Oxford School of Photography

insights into photography

Category Archives: Travel Photography

The best travel compact cameras in 2017

So travel photography has a number of challenges and the first is the size of your gear. I tried to compromise and use smaller compact style cameras but never felt I could get the same as using my DSLR kit. So my compromise is to carry weighty cameras and lenses however not everybody is that stupid.

There are a range of compact cameras aimed at the travel market, for me Lumix and the TZ range has it in the bag but strangely not everyone agrees with me.

A travel compact should produce decent images, have good pixel count and probably most importantly a tremendous zoom range, sometimes called a super-zoom.

Tech Radar has done a sterling job reviewing what is the best travel camera in 2017


TZ100 Travel Compact

When you’re going on vacation you’re going to naturally want to take a camera along with you too, and the one in your smartphone probably won’t cut. Why? While it might be fine for snapshots, the fixed wide-angle lens on most smartphones won’t allow you to zoom into your subject.

In fact zooming is the key, because you won’t know what you want to shoot until you get there and quite often the things you want to photograph will be off in the distance. Now is not the time to find out your zoom isn’t powerful enough. And don’t think that you can simply digitally zoom in on your smartphone’s screen – quality will drop off rapidly.

This is why the ‘travel camera’ genre is so popular. These are compact cameras barely larger than a regular point-and-shoot model, but with massive 20x or 30x zoom lenses. You get the portability of a regular camera, but with much more scope for shooting different kinds of subjects.

Some models now sport larger sensors for improved image quality, the TZ100 has a 1″ sensor and is great in low light

You’re not going to get the same kind of quality you’d get from a DSLR or a mirrorless camera because the only way to make cameras with big zooms small enough to go in a pocket is to use a smaller sensor. But the picture quality is still pretty good, and perfect for sharing with friends and family, while some models now sport larger sensorsfor improved image quality. 

If you’re not sure this is the kind of camera you need, check our step by step guide: What camera should I buy?

Alternatively, if you’re going to be by the pool or on the beach, you might want something a bit more rugged, so take a look at our best waterproof cameraguide.


Photography Awards and Competitions

It is said this is the season to be merry, I know, whoever said that was mistaken, but it seems to me this is the season to be inundated with the outcome of photography competitions and awards. In the past I have produced separate posts on each but I have decided to roll them into one this time as it does all get a bit boring otherwise.

Landscape photographer of the Year

Travel Photographer of the Year

Sony World Photography Awards

Nature Photographer of the Year National Geographic

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Magnum Photography Awards

International Garden Photographer of the Year

Photographer of The Year Panoawards

Taylor Wessing Portrait Photography Award

Urban Photography Awards

This one is always a winner


Henri Cartier Bresson – Sunday on the banks of the River Marne 1938




Garden Photographer of The Year

IGOPTY is an annual competition to find the great images of plants and gardens from photographers around the world. If you have any interest in this area of photography then this web site and the associated exhibition is an absolute must for you. The images are universally beautiful and engaging; you ask yourself if it is this easy, it is photography in a garden, why can’t I do it. I guess it is about a great understanding of the use of your camera, huge amounts of patience, the desire to be there at the best moment and attention to detail. We can help with the camera bit with our courses on understanding your camera and with help on improving your composition and the use of software to make the most of your images we can help too. However the getting up before dawn to be in the right place at the right time that is up to you. To see the full gallery of winning and placed images go here to the IGOPTY site


Volker Michael – Finalist First Rays Jistrum, Friesland, The Netherlands


Rosanna Castrini – Commended The Ring Piedmont, Italy


Jianjun Huang – Commended Charming Dongjiang Guangdong Province, China


Lili Gao – Finalist Waiting Dandong City, Liaoning Province, China


Stefano Coltelli – Commended Plitvice Falls The Plitvice Lakes National Park, Plitvicka Jezera, Croatia

The winner is


This late autumn photo – from Snowdonia National Park in North Wales – has been crowned the overall winner of the 10th annual International Garden Photographer of the Year competition.

