I love to travel the world and visit amazing places that you see in postcards, on magazine covers and all over the internet. However, trying to get that people free image that recreate a feeling when you are there without people holding Ipads over their heads or taking their selfie for Instagram is getting harder and harder. I have tried a lot of different things over the last few years with my travels and I found that sometimes the simplest is the best. I know people talk about using Photoshop and clone stamping them out or taking 20-30 images and using Photoshop File>Scripts>Statistics way but it requires you to take more photos which fill up your card space along with creating extra work for you when you get back home. When I already have more images than I want to edit, why would I create more work for me when I get back. I have 3 Very simple ways to get rid of Tourist in my images and it starts with this first one.
Waiting for that perfect moment in time
I learned this technique from watching a video with Scott Kelby. He was talking about his vacation to Europe and he simply said “if you wait, it will come”. What he meant by that was there will be a moment in time when everything will line up and you will have a 5-10 sec window to get that perfect shot that will be a people free image. There will be a gap in tour groups or the car traffic, the moment when everything lines up will happen, and when it does… TAKE THE SHOT!
Here you can see what am talking about at Fushimi Inari shrine torri gates. The famous 10,000 torri gates of Kyoto attract a lot of traffic and trying to get that perfect people free image can take a bit of time. However, if you wait, it will come. Let me show you what I tired first and how it “failed” that tourist free image. Trust me, this place will test your patience when it comes to waiting.
This first image is a snapshot taken in one of the two main tunnels of Torri gates as you walk up the mountain path. It’s a long path which has a never ending amount of people stopping and taking photos. I tried to have them blurred out by shooting at 30 secs to have them disappear but as you can see from the next image, it was not long enough.
So I pulled out my 10 stop ND filter and the APP “Long Exposure calculator” to find my settings for a 5 minute long exposure. I tried this thinking it would get me my people free image but all it did was blur them even more but still had a dark mess of people at the end of the tunnel. It did get rid of most of the people in my image but left a grey ghosting I did not want so I went to the simple method next….. Just wait for the gap.
I turned the camera around and pointed it back up the hill looking towards the bend in the walkway. It still was long enough to create the feeling of a never ending tunnel of Torri gates which is what I was looking for. I set the camera up to Manuel along with Manuel focus and just waited…. and waited… and waited. About 10 minutes into my wait, a gap happened when a group of people behind me stopped the flow of people when they took their Ipad selfie. It gave me enough time to take this people free image of the Fushimi Inari shrine torri gates.
I switched lens to a narrower 50mm lens and did this same thing again. It only took about 5 more minutes till another gap in the flow of people to get this people free image. Once I went to the “Wait and it will come” method, it only took me about 30 minutes to get about 7 image of the Torri gates, plus I don’t mind waiting for them at all. If gives me time to just relax and enjoy my surroundings. You came all the way here to this wonderful spot, why not just sitting back and enjoy it.
Early bird gets the worm
I always hear the older generations of people talking about this saying and now with photography, I truly understand it now. Sometimes no matter what you do, you can never get a break. I went to Arashiyama Bamboo Grove in Kyoto and I tried the whole “if you wait, it will come” method and well….. It was never going to happen. I waited and waited for over 45 minutes in one spot trying to get the image I was after. I gave up and went for a Long exposure of 30 secs and it still was to busy to get a people free image. The way that Arashiyama Bamboo Grove is set up, there is a steady flow of people due to its long and wide path way no choke points to slow down foot traffic. This place will never create a moment in time when you can get a people free image if there is any type of steady foot traffic. When this happens, you have to set your alarm at 4:45 AM(depends on the time of year) and get there before sunrise to beat the tourists.
Here you can see a normal image with all the people walking up and down the path. I loved the sunlight hitting the top of trees and really really wanted to get this shot. The next image is a 30 sec exposure and you can see that it was not even close to what I wanted.
Here is my Sunrise image of the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove in Kyoto. I was able to shoot here with about 3-4 other photographers getting the shots we all wanted to get. When you wake up that early, you run into some really nice people. We all knew why each of us were there and we worked together getting the images that we wanted to capture while not getting in each other shot. Once I got what I wanted, I left and ran into the first tour group at 7:00 AM. They asked me to pose for them as I walked out. Fun times but early mornings suck!
Embrace the people and use them instead
Sometimes trying to remove the people is pointless cause you will waste more time waiting for the gap in traffic or in photoshop removing that one person with the clone stamp. Sometimes having a person in your photos help give scale or perspective to the image. If you photograph a Giant Red Wood Tree, you can’t really tell how large it is until you put a person next to it. Sometimes I add a person in my images to show emotion. I was in Paris at the Musée de l’Orangerie seeing the Water lilies by Claude Monet which these sets of paintings are very long and tall paintings wrap around a round room. These are amazing painting to see in person but a photo of them could not really tell you the scale and the beauty of them. I took a few images without people in the image but it did not have the feeling and show how amazing this place was. So I took a few images with this one girl(my wife) looking at the painting on the wall. This was the trick that help give the image a sense of scale along with a emotion.
I know that there are more than one way to skin a cat when it comes to things like this. Am not saying that my ways are the very best when it comes to getting that people free image, but they work for me. I just found that if you keep it very simple and easy, it typically the best solution to a problem. So the next time you are out and waiting to get that perfect image of a Zen like landscape, try and use one of my methods of dealing with people. My favorite way of dealing with the people is the early morning shoots cause you really do feel alone in magical places like the Bamboo Forest. Being alone by yourself in places like that in such an amazing feeling without the Ipads and selfie sticks. Hope you enjoyed this post and please share with me what method you use to create your images.