How to find your edge with street and travel photography

Photography pro Martin Bissig chose a Canon EOS R10 to take with him on a tour of Sri Lanka. Here, he reveals the benefits of travelling light, and how to capture the moments worth remembering.
Photographer Martin Bissig leans out of a train that has stopped to pick up passengers on a viaduct in Sri Lanka. In his hand is a Canon EOS R10 and behind him a hill with small wooden houses built into it. Photographed by Monika Bissig on a Canon EOS R7. 

When you already own two high-end professional cameras and a host of prime lenses, choosing different kit for a trip might surprise some, but for pro photographer and Canon Ambassador Martin Bissig it was the obvious choice. Camera technology is constantly developing, so taking time to try different models can expose you to new features that could either help you make a great start if you're a beginner, or – in Martin's case – give you new tools to work with as a pro.

With a month-long trip to Sri Lanka planned, Martin researched his kit options carefully and decided to try out the Canon EOS R10 with the Canon RF-S 18-150mm F3.5-6.3 IS STM lens. He selected the APS-C EOS R10 for its diminutive size, lightweight body and impressive burst shooting – and was delighted with the results. "I captured a lot of moments on the EOS R10 that I wouldn't have caught on my bigger cameras, because I just wouldn't have taken them out with me," he explains.

Here, Martin shares photos from the trip, along with advice on how to bring home pro-level pictures from your own adventures.

Seeing life differently

A close-up of bare feet next to small piles of vegetables including carrots and runner beans at a Sri Lankan market stall. Taken by photographer Martin Bissig on a Canon EOS R10.

"Having a camera in my hand opens my eyes to details I wouldn't see if I was just there looking around," says Martin. Taken on a Canon EOS R10 with a Canon RF-S 18-150mm F3.5-6.3 IS STM lens at 50mm (equivalent to 80mm on a full-frame camera), 1/80 sec, f/5.6 and ISO640. © Martin Bissig

Martin first became interested in photography as a child in Switzerland, watching his father develop photos in the darkroom installed in their family home. His images were printed by a newspaper when he was just 13, and he is now one of the most published action sports photographers in Europe.

Despite making a name for himself in the mountain biking world, Martin knows that skills learned in any area of photography are transferable. Travel opportunities give him the freedom to practise new techniques and try out different cameras and lenses, without the pressure of having deadlines to meet and clients to please.

"I love travel and adventure, so I try to work it into everything I do," he says. "My commercial work is all focused around outdoor sports, and when I'm not working I try to go on at least two expeditions a year. Sometimes photos from these trips will be published by magazines, but I try to separate it as much as possible from my regular work."

Travel also provides Martin with the opportunity to tap into the mindful benefits of photography. "Photography makes me more present," he explains. "For example, I might not have seen the guy standing barefoot between the veggies at the market if I wasn't thinking about creating an interesting composition. Closing in on details makes me more aware of all the interesting things happening around me."

Learning through experience

Taken through a mirrored archway, a young girl walks past a single-decker bus painted in vivid pink, yellow, white and red, with the scene reflected on the left of the frame. Taken by photographer Martin Bissig on a Canon EOS R10.

Photographs taken while travelling have improved Martin's ability to think quickly. "Over the years I've developed the confidence and calmness to see certain things that someone else might not see in the same moment," he says. Taken on a Canon EOS R10 with a Canon RF-S 18-150mm F3.5-6.3 IS STM at 18mm (45mm), 1/125 sec, f/3.5 and ISO100. © Martin Bissig

Most of Martin's photography work takes place in locations he is unfamiliar with, shooting people he doesn't know. This requires him to be spontaneous, calling on his years of experience to capture the action as it happens. "I try to be as authentic as possible," he says.

"Travel photography informs my approach to commercial jobs because in both scenarios I have to think on my feet," Martin continues. "Everything is decided in the moment. For example, in the shot I took of the girl walking in front of the bus, I saw the bus mirrored in the glass at the train station, then saw a bunch of schoolchildren about to walk in front of it, so I simply stood for a moment and prepared my composition while waiting for them to walk into shot." 

As an experienced action photographer, Martin has learnt to get his timing right almost all of the time. But for photographers wanting to ensure they get the shot, the Canon EOS R10 has both a RAW Burst and a Pre-Shooting mode. "If you can't see the subject or you know it's going to suddenly appear out of nowhere, these are such useful tools to have," he enthuses.

The EOS R10 also has the same Dual Pixel AF CMOS II autofocus system that can be found in the Canon EOS R3, EOS R5 and EOS R6, as well as impressive fps (frames per second) shooting, which makes it ideal for stills and video shooters who want to experiment with more advanced features. "The fast continuous shooting makes it feel more like a pro camera than a mid-level option," says Martin.

