How Not to Take Photos of a Thai Temple

People on a tram with adverting signs.

I was sitting on the floor of a Hong Kong tram looking at an image in the monitor of my camera. “Excuse me sir,” said a passenger. “If you push the window down and lift the camera a little higher you won’t get all the flare that you’re getting on your photographs.”

He had been watching me for 15 minutes as I took pictures through the window of passing trams. He then got up from his seat, pushed down the window and showed me where I needed to stand so I would be able to take photographs without flare.

I didn’t have the heart to tell him that I was illustrating an article about how to take photographs through windows of a moving vehicle. This includes showing how not to take such photos which, of course, was what I was doing at that point in time.

I am putting material together for a second edition of my book Travel Photography — How to Photograph People by Lonely Planet. Recently I was at a temple in Chiang Mai, Thailand and I watched a group of tourists take pictures of each other to record their travels. Instead of posing their wives in front of a beautiful scene of a temple, the men stood with their backs to the temple and photographed their subjects against some bushes which could have been taken anywhere in the world.

I once flew on a helicopter across the outback of Australia. As we were lifting off from the tarmac the tourists sharing the flight with me frantically took pictures of their parked bus. And for the rest of the journey across some of the most stunning views of that continent they didn’t take a photograph. I often wonder what kind of conversations they had with the family back home while showing pictures of their holidays.