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Ralph Lee Hopkins/National Geographic
TravelTraveler Magazine

Photo Tips from Nat Geo Travel Photographers

10% off registration for Traveler‘s Fall Photo Seminars

Have you always dreamed of becoming the next great National Geographic photographer, traveling on assignment to some of the world’s most exotic and exciting destinations? Well here’s your chance to learn from the pros and get one step closer to realizing your goal. Beginning in September, our popular photography seminar series returns. At these day-long events, hear from National Geographic Traveler photographers as they share tips and advice about these topics: Using Light to Make Powerful Images; Putting the WOW in Your Nature and Outdoor Photography; A Passion for Travel: Photos That Tell the Story; and Becoming a Versatile Travel Photographer. Sign up today through August 7 using the coupon code EARLY10 to receive 10 percent off  your registration.

The first seminar doesn’t begin until September, so in the meantime we asked Traveler photographer Ralph Lee Hopkins to give us a sneak peek into his fall lecture, Becoming a Versatile Travel Photographer. Here’s what Ralph had to say about mastering the art of travel photography:

Intelligent Travel: Your seminar is about becoming a versatile travel photographer by learning to shoot all the different elements of a travel story: portraits, architecture, festivals and celebrations, landscapes and cityscapes. Does having to capture all these different elements make shooting a travel story easier or harder? What element do you prefer to shoot?

Ralph Lee Hopkins: Shooting all the different elements of a story is what makes travel photography so much fun. Obviously, some subjects are more challenging to capture than others. I find photographing people, for example, to be the most difficult to do well. Photographing people requires finding approachable people in a pleasing situation in good light. That takes a lot of time and effort and being out at different times of day when people are out and about and things are happening. I’m most comfortable shooting landscapes and wildlife, but I also enjoy photographing festivals and celebrations with all the different photo opportunities.

What is your favorite piece of equipment or accessory that you’ll never be caught without while on assignment?

Interesting question, since I rely on my gear almost on a daily basis. I guess I would have to say my 24-105mm lens is the one piece of equipment I can’t live without (attached to a camera body of course). The 24-105 is the most versatile lens and my workhorse for photographing people, landscapes, and for aerial photography.

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Ralph Lee Hopkins (NGS)

What’s the number one thing you want the audience to take away from your seminar?

The major point I want people to take away from the seminar is that, in the end, it doesn’t matter what camera you use, or how much equipment you carry. It’s all about knowing how to use your camera, knowing its strengths and limitations, and being there in the moment, at the right time and the right place, to get the shot. The actual practice of clicking the shutter is the easy part. It’s doing the research, getting to location, and taking the time to find good situations to make images.

Best piece of advice you’ve received as a travel photographer?

The best advice I ever got was from my good friend and colleague Bob Krist who says that, in photography, it’s not your batting average that counts, but whether you get the shot, so shoot to exhaustion and don’t be satisfied thinking that you nailed it. Keep working until the situation is over, or until exhaustion, whichever comes first.

If you could choose your next assignment for Traveler where would it be?

This is a difficult question, since there are still so many great places in the world to visit. Near the top of my list would be driving the Ring Road around Iceland in mid-summer, when the days are long and the sun barely sets, being so close to the Arctic Circle. This 830-mile adventure circumnavigating the island would be the ultimate road trip, and something that anyone could do (with time and money, that is). Iceland has great photographic variety, from rugged coastlines, expansive volcanic landscapes and hot springs, to interesting people and wildlife (puffins, puffins, puffins…).

For more information about Traveler‘s Fall Photo Seminars and to register, visit:

Discount offer ends Aug 7, 2011.