Kimberley Coole is an award winning travel photographer whose work has been featured in numerous international publications. She has worked as a photographer for Lonely Planet, as well as for various tourism boards and airlines.
We caught up with her to learn more about what first inspired her to pick up her camera, and to get some expert tips for taking better pictures.
“After a year or so of travelling a number of people told me how much they enjoyed looking through my photographs, one even said you should do this for a living.”
What inspired you to become a photographer?
Ever since childhood I have taken photographs, admittedly they were not very inspiring to begin with; I once shot a whole roll of film on a hydrangea bush, who knows why but at the time it seemed like the most beautiful thing in my front garden!
However it wasn’t until my early twenties that I thought of being a photographer – my husband and I were lucky enough to travel for 6 weeks on honeymoon and we totally fell in love with being on the road; so when we got home we sold our house, packed our bags and set off on a two year trip around Asia. After a year or so of travelling a number of people told me how much they enjoyed looking through my photographs, one even said you should do this for a living; it was then that I thought, wow, I should try, what a great job that would be. Everything started from that one thought.
From there I contacted Lonely Planet, back when they had a stock library, and they loved my work and offered me a contract, and everything has grown from that initial enquiry. I am now represented by Getty Images and love the freedom being a travel stock photographer gives me; I get to go where I want, shoot what I want and fit my job around my life (rather than the other way round!)
“Travel and photography are so entwined now that I rarely do one without the other.”
What drew you towards travel photography in particular?
Travelling is what inspired me to pick up a camera again, and so without our first trip who knows if I would have fallen in love with photography again; travel and photography are so entwined now that I rarely do one without the other, I could never travel somewhere and not take photographs, and I didn’t take photographs unless I was travelling before my son was born – so now that I am UK based for the next year he has become my new subject!
Do you have a favourite place that you’ve visited?
Asia in general feels like home, and there are a number of places where I think I could honestly move to and never look back, but if I had to choose just one place that I would call a “favourite” it would be Singapore.
Normally I am not a city kind of girl but there is something so exciting about Singapore; every time I visit there is a new amazing building or area to shoot, it’s incredibly clean, the food is amazing and I never get bored there at all – some places we travel to I am happy to leave after a few days, but Singapore keeps pulling me back, time and time again.
Where’s next on your wish list of destinations to travel to?
We have been in and out of Asia for a decade now, and having a three month old son has completely changed my view on long haul flights, so the time has come to experience Europe; with its ancient cities, perfect landscapes, and short travel times to and from the UK! We are also fortunate enough to live a mere 30 minutes away from the Lake District, and I imagine we’ll be spending a lot of time there too.
People tend to go as far as possible away from home when they set out on a great adventure, but because we’ve been in Asia for so very long it feels like home; Europe will seem totally new and exciting, and very different from what we are used to. I fell in love with Asia not because of how far away it is or because it is as easy to get to as the next place, just because if was different, so now Europe can offer me the same thrill – a whole new set of countries and subjects, right on my doorstep.
“I find that as a travel photographer you need to be a “jack of all trades” so to speak.”
What do you enjoy photographing most?
I find that as a travel photographer you need to be a “jack of all trades” so to speak; depending on where you are you need to be able to adjust – so a landscape photographer in Indonesia, a portrait photographer in India and a cityscape photographer in places like Singapore and Bangkok. I’m not avoiding the question but I can’t really give you an answer as it would change depending on where I am talking about!
Do you have a favourite photo that you’ve taken?
For each country that I have visited over the years I have a set of images that I am really proud of, some took numerous visits to perfect and others were completely unplanned and of the moment. I often get asked about a favourite and it’s always really difficult; as my library grows and new photographs are made my favourite changes, and sometimes I fall back in love with an old shot, it’s just so tricky to find an absolute favourite!
At the moment however my favourite shot is one I took back in the autumn; as I mentioned earlier we live very close to the Lake District and this particular shot was taken in Keswick. Derwentwater has been a must for many landscape photographers and nearly everyone has their own angle of this beautiful place; mine was captured on a particularly gloomy day, but that worked brilliantly with the autumnal colours as the dark skies made the colours pop that much more, and with low light comes long exposure, one of my favourite things!
“Research is a travel photographer’s best friend, and Google street view is probably the handiest research tool of them all.”
Could you share three top tips for taking better travel photos?
1. Never be content with less than perfect conditions – if the lighting isn’t right, or if there is some scaffolding up (a travel photographer’s most hated addition to a building) rather than just settling for the shot, go back when it’s perfect. There’s no point shooting just because you’re there, you’ll always wonder how good the photo could have been under different circumstances!
2. Get used to no sleep – dawn and dusk are the most beautiful times of day to shoot, especially cities and landscapes, and in some places this means leaving your room at 2.30am to catch dawn, working until 11am to make the most out of the morning, starting shooting again at about 3pm when the light has become that little bit softer, and working until long past sunset, which in some places can be until around midnight – if you don’t drink coffee on your travels, you certainly will if you decide to try travel photography!
3. Research, research, research – research is a travel photographer’s best friend, and Google street view is probably the handiest research tool of them all. What else allows you to literally walk down streets looking for angles or shots – as a travel photographer you don’t always have a great deal of time in some places and so knowing what to expect and what you want to shoot gives you more time for photography and less time wasted wondering where to go.
What are the essential bits of kit that you always take with you when you’re travelling with your camera?
My kit has remained practically the same over the years – a Canon EOS 5D MKII, 24-105mm lens, 16-35mm lens, a number of LEE filters and my trusty Manfrotto, that’s it. I always travel light; for shorter trips my camera bag doubles as both my suitcase and my actual camera bag, it gets split half and half – I really don’t see the point in carrying around tonnes of excess gear that simply sits in a bag; travel photographers must travel light, either that or have very strong backs…
“No matter what you shoot with the rules remain the same.”
I don’t have a fancy camera; I just use my iPhone to take pictures. Do you have any tips for getting the best out of its camera?
No matter what you shoot with the rules remain the same; exposure, composition and subject should always be the starting point for your photographs, once you are happy with the light, and you know what you want to shoot and what to include in the frame, you go from there – regardless of if you are using an iPhone or a top of the range dSLR.
Why would you recommend CEWE Photoworld for printing your photos?
There are so many companies offering photo printing on the internet, just a simple Google search brings up pages and pages of different companies, but the difficulty is knowing who can deliver quality prints for reasonable prices.
I tried a number of online printers once the local guys I used closed down, and time after time I was shocked at the results – colours changed, contrast changed, exposures were different and sometimes my images even got sent to me with bits cropped out – you don’t spend hours on your computer editing your work for someone to put an auto-adjust on them just before printing.
Thankfully I found CEWE Photoworld; I can honestly say that the quality of the prints, given the pricing, really surprised me – each time I send in an order the results I get are perfect, and so I recommend them to everyone who asks!
Visit Kimberley’s website to find out more about her work and to view her portfolio of stunning photographs.