Taken by Lee Acaster, and entitled Left, this stark image won the Trees, Woods and Forests category – and then beat thousands of other entries to win the top spot.

Garden designer Chris Beardshaw – one of the competition judges – says the photo “perfectly encapsulates both the extremes of fortune and personality of these giants”.

While Clare Foggett – who edits The English Garden Magazine – says the image “draws the viewer in, to reveal the still surface of the lake behind. It demands closer inspection”.

If you wish you can see these and many more on the BBC website that has a major feature on the competition and winners


The exhibition is toured and here are dates

Venue Exhibition Photographs
November 1st 2016 – Feb 28th 2017 The Beth Chatto Gardens, Colchester, ENGLAND 9 Outdoor selection from Competition 9
January 14th – March 5th National Trust Sissinghurst Castle & Gardens, ENGLAND 9 Indoor exhibition, competition 9
January 21st – March 1st 2017 Willis Museum Gallery, Basingstoke, ENGLAND 9 Indoor exhibition, competition 9
Feb 4th – March 12th 2017 Royal Botanic Gardens Kew, London, ENGLAND 10 IGPOTY Annual launch ceremony – winners of Competition 10 [indoor exhibition] announced to the public.
March 24th – June 18th 2017 de Hortus Botanicus Amsterdam, NETHERLANDS 10 Outdoor selection from Competition 10
April 1st – June 4th 2017 RHS Garden Hyde Hall, Rettendon, ENGLAND 10 Outdoor selection from Competition 10
April 1st – November 15th 2017 The Gardens of Trauttmansdorff Castle, Merano, South Tyrol, ITALY 10 Outdoor exhibition, competition 10
April 1st – November 15th 2017 Gibraltar Botanic Gardens (The Alameda), GIBRALTAR 10 Outdoor exhibition, competition 10
August 28th – October 29th 2017 National Trust Sheringham Park, Norfolk, ENGLAND 10 Outdoor exhibition, competition 10

The 40 best photos of London ever taken from Time Out

This is an interesting and varied mix of images found in Time Out magazine. Hard to know the criteria by which they have been deemed the best images of London ‘ever’ as there seems to be no discernible link or structure to them. In one instance a memorable news picture, Thatcher leaving Downing Street, in the next a man on the underground with nipple clamps. Clearly some have been chosen because they were taken by famous photographers and others because of the moment but the randomness is fun. Have a look, let me know what you think.

London, you’re beautiful. No, scrap that. London, you’re wild. Angry. Delicious. How do you sum up a city that changes its look as often as its underwear and always has plenty to say? That’s the challenge we set ourselves when we decided to draw up a definitive list of the best photographs ever taken of the capital. In making our selection we had help. Serious help: Wolfgang Tillmans, Juergen Teller, Nick Waplington, Dorothy Bohm and Eamonn McCabe are among the world-famous photographers who shaped our selection. We also picked the brains of the top London photography brass at museums including the Tate, V&A, Museum of London and Imperial War Museum. The result: a celebration of London’s architecture, its icons and its geography, but also of us: Londoners at work, at play, protesting, rising to a challenge and always ready for our close-up. 


Ken Lennox: Margaret Thatcher leaving Downing Street, 1990

Downing Street has witnessed major political events, of course, but the actual drama mainly happens behind closed doors. Not so with Margaret Thatcher’s tearful, final departure from Number 10 in 1990, when it was hard to know which was more startling: the suddenness of her ousting, or the Iron Lady displaying human emotions.

© Ken Lennox/Mirrorpix


Mo Farah winning the 5,000 metres at the London Olympic Games, 2012

We screamed a lot during the 2012 London Olympics: at the telly, at home, in pubs, and at each other. But nowhere was the din as loud as in the Olympic Stadium when Mo Farah claimed his second Olympic gold by winning the 5,000 metres. The sound of the 80,000-strong crowd was so loud that the camera at the finish line started to shake, warping the image. ‘Nothing captures the fervour, the noise and the enjoyment of London 2012 more than this image,’ says Time Out photographer Rob Greig. ‘It’s a picture taken by 80,000 people.’


