May is coming to an end, soon graduations will take place and after that summer vacation and all the photos you’ll take while you’re on the road.

Vacation photos essentially are the same as travel photography. Like all things, the more you practice at travel pictures the better you’ll get at it. But short of traveling all the time, how do you practice those travel photos? Do it close to home. It may sound counter intuitive, but what you need to do is to treat your hometown or city like a travel destination.

The key is making time to go out and do some shooting. Plan a “photo walk” for yourself. That means you need to do some sightseeing as if you were on vacation. I know it may be hard since you may see these sights on a daily basis and might take them for granted, but try to see them with fresh eyes as if you haven’t seen them before. Look at things from different angles that you’re used to seeing them at. If you always pass by a certain building from one side, try looking at it from the other side.

Look for interesting architecture. It’s easy to get caught up in the beauty off the overall urban landscape of a city, but don’t forget the details as well. The details of parts of a building can be just as interesting. Also, look to see how shiny surfaces — windows, polished walls, etc. — can reflect other buildings, too.

See how light affects and reflects off of those surfaces. One building may look very different in the morning than in the middle of the day.

Speaking of light, I know I go on and on about it but lighting can make or break a photo. The best light of the day is either during early morning or late afternoon. By going out locally at those times you can see how dramatically light affects the scenery. When you go on your trip you can plan some of your picture taking around those hours of the day.

Night shots can yield great shots during your vacation but, with setting up the camera and finding the right setting, possibly under the limited time constraints of your itinerary, it can be stressful if you haven’t done it before. Getting some practice at home before you go can be helpful.

Photographing people also is something to look for on your travels, but it’s one of the hardest photographic disciplines to master. One technique is to take your pictures clandestinely, on the fly, so to speak. You have to be quick on the draw and be able to react swiftly to rapidly changing situations. Another is to just ask people to take their picture. Both are valid but are harder to do than it may seem. Practicing in your own town can help a lot before you go on your vacation.

So make some time before you go on your vacation to work on your travel photography techniques and, as the old joke goes, practice, practice, practice.

Contact photographer Clifford Oto at (209) 546-8263 or coto@recordnet.com. Follow him at recordnet.com/otoblog

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