Peter Guttman is an award-winning photographer with a richly textured career. The recipient of the Gold Medal Lowell Thomas Award for Travel Journalist of the Year (two times), he is a photographer, writer, author, television personality, and lecturer who has traveled on assignment to all seven continents and to more than 200 countries. Peter uses KODAK PROFESSIONAL EKTACHROME Film E100VS when he is photographing. He is the author of five books about distinctive travel adventures and the creator of a highly acclaimed series of hardcover books for Fodors Travel Publications about magical experiences and lodgings around the world.

 

With work exhibited internationally in prominent solo shows, his photography and writing have been published in books, magazines, and newspapers, and have appeared in every major travel periodical including Conde Nast Traveler, Geo, and National Geographic Publications. Guttman illustrated calendars for clients as diverse as American Express and Calvin Klein, where he provided all the images in its first-ever travel campaign for the aptly named scent "Escape". Guttman's work has been featured as a finalist in the prestigious Alfred Eisenstaedt Award for Magazine Photography in 2000 for an extensive multi-page spread in Life Magazine. He taught a popular travel photography class at the International Center of Photography and was chosen as a national spokesperson for Kodak. In 2006, he was honored with a solo retrospective show of his work at Sotheby's, the prestigious art institute. Last year, his photographic work was exhibited at the United Nations in New York City. Guttman's distinguished accomplishments have been profiled in The New York Times, on National Public Radio, A & E and the Today Show.

Travel Photography Tips

The BACKGROUND serves as your subject's stage set

Presenting people in ways that highlight their environment can make a photograph more compelling. When I photograph people I like to present an anthropological context that helps to put into perspective the lives and culture of the subject. Here you see a Cuna Indian from Panama's San Blas Islands peering shyly from a triangular frame created by the folds of her brightly colored molas, inverted appliques quite unique to this corner of the world.

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©  Peter Guttmann

This Muslim woman was walking down a path on one of the Comoro Islands in the Indian Ocean. I managed to have her stand by the flat lighting found in the shadows of a peeling white wall, where the textures on the building strikingly matched her complexion of flaky sandlewood paste, used as a local moisturizer. The power of the image is created by pairing her skin texture to the background.

© Peter Guttmann

Your FOCUS determines the exclamation point

As I encountered these two schoolgirls enroute to their Islamic school in the Cameron Highlands of Malaysia, I wanted to portray them in a visually engaging manner.  When two objects at differing distances are competing for attention, use selective focusing to make an effective statement. Focusing on the girl in the foreground, rather than the girl in the back, will more pleasingly replicate human vision.  By deliberately blurring her friend in the background, I hoped to create a startling accentuation of the egg-like shape of these faces as they appear in their Muslim garb. A telephoto lens maximizes the graphic strength of the image.. With a wide-angle lens, both girls would be in sharp focus and the image would lose its striking appearance.

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©  Peter Guttmann

Focus on the eyes: They are the most important feature of a face, "the window to the soul." In this image of Irian Jaya's Asmat warriors, you can glimpse the intensity in the fighter's eyes and the serious character of his face. The startling white facial adornments are carved cassowary bones that have been shoved through the septum of his nose, creating a fearsome spectacle for his rain forest enemies.  These adornments and the blurred war clubs help give additional clues to the fierce nature of their world.  A 200-millimeter lens was used to achieve a three dimensional effect.

© Peter Guttmann

Create PERSPECTIVES that catch the eye

By locating a rare high-rise promontory on Holland’s pancake-flat polders, the striking precision of planted rows of floral color emerge. These visual rhythms would virtually disappear at an ordinary eye-level height.  A bicyclist adds a cultural and dramatic aspect to the ordered geometry of the scented plains.

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©  Peter Guttmann

The Guaransi people of Burkino Faso create splendid, hand-painted designs on the adobe structures of their simple villages. An easily attained shifting of perspectives can create a more compelling scene. By climbing some crumbling steps to their rooftop where grains are dried, one can view a dizzying vignette of daily life where villagers appear to be living inside lovely pieces of pottery.

© Peter Guttmann

Utilizing SCALE helps generate greater meaning for the image

The remote plateaus of the Paria wilderness along the Utah-Arizona border are fairly inaccessible, but provide the persistent hiker with astonishing rewards. The visual impact of stunningly striped candy cane swirls that paint the contours of a remote desert canyon is bolstered by the passage of a backpacking explorer. Human figures can offer a context and clarify the spatial characteristics of a landscape.

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©  Peter Guttmann

The seemingly endless patchwork of ice and snow on the North Pole horizon is made more understandable by the magical presence of celebrating travelers, dancing around the twenty-four time zones of the world that all converge here, as they skip into tomorrow over the International Date Line.  Without human figures, the landscape of this vast wasteland would lose the mystical appeal that portrays the exhilaration felt at the planet's most notable piece of real estate.

