples. There may also be some wildlife photography, but that is likely to be a secondary feature of the tour.
- Time of year. Although most of India will be deluged with heavy rain during July, Ladakh is shut off from this by the Himalayas, ensuring clear, dry weather, and hence maximising photographic opportunities.
- Local travelling. Although overnight stops will often be several hours’ drive apart, there will be plenty of photography stops along the way, each with more or less open-ended amounts of time to shoot. There will be little or no hiking between sites – a vehicle will be used at all times, at least in part due to the high altitude that will make walking quite tiring.
- Accommodation. Hotels are quite thinly spread in Ladakh, but what there is are largely of a high standard. Everywhere we stay will be 3-4 stars on an international scale, so comfort will be assured.
To find out more about the Ladakh tour click here.
Iceland; 21-26 Sept 2017
- Subject matter. This will be largely about the rugged volcanic landscapes of the west coast of Iceland, including some dramatic lava fields, coastal cliffs and the Snaefellsjokull volcanic ice-cap, as well as numerous waterfalls and lakes. The Northern Lights will also be a significant feature, assuming that we have clear night skies and some activity. There will also be architectural photography around some of the stunning buildings in Reykjavik.
- Time of year. I’ve opted to run the tour during the autumn, around the Equinox, largely to ensure a reasonable chance of seeing the Northern Lights while at the same time not risking really cold or extreme weather. The downside of this time of year is that we won’t see a great deal of wildlife, the huge flocks of breeding seabirds that nest on Iceland’s coast in the summer having already departed by this time.
- Local travelling. Iceland’s main roads are very good, helping to keep travel times down. In this year’s tour I’ve opted to spend most of our time concentrating on photography in the Snaefellsnes peninsula, ensuring that distances between photo locations are really quite short.
- Accommodation. Hotels in Iceland are generally rather expensive, making Icelandic tours quite costly. However, I always want to make sure that everyone is comfortable, so we don’t skimp on quality in order to save a few Pounds. Hotels are generally of at least 3-star quality even in the remotest areas.
To find out more about the Iceland tour click here.
About me as a tutor and leader
Obviously, the question about me as a tutor and leader applies to both tours, so I’ve left this part to last.
I have been working as a professional photographer for over 25 years, I am a Fellow of the British Institute of Professional Photography (BIPP), the highest qualification in one of the UK’s leading professional photography bodies, and I shoot for the USA’s prestigious National Geographic Creative. So, I’m hoping that these qualifications confirm me as a very skilful and knowledgeable photographer.
In terms of my ability to teach photography, I have been running my own photography workshops for over 10 years and overseas tours for about five years. So I believe I’ve learned what it is that most photography enthusiasts struggle with or want to improve in their photography, and have worked out a number of successful ways to put over a wide variety of techniques and skills. Although during my one-day workshops the tuition I deliver is by necessity quite intensive, during the tours I tend to take things more slowly and drip-feed information, giving everyone in my group time and space to simply enjoy their photography while at the same time learning.
As for my ability to lead a group in overseas locations, I’ve worked in a huge range of environments – some of them quite hostile – in a large number of countries, and have spent plenty of time interacting with a wide variety of people in those countries. As a result, I’m comfortable working in a great many places, and so am able to help those in my groups feel at ease and confident in unfamiliar environments.
A final word
A photography tour overseas is a fantastic way for a photography enthusiast to get to practise and enjoy their photography away from home, provided of course they choose the right tour for them.
Needless to say, I’d love to hear from anyone that feels my tours are just what they’re looking for. I believe I offer some great photography in fantastic locations, with plenty of expert guidance and tuition, all for a reasonable cost.
To see galleries of my photography go to www.nigelhicks.com
To see specifically our photography tours section click here.