Ditch the grads!
Post-processing is also the key to leaving those expensive and time-consuming graduated neutral density filters at home. They’re traditionally used to balance skies and reflections in landscape photography, but Adobe Lightroom has extensive virtual graduated filters built in. These allow you a far greater degree of control, as you can stack filters and use them just to lighten shadows, or even correct white balance. I have found it more effective to shoot at midway between the two exposures, and use one graduated filter to darken the lighter portion of the image, and another to lighten the darker parts. This tends to give a more balanced result than, say, exposing
for the foreground and using a single graduated filter to darken the sky.
Managing without a long lens
If you have an 18-200mm lens on a crop sensor camera, then the effective crop at the telephoto end is the same as a 300mm lens. However if, like many photographers, you’re shooting with an 18-55mm kit lens, frame-filling shots of things like wildlife photography will be more of a challenge.
There are a couple of things that you can do here. One is to simply take the shots and blow them up in post-processing. The effective resolution will go down, of course, but depending on the resolution of your Nikon your pictures could be fine for viewing online or even as small prints. A more polished solution is to compose your shot to take into account the equipment that you have, not what you
wish you had. So if you are photographing wildlife without a telephoto lens, compose a landscape shot where the animal is a feature in the landscape; or take a shot showing other tourists – or even your travel companions – viewing the wildlife with the animals in the background.
If you aren’t photographing wildlife and it is safe, of course, then you can always try the old manual zoom – simply move in closer to fill the frame with your subject. Too many photographers fail to do this, but it can lead to frame-filling and engaging pictures.
Avoiding hard shadows – and reflectors!
Professional photographers often shoot portraits of the people they encounter on their travels using a reflector, or even an off-camera flash with a softbox, to compensate for the harsh shadows cast by overhead direct sunlight towards the middle of the day. You can avoid the need to do this by photographing people in even, shaded light. Easier said that done, you may think, but much of the time in hotter climates people sit in the shade anyway. Get used to looking out for people in the shade, not in sunlight. If someone is in direct sunlight and the light is harsh in the middle of the day, it is perfectly acceptable
to motion for them to move into the shade. In doing this you can also choose a better, less busy background for your portraits. Try to learn the local word for ‘shade’, which in addition to sign language, is usually enough to get the job done!
Many cameras have a small built-in flash, but this will often be obstructed if you are shooting with longer lens, and direct fill-flash won’t be as complementary as shooting in soft, shaded light.
RIGHT Shoot out of the harsh light of the sun for more pleasing portraits; in hot places, people often seek out shady spots anyway
ABOVE An 18-200mm lens on a DX camera has an effective focal length of 300mm, ideal for photographing wildlife, but you can always ‘zoom’ with your feet…