Describe your perfect day on your travels:
My perfect would start by waking up in a tented camp somewhere in Africa. When photographing wildlife dawn and dusk are the key times to be out and when the big cats are most active and the light is at its the best so when on safari its always a very early start.
By leaving the camp in the dark it also means you can easily get to a picturesque spot for sunrise. It is often said that African sunrises and sunsets are the best in the world and I certainly agree. With Africa’s amazing diverse geography of rolling desert dunes, thick tropical forests and jungles, open grassy plains and vast open savannahs it’s not difficult to find a stunning landscape where you can watch the sun creep up over the horizon. Also it doesn’t always have to be about the animals, I also love to just listen to the dawn chorus of the birds as they wake up and sing in a new day.
Heading out on safari is always so exciting as you just don’t know what you might see. No sighting can ever be predicted and each one is unique. Spending time with wild animals in their environment and watching them go about their daily lives is truly a privilege. The best days photography are those when you capture some unique moments when animals are active and there is interaction – either between the same animal species ie mothers and cubs or between different species, one of the most amazing I saw was a buffalo and hippo playing! Elephants and leopards are probably my two most favourite animals to photograph. Elephants are always active and doing something (unlike many animals like lions who sleep a lot of the time) and the youngsters are often playful, whilst leopards are the most stunning, elegant and elusive of the cats so a sighting of them is always exciting.
Patience is the key to taking wildlife photographs so you may have to sit for many hours waiting for something to happen but even so it might not or an animal might move off in a different direction.
The perfect way to end a day in Africa would be sipping a large G&T at sundowners. Whether at a scenic waterhole, riverbank or perched on a hillside watching the the sky go golden and the horizon catch fire and then cool as you move into the ‘blue hour’ the end of a day is always magical - there is no place like Africa at sunset. And once back in camp a hot shower followed by a delicious dinner and catchup around the campfire listening to the sounds of lions roar and hyenas whoop there is absolutely no place I would rather be.
What has been your favourite travel destination and why?
One of my most favourite destinations is Myanmar. The people there are so friendly and the country is incredibly diverse. As a photographer you are looking to create a varied portfolio of images and this is one place where it is easy to do so. From the buzzing markets to the extraordinary ancient temples at Bagan, the untouched beaches, the stunning Inhle Lake with its stilted wooden houses it is a country with endless cultural richness.
Unzip your packing must-haves: what 5 things do you have to pack on your photography trips?
On most photographic trips, you are very limited as to what luggage you can take particularly if you are travelling on small internal aircraft that you mostly use to get around Africa so I generally have to pack very light so everything has to have a use.
A small but powerful torch is an essential particularly when in a tent or in places where you don’t always have reliable electricity, laundry detergent so you can wash your clothes as you go, insect repellent and antihistamines, there is nothing worse than bitten to death by mosquitoes or going crazy with itching if you have, a light breathable raincoat as good weather is never a guarantee and a comfortable pair of walking shoes, you never want your sense of adventure to be hampered by not having the right kit.
Where's next on your travel bucket list?
The more you travel the more you want to see so my bucket list is in fact growing and I don’t seem to be ticking it off at all! I am hoping to go to Botswana later this year.
Give us some tips for taking unbelievably good travel photographs.
Great travel photography starts way before you actually arrive at your destination – do some research on the location or country you are visiting and spend time finding out about local landmarks, interesting architecture or areas of natural beauty that would make good subjects and locations for your photographs. Also every destination has hidden gems off the beaten track so ask locals and use platforms like Instagram to see where people might have photographed before.
Light is the most important ingredient for good photography so get up early and take advantage of amazing light when it happens. Dawn and dusk are always best when the sun is not so harsh and there are often less people about.
When photographing iconic destinations try and think outside the box and photograph things in a different way to everyone else. Experiment from different angles and heights.
Try to create an interesting and varied selection of photographs. Look out for interesting reflections and details in architecture, textures, colours, people wearing national dress and elements that are unique to your destination.
Consider what is going on in the background of a picture and try to keep it clean or crop out any distracting items such a branches, lamp posts, rubbish bins etc.
Always ask if you can take a photograph of a person and try to build up a rapport with that person even if you don’t speak the same language you can engage with them. Once you have taken a photo always show it to them, not only is this courteous but it can also prompt them to allow you to take more and you often then get more natural behaviour and hence a better photo.
One of the most basic photography tips, is understanding the Rule of Thirds which helps to balance your image and improve the composition. Imagine breaking a photograph down into thirds vertically and horizontally so it’s split into different sections. Try to place the important elements of the picture into the left or right sections, the idea being that an off centre composition is more pleasing to the eye and looks more natural than one where the subject is in the middle of the frame, and remember to always keep an eye on your horizon line and keep it straight!
Nathalie is an award-winning travel photographer. Limited edition prints are available at www.natmountainphoto.com/index. All images courtesy of Nathalie Mountain.