Bill Brandt: Francis Bacon, 1963

German-born Brandt produced mainly portraits and landscapes – and this study, ostensibly of the painter Francis Bacon, shows his mastery of both. It’s hard to tell which aspect is the most severe, the most sullenly evocative: the dark, stormy sky; the angled stripe of pathway up Primrose Hill; or the glowering snarl across Bacon’s face.

© Bill Brandt Archive


Tom Hunter: Woman Reading a Possession Order, 1998

Bathed in a beautiful morning light, Tom Hunter’s young woman looks likes she’s stepped out of Johannes Vermeer’s seventeenth-century masterpiece ‘Girl Reading a Letter at an Open Window’. The narrative, though, is pure late twentieth-century. Fillipa is a squatter reading an eviction notice from Hackney Council. Hunter, at the time a fellow member of Hackney’s squatter community, shot the image for his ‘Persons Unknown’ series. It went on to win the John Kobal National Portrait award and has shown around the world. ‘I never envisaged this response to a photograph I took of my neighbour and friend in a squat one sunny morning in Hackney,’ he says. ‘But its intimate depiction of the mother and child in a moment of vulnerability seems to resonate in a universal way.’

© Tom Hunter


Charlie Phillips: Notting Hill Couple, 1967

A cool shot of a stylish couple. What could be simpler? Taken at a party in Notting Hill in 1967, this isn’t the most immediately momentous of Charlie Phillips’s photographs, which include images of global icons such as Muhammad Ali and the first images of a fledgling Notting Hill Carnival, as well as intimate photos of Windrush-generation west Londoners. But it’s a picture that speaks volumes about London living and loving. As Phillips remembers, at the time being in a mixed-race relationship meant you’d get ‘louts shouting “nigger lover” from the windows of their cars as they passed’. Thankfully, those days are gone, but issues of race, visibility and Notting Hill’s heritage still occupy the photographer. ‘What really pisses me off,’ Phillips told us when we spoke to him last year, ‘is when they made that horrible film, “Notting Hill”. There wasn’t even one person of bloody colour in it!’

© Charlie Phillips/www.akehurstcreativemanagement.com


Eve Arnold: One of Four Girls Sharing an Apartment, 1961

London in the early ’60s, before it began to swing, was really more like the ’50s: a little bit dismal, a bit pokey and dowdy – still dusting itself off from its postwar blues, not yet ready to embrace the Technicolor future. Arnold’s wonderfully moody photograph seems to capture that in-between era perfectly.

© Eve Arnold/Magnum


Tim Peake: London from Space, 2016

We’ve all been high on a Saturday night but, orbiting 400 kilometres above the earth, British astronaut Major Tim Peake takes the (freeze-dried) biscuit for altitude. Shot from the International Space Station at midnight on Saturday January 31, 2016, his image of London, its skeins of twinkling lights shining brightest around Oxford Street and Regent Street, is the most recent image in our top 40 and the ultimate establishing shot. ‘I’d rather be up here… but only just!! #toughcall,’ Peake told Twitter as he flew past at 17,150 miles per hour.


See the rest of the 40 best ‘ever’ here

This looks more interesting photography in London, exhibitions, competitions etc

Afghan Girl – Sharbat Gula


She remembers the moment. The photographer took her picture. She remembers her anger. The man was a stranger. She had never been photographed before. Until they met again 17 years later, she had not been photographed since.

The photographer remembers the moment too. The light was soft. The refugee camp in Pakistan was a sea of tents. Inside the school tent he noticed her first. Sensing her shyness, he approached her last. She told him he could take her picture. “I didn’t think the photograph of the girl would be different from anything else I shot that day,” he recalls of that morning in 1984 spent documenting the ordeal of Afghanistan’s refugees.

The portrait by Steve McCurry turned out to be one of those images that sears the heart, and in June 1985 it ran on the cover of this magazine. Her eyes are sea green. They are haunted and haunting, and in them you can read the tragedy of a land drained by war. She became known around National Geographic as the “Afghan girl,” and for 17 years no one knew her name.

