It’s travel month here at OLYMPUS central – so check your passport has a few blank pages, clear your memory cards and make sure your vaccinations are up to date, because over the next month we’re going to teach you all you need to know about the ins and outs of travel photography.
But before you start about obsessing about the right f-stop for perfect portraits, or the logistics of which plug adapter works where (pro tip: take one plug adapter and a four-way power strip), you’ll need that most basic of travel photography essentials: a good itinerary. Allow us – and our expert, globe-trotting OLYMPUS ambassadors – to share a bit of urban photography knowledge.
1. Sydney, Australia
We don’t mind starting with the obvious, but only because Sydney is such a bonza (sorry) place to get out with a camera. Sited in a gorgeous bit of geography (Sydney Harbour would look incredible even without the bridge and Opera House) and then styled out with some timeless architecture, a lively arts scene and interesting nightlife, you could shoot for a long time in the jewel in Downunda’s crown before you struck a cliché.
2. Tokyo, Japan
Forget going out for a day’s photography in Tokyo – embrace jet-lag and head out once the sun’s down. Incredible temples such as Sensō-ji are hardly less spectacular once the sun’s set, and you’ll find fewer tourists harshing your photographic buzz.
3. Cape Town, South Africa
Most tourists use Cape Town as a place to freshen up after hustling after the big five on a game drive, but there’s a huge amount to recommend a proper photographic expedition in the city itself. Landscape photographers will be in heaven: the spectacular bay and Table Mountain are just two possibilities for sunset and sunrise.
4. Chicago, USA
Freshen up your knowledge of brutalist architecture in the style’s spiritual home. Chicago is home to the world’s first skyscraper, and for years Sears Tower (now Willis Tower) was the world’s tallest. Our advice: swerve the observation deck at Willis Tower and head instead for 360 Chicago in the John Hancock centre: it’s only a hair cheaper but it’s much quieter, plus you get better views of the marina. You also get to ride the fastest elevator in the western hemisphere.
Singapore is an uproarious collision of cultures: east meets east meets west. Photographers love it for its street photography: head to Little India Arcade or one of the city’s frequent flea markets to find pictures most tourists miss.
6. Oaxaca, Mexico
Now we’re talking. Most Mexico-bound tourists head to the beaches. Oaxaca state has some belters, but the state capital is all pastel-coloured adobe-clad buildings, street food and friendly, fascinating locals. The weather doesn’t suck too much, either.
7. Essaouira, Morocco
Ask anyone who’s been and they’ll tell you street photography in Marrakech is a pain: locals know exactly what their image is worth, and wandering around with a camera is a guaranteed way of finding plenty of hassle. Instead, hop in your hire car and drive two hours to the coast, where you’ll find Essaouira, all fish markets, tranquil white-and-blue alleys and laid-back Europeans looking for decent surf spots.
8. Mumbai, India
From one extreme to another: Mumbai is the spiritual opposite of Essaouira. Take a deep breath and a swig of chai and jump in. Head up Hotel Marine Plaza for a spectacular overview of the city (and a dip in the rooftop pool), or meander along the beach for a look at the locals on their downtime. You can’t beat the antique shopping, either: head to the Chor Bazaar antique market (literal translation: thieves’ market) for a change to haggle, shoot photographs and celebrate a successful day of photography with a curry.
9. George Town, Malaysia
From one curry to another: George Town is Kuala Lumpur’s smaller, friendlier, quieter, better-smelling cousin. It’s still the capital’s mishmash of cultures, where Chinese, Indian and European people come together, mixed together with captivating colonial architecture. The coast is gorgeous and cool, or you can use the funicular railway to head up to the top of Penang Hill for a look at the city while the sun goes down.
10. Xian, China
How’s your Mandarin? If you’re anything like us the answer is “not good”, so prepare to spend a lot of your time in Xian winging it. And pointing. Still, because Xian doesn’t see anything like the volume of Westerners as, say Hong Kong or Beijing, you’ll get a more curious reception and find plenty of locals happy to have their picture snapped. Try one of the animal markets, or head up on to the city walls for a top-down view of China going about its business.