At the end of November last year Natalie and I were fortunate enough to spend a few days in the Maldives, courtesy of what was probably the single greatest raffle prize I have won (and probably ever will win).
Admittedly when you think of a trip to this paradise in the middle of the Indian Ocean, photography might not be high up on the list of things to do compared to, say, the snorkelling, diving, parasailing, chilling poolside...
But not to be deterred, I packed a small selection of gear and made it a mini-challenge to really test myself by finding creative opportunities on the tiny resort island we were staying on (in between all the drinks, food and five star service, naturally).
So if you’re planning on paying a visit to the Maldives – and I can’t recommend the place enough – then here are a few tips on how you can stretch your photographic muscles on even the smallest of islands.
1) Beg, borrow or buy an underwater camera
I’ll kick off with my biggest regret: not taking an underwater camera. I left it too late to order one and instantly regretted it when I first laid eyes on those crystal clear waters. Snorkelling with black tip sharks will go down as one of my favourite life moments and I wish I had a camera to capture it. Check out the Fuji XP130; you get 16mp, built-in WIFI and it's waterproof up to 20m all for just £150. Don't think twice, just get one.
2) Pack a travel tripod
Do I wish my Manfrotto didn’t take up half my hand luggage? Of course. Do I regret lugging it half way across the world? Absolutely not. It is a pain, it will deprive you of packing space and add weight but trust me when I tell you that when you see your first sunrise / sunset you will be so glad you brought it. I don’t have a mini tripod but if you do it would be the ideal compromise between space, weight and stability.
3) Be brave and take just one lens
I’m going to go against my mantra of choosing primes wherever possible and will instead recommend you take one wide to mid-range zoom. It is all you will need. I took my ultra light 18-35mm and that was it. I never needed to go wider or longer. Pick your favourite ‘all-round’ lens and use the spare space in your bag for an underwater camera...
4) Get high for the best views
I squeezed my drone into the suitcase and I am so glad I did as the views from above not only give a different perspective but the aerial viewpoint really brings out the blue and turquoise colours of the ocean. Just keep an eye on your GPS signal, as it is patchy. I had one nerve-wracking moment where I lost all signal mid-landing and had to pluck my Mavic out of the air to save it from missing the jetty and landing in the ocean!
5) Experience the shortest golden ‘hour’ on earth
A phenomenon of life near the equator is that the sun has a far steeper arc in the sky than we are used to further north. This means that the golden ‘hour’ does not last anywhere near as long. It is remarkable how high the sun climbs even half an hour after sunrise; similarly, 30 minutes after sunset and you’ll pretty much be in total darkness. The lesson is to work quickly as those beautiful colours in the sky change rapidly.