In January a team from National Geographic Television & Film’s EXPLORER brought McCurry to Pakistan to search for the girl with green eyes. They showed her picture around Nasir Bagh, the still standing refugee camp near Peshawar where the photograph had been made. A teacher from the school claimed to know her name. A young woman named Alam Bibi was located in a village nearby, but McCurry decided it wasn’t her.

No, said a man who got wind of the search. He knew the girl in the picture. They had lived at the camp together as children. She had returned to Afghanistan years ago, he said, and now lived in the mountains near Tora Bora. He would go get her.

Read the rest of the story here

Urban photographer of the year 2015

Another photographer of the year in the genre of Urban Photographer sponsored by CBRE which is a real estate company. I found this on the BBC site

A portrait of a watch repairer has been crowned the winner of this year’s CBRE Urban Photographer of the Year competition, beating more than 21,000 entries from 113 countries.


The portrait by Oscar Rialubin from the Philippines is called Xyclops.

Martin Samworth, chief executive of CBRE said: “The competition constantly provides us with new perspectives on working environments within cities. This year was no exception and Rialubin’s intimate portrait of a watch repairman gives insight into a universal trade. Urban life is constantly changing and the beauty of the competition is that it has captured this every year through the winning images.”


Johanna Siegmann photographed professional dog walker Leslie in Malibou, California.


Cocu Liu won the mobile section of the competition, capturing this winter scene in Chicago on his phone camera.


The Europe, Middle East and Africa prize was awarded to Armen Dolukhanyan for another black-and-white picture. This one shows a young couple, both in the Ukrainian police force.


Peter Graney’s photograph of poultry being prepared for market in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, won him the Asia Pacific prize.

Here is the link to the BBC page and here is the link to the CBRE Urban Photographer of the Year 2015 strangely there doesn’t seem to be an associated exhibition which is the usual fare with these things




The Salt of the Earth Wim Wenders’s thoughtful portrait of photographer Sebastião Salgado

I know a bit late to alert you to this but better today than tomorrow. The Wim Wenders documentary about Sebastião Salgado is showing for the last time at the UPP on Cowley Road, Oxford tonight, start time is 6.30pm, here is what the Guardian said about the film .

Wim Wenders co-directed this documentary about Sebastião Salgadowith the photographer’s son, Juliano Ribeiro Salgado, bringing “an outsider’s view” to a wealth of extant footage and photos. From stunning images of the gold mines of Serra Pelada (“I had travelled to the dawn of time”), to the horrors of famine in the Sahel and genocide in Rwanda (“We humans are a terrible animal… our history is a history of war”), and ultimately to the rebirth of the “Genesis” project, The Salt of the Earth finds Salgado revisiting and confronting his turbulent past.

Speaking to Wenders while gazing at – and sometimes through – his back catalogue, Salgado proves an adept and compassionate storyteller, his training as an economist providing sociopolitical insight into the suffering (manmade rather than natural) that threatens to engulf his work. “Everybody should see this image,” he says at one point, although the unspeakable sights captured by his camera prove so unbearable that one is all but forced to look away. Elsewhere, footage of Salgado with Papua’s Yali tribe or the Amazonian Zo’é of Brazil offer a more uplifting portrait of humanity, while the reforestation of the Instituto Terrasuggests that all may not yet be lost.

Salgado is a photographer we feature in some of our courses notably Composition In Photography – Seeing Pictures and Intermediate Photography


Travel Photographer of the Year

The BBC has an extended article with lots of images from Travel Photographer of the Year This award has been going for some years and attracts a really marvellous set of images from around the world, if you are interested in travel, peoples, landscapes, cities, in fact pretty much everything then the TPOTY site is a must and you should bookmark it now.

This is from the BBC site

From the harsh reality of the natural world, to stunning beauty seen at some of the planet’s remotest locations – the best images from the latest Travel Photographer of the Year competition are now on show in London.

For a photograph to stand out from the crowd, says Caroline Metcalfe of TPOTY‘s judging panel, it must provoke an immediate emotional response.

