How to Practice Travel Photography at Home with Molly Van kley
One of my very favorite things to do as a photographer is to work at extraordinary locations—whether that means traveling to Paris or Sydney to find an incredible spot, or taking an ordinary location and making it exceptional. The latter is something I am often doing, even in non-Covid times, because traveling isn’t always an option. I often have to make do in a situation where I have to create the feeling of a place without actually being able to go there. In order to exceed my clients’ expectations in this current Covid climate, I’ve had to draw on a lot of the creative experiences I’ve had in the past as well as come up with some new solutions due to being unable to travel and partake in Travel Photography. It takes some creativity to create the feel of a different location while staying home or close to home. When starting the pre-production of one of my photoshoots, I think about all the elements that go into creating the scene and then bring them all together to create a fully stylized final image. Through location scouting, building a scene with sets and props, utilizing different lighting to accentuate the mood, switching up my perspective and getting only what I want in frame, and coordinating wardrobe, hair, makeup and accessories—I bring the story I’m telling to life.
First I’d like to tell you about a shoot I did before Covid that I think is a good example of creating a mood without travel photography. It was a test shoot with a local agency model and we wanted a moody, tropical look—but here in the middle of Georgia there aren’t many palm trees or scenic beaches to speak of. I looked at many tropical fashion images online and noted key elements of those photos that I wanted to represent in the images. The key elements I decided on were a warm color scheme, palm leaves, wet-looking hair and bronzed skin. When searching for a location to shoot I was looking for something that had a bare horizon line (i.e., no trees or buildings in the background). The location I decided to go with was an outdoor hiking spot that had little foliage and some sloping inclines so when standing at the base of one of these inclines there was a nice clean horizon line to mimic the look of a sand dune or something similar. To bring in more of a tropical feel, I brought real palm leaves cut from a palm plant I purchased at Home Depot for $20. Because I also wanted to play with the shadows of these palm leaves I decided to use a rectangular piece of board that I would hang behind the model. I painted it white and splattered paint all over it for added texture. This conveniently and simultaneously created more separation between the model and background and drew attention away from the details of the not-actually-a-beach setting.
I created a mood board and communicated with my wardrobe stylist and hair and makeup artist to make sure they understood the concept and mood. On set I worked with the model to evoke a tropical feel through her posing and expressions. In post-production I gave the images a warm tone to accentuate the sunny tropical vibe. Do the images look exactly like they would if we had traveled to a tropical beach? No. But I personally prefer them like this. We created what we aimed to create and I enjoyed the challenge. I was able to capture something unique and different by doing the shoot this way. Bringing props on location, using hair, makeup, and wardrobe styling to create a mood, making the most out of a limited location and controlling the perspective are all things I’ve drawn on during Covid to create dynamic images that do not look like they were created in Augusta, Georgia.