Five ways to take great travel photographs in the Maldives

Want to take perfect shots of your island escape? From the importance of depth to polarising filters, these essential tips will help you to capture this natural paradise.

By Waldorf Astoria Maldives Ithaafushi
Published 30 Apr 2021, 08:00 BST
The sun setting over Ithaafushi — The Private Island, the largest private island in the Maldives.

The sun setting over Ithaafushi — The Private Island, the largest private island in the Maldives.

Photograph by Waldorf Astoria Maldives Ithaafushi

No destination can conjure up images of tropical luxury quite like the Maldives. Set in the heart of South Malé Atoll and spread languidly on the archipelago’s biggest private island, the recently opened Ithaafushi — The Private Island perfectly captures this destination’s exclusive atmosphere. The estate — the latest addition to the Waldorf Astoria Maldives Ithaafushi resort — offers complete seclusion and uninterrupted relaxation for up to 24 guests. National Geographic Traveller (UK) photographer Richard James Taylor shares five tips to help immortalise every moment in this unique setting.

1. Add depth to landscapes

The island’s 24-hour personal concierges are on hand to organise exclusive excursions and help guests find stunning vistas. To best photograph these views, be sure to create a sense of depth in your photographic landscapes, drawing the viewer into the scene from front to back. Including some foreground interest in your composition — think rock formations on the beach or palm trees around the edge of the image — helps to produce a more dynamic shot. Leading lines create a similar effect; if you take advantage of the various boating activities available, from sunset fishing and dolphin cruises to excursions on Princess Yachts, featuring elements like jetties or prows will help to draw the eye out into the scene.

2. Capture the islands’ colours

With their palette of silvery beaches, cyan lagoons and green fronds, the tropics are fantastic locations in which to play with colour. To do justice to every hue, try a polarising filter — it screws on to your lens and helps to reduce reflected light, which can cause glare and make photos lose contrast and colour intensity. With a polariser, the sea will appear crystal clear, allowing the aquamarine tones to punch through, and twilight shots will also be much improved. With uninterrupted views of the sun setting over the Indian Ocean, the island’s three standalone residences, and especially the two-bedroom overwater villa, offer plenty of opportunities to experiment.

3. Explore underwater photography

The resort’s private reef, a sunken garden of coral formations and colourful marine life, calls for some below-the-waves action. A few practical tips: test underwater housings — now available for most camera makes — in advance; keep the aperture at around f8 to ensure the image is sharp; and maintain the ISO as low as possible to reduce noise. Clear, calm water is crucial, as is good light, so stay close to the surface and go when the sun is at its strongest, typically in the early afternoon. The resort’s dive centre, which offers activities such as snorkelling and scuba diving, can advise you on when conditions are best.

Guests at Ithaafushi can try their hand at underwater photography in the resort's private reef. 

Photograph by Waldorf Astoria Maldives Ithaafushi

4. Zoom in on the details

Islands have diverse ecosystems, full of lush tropical plant life and vibrant exotic flowers. Ithaafushi’s gardens, which can be easily explored with bicycles and buggies, thrive with indigenous blooms such as pink roses, jasmine and frangipani. Zooming in on their details with a macro lens will uncover detail barely visible to the human eye. Set your focus carefully and shoot with a shallow depth of field, such as f2.8 or f4, to leave your point of focus pin sharp while giving the rest of your subject an increasingly blurred and ethereal effect. These close-ups can create some wonderfully abstract images and provide a different take on island life.

5. Work with natural light

When taking photographs of your family and friends, consider the atmosphere you want to create. Many photographers advise shooting mostly during the early morning or late afternoon — known as the golden hour, the soft light around sunrise and sunset is certainly special, revealing detail in the shadows and covering the landscape in a warm golden hue. The crystal-clear waters of tropical islands, however, are actually at their most vibrant in the middle of the day, when the sunrays shine straight down to penetrate the shallows and create those vibrant colours we dream about escaping to. The private island is the perfect setting in which to celebrate milestones with loved ones, and taking photos of them throughout the day is sure to create a varied photo album.

How to do it

Guests can be escorted from Malé’s Velana International Airport to Ithaafushi — The Private Island via a 40-minute ride on a yacht or a 15-minute seaplane flight. Facilities include an overwater spa, the Waldorf Astoria Young Discovery Park for children, a dedicated culinary team and 11 dining venues on the main resort. For more information, visit waldorfastoriamaldives.com and ithaafushiprivateisland.com

Published in the May 2021 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK)

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