“It then has to draw me in and make me want to linger for more than a few seconds.”

A former director of photography at Conde Nast Traveller magazine, with a 20-year pedigree in the business, Metcalfe has been looking through some of the images which made the judges’ final selection for TPOTY 2014 – including two sets from Philip Lee Harvey which earned him the top prize.


Himba Tribe, Namibia – Philip Lee Harvey/www.tpoty.com


_84524823_6c48856b-5b56-41f0-8bd2-b547a286c663Lalibela, Ethiopia – Philip Lee Harvey/www.tpoty.com

TPOTY website says: The Travel Photographer of the Year (TPOTY) photo contest is run by photographers for photographers. Whether you are amateur or professional, beginner or expert, young or old, wherever you live in the world, TPOTY is for you!

2015 sees TPOTY’s 13th award, with new categories and new opportunities to showcase the best travel photography. Entries open from 28th May. You can view the latest winners in the 2014 Winners Gallery or in our latest book, Journey Seven.


Riviera Maya, Mexico – Terry Steeley/www.tpoty.com


Norway – Piotr Trybalski/www.tpoty.com


Java, Indonesia – Sue O’Connell/www.tpoty.com


El Tatio geyser field, Chile – Ignacio Palacios/www.tpoty.com


Salar de Uyuni (salt flat), Uyuni, Bolivia – Ignacio Palacios/www.tpoty.com


North of Svalbard in the Arctic – Joshua Holko/www.tpoty.com

All 2014 finalists from Travel Photographer of the Year can be seen at the Royal Geographical Society in Kensington, London, until 5 September 2015.

Our next travel photography course starts in November

Sacred Trust | Steve McCurry

Sacred Trust | Steve McCurry.

There is no trust more sacred than the one the world holds with children.
There is no duty more important than ensuring that their rights are respected,
that their welfare is protected, that their lives are free from fear and want
and that they can grow up in peace.
– Kofi Annan

01844_12, Lavazza, Honduras, 2005, HONDURAS-10044NF3. A boy carrying sticks.  retouched_Ekaterina Savtsova 09/05/2014

Hazaras, Kabul, Afghanistan, 2006, AFGHN-13034NF. A father helps his son make candy. MM7424_061007_11017 Confectionary factory, Kabul, Afghanistan, 2006. Pg 234. Untold: The Stories Behind the Photographs. retouched_Sonny Fabbri 11/14/2012

00544_05. Bangladesh, 1983, BANGLADESH-10014. Young boys carry wood.  Retouched_Ashley Crabill 05/28/2013

_2SM8311; India, 04/2012, INDIA-11596

See more here

North Korea – A Life between Propaganda and Reality – Alice Wielinga

A fascinating mix of propaganda and photography. Found in the Guardian

After winning the first prize at the Photo Folio Review 2014, North Korea, a Life between Propaganda and Reality will be shown during the 2015 edition of the international renown photofestival Les Rencontres d’Arles.

As the winner of the Photo Folio Review 2014, Alice’s project will be shown in a soloshow at the Eglise Saint Blaise.

On North Korea, a Life between Propaganda and Reality:
April 2013. While the Western media follows Kim Jong-Un’s steps during his missile test launches, I travel 2,500 kilometres through the North Korean interior. Once arrived, the images I know from my advance research correspond with the scenes my guides proudly show me during their propaganda tour. But seeing these scenes with my own eyes, I gradually discover that behind everything they present to me, a different reality is hidden. While I listen to my guides talking about what invaluable contributions the greatly admired leaders made to their country, I drive through a landscape that looks haggard and desolate. During my journey I collect propaganda material and take photographs of the reality I encounter. This material is the basis for my multimedia project ‘North Korea, a Life between Propaganda and Reality’. With the found propaganda images and my own photographs I compose a story that deconstructs the North Korean propaganda.

The exhibition can be visited from July 6 till September 20 in Eglise Saint Blaise in Arles.

For more information, visit the festival’s website:
Les Rencontres d’Arles




900-3See more here