© Peter Guttmann

Find the LIGHTING that most dramatically paints your scene

When stumbling across the idyllic village of Stark in New Hampshire's north woods, it became apparent that awaiting for a very special moment of the day would be the best technique for delivering a dazzling showcase of rural beauty.  The magical blue light that always occurs near the end of dusk provides a golden glow when photographed with a slow shutter speed and in concert with the manmade electrical lighting seen throughout this cozy New England hamlet.

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©  Peter Guttmann

Most amateur photographers put their camera away after the sun sets, unaware that the most spectacular celestial displays often occurs after that point.  High cirrus clouds reflect the bloodshot atmospheric conditions above the warmly lit teepees at the Wigwam Motel on Route 66 in Holbrook, Arizona.

© Peter Guttmann

Arresting COMPOSITION helps build an interest in the scene

When I had an opportunity to photograph these Mexican children amongst the phosphorescent colors found in the villages near Chichen Itza, I made certain that the subjects were placed well off center.  The use of an inner frame within the image's outer rectilinear frame further creates compositional interest that enables the eyeball to roam across the scene.
© Peter Guttmann

Creative use of SHUTTER SPEEDS can determine a mood

This Saramakan boy relaxes by a remote jungle cascade in South America's forgotten region of Surinam.   A slow shutter speed (one quarter of a second) lends a milky sweep to the water currents.  The dreamy emerald streaks of this watery setting is the result of using a polarizing filter.  Polarizers do not add or alter the naturally visible colors, but rather dramatically eliminate the ambient glare of the water surface and thus reveal aquatic plants anchored to the waterfall's bottom.

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©  Peter Guttmann

Whitewater rafting on the Gauley River is filled with exhilarating Class V rapids.  By using a very fast shutter speed (one thousandth of a second) the dangerous swirling liquids of this West Virginia maelstrom are transformed into a glassy infinity of smashed crystal shards.

© Peter Guttmann

Finding small DETAILS that display large ideas

The hardworking men that harvest cranberries each morning in the Pine Barrens of southern New Jersey wade into cold water scooping the fruit with sticks toward awaiting conveyer belts. A tight detail of the rich ruby colors polishing a floating mat of marbles, and the rough hewn textures of leaves on skin and clothing, yield a vivid tableau of difficult autumnal duties.
© Peter Guttmann

Managing COLOR for effective statements

The beautifully surreal, but gently hued, Seychelles landscape on La Digue island exhibits the amazing geology of the world's only mid-oceanic granitic island and is strikingly punctuated by the vivid reds of a bather's swimsuit. Startling juxtapositions of color opposites ignite an exciting vibrancy and help to electrify an otherwise serene image from the world's warmest ocean.

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© Peter Guttmann

The Ndebele people of South Africa are renowned for their neck-stretching coils and hand painted houses.  The primary colors of her beaded johola wedding apron resonate with those same colors on her house and create a harmonious collage of cultural patterns.  The scene unifies the subject with her environment and enhances an appreciation of color.

© Peter Guttmann

Hunt for DRAMATIC ANGLES to deliver a powerful visual sensation

From atop the highest mizzen mast in the world, the tall ship Sea Cloud crashes through waves on the Adriatic Sea.  This brave sailor gamely hangs on to the wrong side of a swinging pendulum as he performs his daily duties unfurling acres of canvas.  This dizzying perspective unveils a bold perspective and brings alive the real dangers that sailors at sea often face.  A wide angle lens helps to heighten the sensation of vertigo.

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© Peter Guttmann

As the Glacier Express glides across the soaring centuries-old stone viaducts that stitch Switzerland's daunting topography, I tried to further heighten the drama of the moment. By moving your camera well outside the reflective windows (further exaggerated by the fishing rod-like use of a tripod) the bolstered sense of exhilaration on the rails paints an unforgettable picture of European transit.

© Peter Guttmann

PATIENCE and IMAGINATION are a powerful duo for stirring up unforgettable images

When a rare total solar eclipse was scheduled to cover a slim region across the empty prairie of the United States, I traveled with carrots and charcoal to the vast, haunting farmlands of North Dakota. In sub-zero temperatures, I painstakingly created a snowman out of talcum-powder like snow, then drove an additional fifty miles to find a tree that might provide branches for the arms. I slept in my car until morning to await the unlikely clearing from a winter storm. Magic prevailed, and I was fortunate to create this haunting scene of a forlorn farmstead coated by melon hues and a twilit dreamscape.
© Peter Guttmann

Visit Peter's website for more photographs and tips:

 

www.peterguttman.com/start.htm