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Travel photographer and writer, Steve Davey was a member of the esteemed judging panel for National Geographic Traveller’s annual Photography Competition this year. Here, Carrier finds out a little more about the judging process, Steve’s own journey and a few hints and tips for aspiring photographers.

In your opinion what makes a good photo? There is always something that completely stands out about a great picture. Often it is a shot that is a little more complex, or manages to convey a mood or an emotion. It is always a shot that engages with the viewer of the picture in some way.

Jeremy Flint's shot of a fisherman was the grand prize winner, who else do you feel was a strong contender? For me the other strong contenders for winning were David Godfrey's terrific shot of a flying puffin and Simon Morris' portrait of a Siberian reindeer herder.

Simon Morris
Steve Davey polar bears

What's your favourite part about being a travel photographer? The best part (apart from the travel that is) is the unpredictability. You never really know what you will encounter on an hourly, let alone a daily basis. I love the variety - I can be photographing a landscape at sunrise in the morning, and a festival in the afternoon.

Who inspires you? I love the work of Steve McCurry, especially his portraits. They show a tremendous empathy and engagement with the person in the picture.

What is the most unique subject/story/destination you have shot? I have photographed the land-diving in Vanuatu, as well as a number of festivals in India, including the utterly massive Kumbh Mela festival - the largest gathering of humans on the planet!

Name your top three favourite destinations to photograph in.
I love to photograph in India. The country is so vast and so varied, and the festivals happen with a scale and an intensity that you simply don't find anywhere else. One of my most favourite places is the high altitude region of Ladakh, which follows Tibetan Buddhism and appears more like Tibet than India! Laos is an incredible country to travel and photograph in. The people are incredibly vibrant and friendly, and for a country that has suffered so much in recent history it is an idyllic place. I usually like photographing in hot countries that have loads of culture in them, but I have also loved photographing in the Arctic region of Svalbard.

This remote archipelago deep in the Arctic Circle is home to polar bears and all manner of wildlife. The landscapes are harsh and barren, and even in the summer time, the temperatures hover around zero, and there is ice and snow everywhere.


How would you define the style your photography exemplifies?
I would hope that my style of photography is immediate and engaged with the subject. I prefer to shoot up close to my subject and to create a sympathetic representation of people and places. I like to try to get the viewer of any images into a position that they wouldn't be able to get to themselves.

What is typically in your camera bag whilst you're travelling?
I take a lot of kit, as I don't want any equipment issues to stop me being able to take pictures when I am away. There is also all manner of other vital bits of kit, from bizarre electrical adaptors through to GPS taggers to record your location on any images, which really helps with captioning.

Any hints and tips for aspiring travel photographers? For anyone taking pictures on their travels, the advice is to throw themselves into everything. Engage with your destination, and the people inside of it. Talk to people, smile at people and try everything. Your pictures will end up being a lot more engaged and you will have a better time away as well. Photography can be a great excuse and a great motivation to be a better traveller - but don't hover in the shadows with a long lens!

Steve Davey monks
Steve Davey headshot

Where in the world do you feel happiest and why? I love the chaos of India. It makes me feel relaxed and calm inside.

You've been all over the world; where is the best place you've ever woken up? I often sleep out when I am away; under the stars in the desert, or on a remote beach. I love waking up outdoors.

What do you like to do when you're not at work? I have two young children, and so when I am not working I am always busy doing something or other with them! It is very grounding after a big trip, to have what I have just been doing being largely ignored for some day-to-day bit of routine with the kids!

What are three things you can't live without? A camera, a computer and coffee!

Steve Davey is a freelance writer and photographer. He was recently a judge for National Geographic Traveller's Photography Competition 2016 and is the author of Footprint Travel Photography 2e; the leading guide to travelling with a camera.

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