Stuart Litoff is an accomplished Travel photographer. From beautiful landscape and cityscape photos of Eastern European countries, such as Slovenia and Croatia, to glacial scenic images in Argentina and majestic seascape and lake photos in Australia and New Zealand. It is clear that Stuart has a passion for travel photography from the abundance of excellent images spanning many countries. The colours, shapes, and textures in Stuart's ‘Ice’ work are awe-inspiring. On Stuart’s travels, he has also shot photos of wildlife, churches, flowers and more. All of his great work is available to buy on his website.
Stuart’s website: https://1-stuart-litoff.pixels.com/
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Where is the best place/country you have visited and why?
Wow, that’s a hard question — sort of like asking which of my children I love the most. All of my trips have been different and special in their own way. Slovenia certainly stands out in my mind because it was my most recent trip. Also, the colors in the country are wonderful, and there are many distinct and different regions within close range of each other. In a few hours, you can travel from its medieval capital to a beautiful Adriatic port, to the rolling hills of wine country, to the mountains of the Julian Alps. The south island of New Zealand was similar in that regard. A few hours on the road takes you to different ecosystems, all stunningly beautiful. I think my favorite places for other-worldly landscapes are Iceland, Patagonia, and Death Valley National Park in the United States. I also loved visiting Santa Fe, New Mexico, which had beautiful southwestern, adobe architecture and amazing afternoon light. I feel bad for leaving out the Canadian Rockies, Croatia, Australia, and the coast of Maine. They’re all so different and special.
As a travel photographer, what is important to you in order to get a great photograph?
Being in the right place at the right time, and a little luck never hurts, too. I often take small group tours for photographers, which have local professional photographers as guides. They specialize in knowing the best times and places to shoot, so that makes life pretty easy. If I’m traveling somewhere by myself, I’ll check with photography friends and mentors who have been to the place I'm going, to get their advice on the best times and places to shoot. Of course, sometimes being in the right place at the right time doesn’t matter if nature doesn’t cooperate. You can get up before dawn and be set up in the perfect spot to shoot a mountain sunrise, but if the peaks are socked in with clouds, there’s not much you can do about it. Sometimes, though, luck can be on your side. I was walking the city walls in Dubrovnik, Croatia, when I looked down to the street below to see a bride and groom walking up the stairs to an ancient church to have their wedding photo taken by their photographer.
Besides your camera what equipment is essential to you on your travels?
I like having a variety of lenses that go from wide angle to telephoto. A sturdy tripod is essential for pre-dawn and evening photography, and for longer exposures to smooth out moving water. Neutral density filters are also helpful for mid-day long exposures, especially on sunny days. It's important to have a backup camera, too. Cameras can malfunction, especially in harsh conditions, and it would be a shame to travel halfway around the world to have your only camera fail on you. I also take rain gear, just in case.
Please talk about your most challenging shoot at a location…
I think my most challenging shoot was trying to take photos of the Northern Lights in Iceland. After only getting a couple of hours sleep on my overnight flight to Iceland, I met up with my photography tour group, led by photographer and teacher Tom Bol, and we hit the ground running, shooting at 3 different locations throughout the day. After dinner, Tom told us that the forecast for the night was clear skies with a good chance for Northern Lights activity. He said he would check the sky every few hours and wake us if there was something to shoot. Because I had never done that kind of night photography before, he told me the basic settings for getting started. I went to sleep excited about the prospect of seeing and photographing Northern Lights for the first time. I was also so tired, though, that part of me hoped that there would no Lights that night. At 3:30 in the morning, Tom was pounding on my door, yelling “Northern Lights, Northern Lights.” I stumbled into my clothes, grabbed my camera and tripod, and went out into the dark night. I was exhausted and it seemed like it took forever to set up and start shooting, and quite frankly, my photos did not turn out as well as I hoped. Because this was the first night of a 10-day trip, I felt certain that I would get another opportunity, and that I would do much better now that I had that first try under my belt. Mother Nature, however, did not cooperate, and we did not have a clear night with Northern Lights activity for the rest of the trip. While I was disappointed that my photos weren’t better, I was ecstatic that I had the wonderful experience of seeing the Northern Lights, and realized that this was an important lesson for travel photography — you have to be able to enjoy the travel experience even if you don’t come home with the pictures you hoped for.
What camera do you use and what are your favourite lenses?
I have shot Canon gear since I bought my first SLR film camera in the late 1970s. For the past few years, I’ve been using a 7D, and my main lenses are mostly zooms; a 10-22mm, a 15-85mm, and a 70-300mm. I also use a 50mm prime. As I’ve gotten older, the weight of my gear is becoming a little too much for me, and I’m planning on switching to lighter mirrorless gear. I think I’ve settled on the Fujifilm x-t2, and hope to use that on my next trip in the fall.
How do you manage to schedule in post processing when you travel?
I don’t do any post-processing when I travel. I travel with a small, old laptop and 2 external hard drives. I download the images I shoot each day to both hard drives and then do all my post-processing on my main computer after I get home.
What are your strategies and planning when photographing wildlife?
I haven’t yet taken a trip with the main purpose of shooting wildlife, but I when I do go somewhere where I may spot some wildlife I always have my camera set to immediately capture the moment. So, I’ll make sure that I have my longest lens on my camera, that I have set a fast shutter speed, that my ISO is set to give me the speed I need, that my focus choice can track moving subjects, and that I have the fastest continuous shooting mode set. This way, all I have to do is pick up my camera and start shooting. Also, if I’m at a National Park, I will go to the visitor center and ask a park ranger where wildlife has been spotted.
What places do you still want to visit to take photos?
I would love to go to Scandinavia and the Scottish highlands and nearby islands. I have also wanted to go to Prague and the Czech Republic, and hope to be there this fall. I would also like to revisit some places that I went years ago, before I was so immersed in photography, especially some of the National Parks in the western United States, like Yosemite, Zion, and Bryce Canyon. Next February, I’m going back to Yellowstone National Park for my first winter photo trip. But, even though I have these places on my wish list, I stay open to places that aren’t necessarily on my radar. I have a great circle of travel photography friends, and sometimes they tell me about a trip they’re planning that I might not have ever considered, and if it sounds good I’ll go. It looks like these connections will take me to Romania and Portugal next year. Who knows where after that!