Our new travel writer Sean Byrne hones his aerial and underwater photography skills in the Caribbean
With summer officially upon us, we’re taking the Wex blog around the world to explore the best of travel photography. Here, Sean Byrne takes us through his photographic experiences on a trip to the Caribbean…
Sailing around St. Vincent
There is something special when it comes to sailing boats. I think it’s the freedom to go where you want, when you want. What a way to explore this beautiful planet.
I took the above shot on a catamaran, so my shutter speed needed to reasonably fast to prevent blurring from my movement and the sailing boat.
I thought a lot about the rule of thirds here, and it was crucial to capture the boat where it is with the dip of the mountains in the background and the peaks lined where they are. My wide-angle lens helped fit this all in.
I took this on a beach where the rainforest met the black volcanic sand. Such an unreal view to see. Gorgeous green rainforest behind me, and the black volcanic sand I was standing on meeting the turquoise/blue sea.
The sun was starting to set, so I had to consider my options in taking this shot. I wanted to keep everything exposed, so again my shutter speed needed to be reasonably fast to make sure I didn’t blow out the setting sun in the sky. A fast shutter speed also meant I could capture the movement of the calm sea and the stillness of the Catamaran. The distance of the catamaran was considerable, so I used my heavy but awesome 70-200mm telephoto, and once again I made use of the rule of thirds.
Flying in helicopters is such a great experience wherever you are, but doing this over the stunning island of Antigua raised it to a whole new level. To be able to capture the landscape and those breathtaking blues in the sea was an encounter I was looking forward to achieving.
Now flying in helicopters does have its difficulties. For one, what equipment to take. You’re not only dealing with limited space but also movement from the helicopter and glare from the windows if you’re shooting from inside. I was lucky to be seated in the front seat next to the pilot.
I needed a very fast shutter speed to capture everything as still as possible for the image above. 1/500sec was perfect.
Flying around Antigua
For this shot I wanted to capture the essence of flying and show the wealthy parts of this island.
Capturing the instrument panel and parts of the front of the helicopter gives the viewer the feel of being inside. Try to remember it’s not always about the land/seascapes but the activity you’re taking part in.
Flying over English Harbour certainly makes you realise the wealth that’s on parts of this island, with huge yachts moored up in the harbour. The colour of the water in the harbour with the greens and reflected clouds, gave this image great depth.
If I still had any unwanted glare from the windows after shooting then I would use Lightroom or Photoshop to remove them.
Exploring St. Kitts
As long as I’ve been doing photography, one of my main goals has been to shoot underwater. Thanks to Wex Photographic, I was able to borrow an Aquatech Underwater Housing for my Canon EOS 5D Mark III. For the first three or four days in the Caribbean the water was very choppy due to storms in the USA, but as soon as it calmed I was straight in and trying out some shots.
For the image above, my friend Alex was happy to model for me and dance underwater. I decided to put all the settings on automatic including focusing. This meant I was able to concentrate on capturing images and letting the camera do all the work, as I was an amateur in this genre of photography.
When the sun hit the water it transformed everything. I decided to rotate the shot upside down after some advice from a friend, giving it a magical feel.
When we were leaving St. Kitts on our cruise ship (“The Celebration”), rain clouds were moving in. When you have rain clouds and a sunset at the same time, 99.9% of the time you’re guaranteed amazing colours. This sunset did not disappoint, and with the freedom to shoot the horizon, I knew the colours would be bouncing off the ocean to give me double the satisfaction.
I used a polariser for this shot to help me get more colours from the sky. I shot at f/8, allowing me to get most of the shot in focus without underexposing too much and creating more noise in the image than I wanted. Trying to strike that balance is always tricky, hence why I shoot many of the same shots on different exposures and then see in Lightroom which will be the best one for editing.
Experiencing St. Maarten
While watching a documentary about extreme airports a few years ago on TV, I saw this beach called Mahon in St Maarten. The runway is right behind me and it gets you so close to the aircraft you can see the pilot and the passengers.
It’s very intimidating but equally exhilarating. You can see the plane sway left and right to get into position to land as it approaches you. I wanted to take this shot to show how near you are to the aircraft. The waves were also quite strong on this day so I needed the Aquatech Housing to protect my camera against the waves that came up to my body.
So, as you can imagine, this was quite a difficult shot to capture when I had waves, composition, planes and people to contend with.
Out of all the shots I took in the Caribbean I think this is the one that encapsulates paradise.
I always think it’s advantageous to capture people in your shots. It gives the image a sense of scale and purpose without making it too busy. What’s more beautiful than a gorgeous model walking on golden sands into a stunning turquoise sea with eclectic blue sky and white fluffy clouds that add depth? It just screams ‘holiday’!
The above shot was taken on Mullet Bay Beach.
If there is one thing from the trip I’ll never forget, then it has to be swimming with turtles off the coast of Barbados. These creatures of the sea are so majestic and elegant in the way they swim. They were very friendly even though they look like they’re very miserable!
With the fish following them around there were plenty of great interest points for my 5D Mark III to focus on. I could have stayed in here all day capturing these magnificent creatures.
I can’t help but look at these images of the turtles underwater and think I’ve taken them from inside a swimming pool, as the water is so crystal clear and such a vibrant blue.
For most of my underwater images, the strong sunlight made autofocus very effective and easy to use. When the sun went in, however, I think manual focus would have been a better choice. When the turtles came up close the autofocus struggled to focus quickly enough to get the shot I wanted.
That being said, my images underwater have been a personal success and I’m sure with more experience they will just get better.
About the Author
Sean Byrne is a photographer specialising in landscapes, seascapes and travel, with a little celebrity portraiture thrown in. He’s hugely active on Instagram, and you can also find him at his person websitebyrnephotography.co.uk