Interview with Scott A. Woodward, SanDisk Extreme Team Member and renowned photographer whose work has appeared in National Geographic Magazine, Condé Nast Traveller, Travel + Leisure, Departures, Monocle, Vogue, GQ, Esquire, The Financial Times and The New York Times. He has photographed advertising campaigns for global brands like Google, MasterCard, Adidas, Nokia, InterContinental Hotels, Johnnie Walker, Nestle, Standard Chartered Bank, Johnson & Johnson and Unilever. Luerzer’s Archive honoured Woodward as one of the “200 Best Ad Photographers Worldwide” and Nikon named him “One of Asia’s Finest Photographers”.
Woodward recently hosted Around the World with Voyager, a five-episode travel and portrait photography television series on The HISTORY Channel Asia. Woodward is a SanDisk Extreme Team member, a Nikon Professional Photographer and a Getty Images Global Assignments photographer.
Q) So how do you view photography today?
A) I believe that photography is the most accessible and democratic form of artistic expression. The ubiquity of digital cameras – on mobile phones or small point-and-shoot models, all the way to large, powerful DSLR or medium format cameras – is making it ever simpler to capture high-quality images anywhere, anytime.
Q) What do you say to people who imply that your photos are a result of the professional DSLR equipment that you use?
A) As most will attest, making great photographs has little to do with owning the best and most expensive equipment. The real secret behind great photography is in how you see a moment and interpret it in a still frame, regardless of what type of camera you are using. Are you able to make something ordinary appear extraordinary by showing it differently? Are you able to make the viewer feel an emotion when they see your photograph? Are you able to transport someone to a moment with you simply by pressing the shutter?
Q) So how do you avoid those cliché’ vacation snapshots?
A) I once read that a camera is a great excuse to delve into a place deeper than we otherwise would. I like this description. Searching for an interesting photograph forces us to look at our surroundings differently, to explore a place further, to look beyond the obvious and hunt for something unique and special.
Q) Do you feel you have attained a certain ‘style’?
A) I call my photography style “Choose Your Own Adventure Photography,” after the books I used to read as a child. Literally and creatively, I can go one direction and discover a remarkable photographic opportunity; or I can go another direction and find something entirely different. It is this adventure that is the beauty of photography for me.
Q) How about some favorite tips for better travel photography?
A) Sure…I’ve got ten that I’m happy to share:
#1 – Be inspired. Do a little research about the places your travels will take you ahead of time. The more you know about where you will be shooting, the better prepared you can be. Try to have some ideas for the types of photographs you want to create beforehand. There is no shame in looking at other photographers’ interpretations of a location or scene. If you need help getting the juices flowing and creating your own unique photography, there is an endless stream of imagery from photographers across the globe on Instagram, Flickr and Twitter to help you get inspired.
#2 – Pack smart. Once you have an idea where your trip will take you and what you will be shooting while you’re there, you will be able to plan what equipment will be necessary. However, be judicious with the amount of camera gear that makes it into your bag. There is no point in packing a bag full of hulking DSLRs and heavy lenses if the bulk and weight will hinder your ability to carry everything or safely get a shot. It seems like common sense, but many people underestimate how heavy photography equipment becomes after lugging it on your shoulder or back for many hours.
#3 – Good things come in small packages. If you anticipate that your heavy DSLR and lenses will be too cumbersome for the journey, then consider packing a point-and-shoot camera or simply using your smartphone. Remember that great photographs are not created by the biggest equipment; they are made by creative photographers. And the smaller the device, the more inconspicuous it is, which often helps the photographer to capture better candid imagery.
But this does not mean you should skimp on the quality of your digital photographic equipment – for example, always using quality storage media, like SanDisk Extreme CF, SD and microSD memory cards – to ensure that every moment is captured and safely preserved forever.
#4 – Add life to landscapes. Beautiful landscape shots can be breathtaking, but if you’ve ever been subjected to a friend or family member’s holiday snaps, you know how dull they can become after you’ve looked at 50 or 100 of them in a row. Try adding people to your landscape photographs. Even if they occupy just a little bit of space within your frame, a human touch helps make a more powerful photograph: it gives scale to an image, offers perspective and adds drama.