Getting lost in the crowd

A person chops fish on a wooden block at a market stall. Taken by photographer Martin Bissig on a Canon EOS R10 with a Canon RF-S 18-150mm F3.5-6.3 IS STM lens.

"If you want to take photography seriously, using a more compact camera such as the Canon EOS R10, rather than a smartphone, makes a huge difference," says Martin. Taken on a Canon EOS R10 with a Canon RF-S 18-150mm F3.5-6.3 IS STM lens at 95mm (152mm), 1/160 sec, f/6.3 and ISO160. © Martin Bissig

A lush green valley sparsely populated with tall trees with dark storm clouds in the sky above it. Taken by photographer Martin Bissig on a Canon EOS R10.

The smaller sensors on APS-C cameras such as the  Canon EOS R10 typically give a greater depth of field than a full-frame camera, which can be useful for keeping foreground and background areas equally sharp in landscape images. Taken on a Canon EOS R10 with a Canon RF-S 18-150mm F3.5-6.3 IS STM lens at 62mm (99mm), 1/200 sec, f/9 and ISO100. © Martin Bissig

"When I'm shooting for commercial clients, I use two Canon EOS R5 bodies and a range of RF prime lenses, but when I travel, I try to be more discreet with a smaller camera and it helps me to move around freely," says Martin.

"I wouldn't want to stand in a market in Sri Lanka holding my Canon EOS R5 with my Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L USM lens, because I'd look too much like a professional photographer on a shoot. I prefer to blend in with my surroundings because it enables me to get closer to my subject without causing offence or being too intrusive."

As with the EOS R5, the feature-packed EOS R10 is intuitive and user-friendly, with instinctive buttons and dials that Martin was able to navigate with ease, and similar menu structure navigation and operability. The EOS R10 also has a Panoramic mode, which stitches together a series of shots in-camera, captured while rotating the camera vertically or horizontally, which enabled Martin to "capture more of the surroundings and give a really wide-angle point of view".

Print-worthy results

At dusk, three fishermen balanced on poles in shallow water wait patiently for a catch as the sun sets in front of them. Taken by photographer Martin Bissig on a Canon EOS R10.

Compact, lightweight and quiet, the Canon RF-S 18-150mm F3.5-6.3 IS STM lens has a versatile zoom range – equivalent to 29-240mm on a full-frame camera – for capturing a range of travel scenarios. Taken on a Canon EOS R10 with a Canon RF-S 18-150mm F3.5-6.3 IS STM lens at 150mm (240mm), 1/250 sec, f/6.3 and ISO200. © Martin Bissig

A young boy with huge brown eyes looks directly at the camera. Blurred in the background behind him, a person wearing orange robes can be seen. Taken by photographer Martin Bissig on a Canon EOS R10.

The advanced autofocus in the EOS R10 uses Eye Detection AF to track people with increased precision. "I used the animal and people detection autofocus modes a lot in Sri Lanka," says Martin. "They're incredibly accurate and fast, and really helped me get the shot when I didn't have much time to set up." Taken on a Canon EOS R10 with a Canon RF-S 18-150mm F3.5-6.3 IS STM lens at 76mm (122mm), 1/160 sec, f/6.3 and ISO500. © Martin Bissig

When weight and space are concerns, using your smartphone for photography might seem like a sensible choice, but Martin thinks otherwise. "I use my smartphone for snapshots, but the experience of shooting on a camera is very different," he says. "Shooting with the Canon RF-S 18-150mm F3.5-6.3 IS STM in Sri Lanka meant I was able to capture shots that I wouldn't have attempted with a smartphone, such as fishermen from the shore, which was helped further by the APS-C or crop sensor enhancing the max range to 240mm (full-frame equivalent), and shooting in RAW meant I had more options in post-production."

Even if Martin doesn't intend to publish his images in a magazine, he still wants them to be good enough to print for himself. "Images captured on a phone might look good on the phone screen, but as soon as you want to print them out or create a photobook, they prove to be very limited," he says. 

The same can be said for video; the EOS R10 has features that make it an appealing upgrade from phone footage for filmmakers. Vertical video support and Wi-Fi connectivity is built-in, which makes it perfect for creating and sharing high-quality social media posts, and high frame rate recording (60fps in 4K and 120fps in 1080p) gives you more control in post-production.

As Martin sees it, whenever he has a camera in his hand he's present and learning. The trip to Sri Lanka gave him a great opportunity to practise his skills, but a walk in a local park or a trip to the beach can provide you with the same opportunities. If you're looking to develop your skills as a photographer, take a leaf out of Martin's book: find a subject you're interested in, choose kit that won't hold you back, and get shooting.

Written by Matthew Bowen

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