You have photographed all over the World, how do you decide where you are going to shoot next?
Generally, there are two different ways that I decide where to go next: The easiest way is to go to places on my bucket list, which I still like to do from time to time. Unfortunately, the reality is that as a full-time photographer that is not always possible. So, it comes down to the client’s needs most of the time. If it is for an assignment, then obviously you are governed by the brief or story. If it is for stock photos, I will do some research into popular destinations or up-and-coming places and discuss it with AWL and then decide.
How many trips do you do and how much of the year do you spend out on the road?
This question would have had a completely different answer pre-COVID. Generally, I would do 2 or 3 longer trips of 2 weeks or more per year. There would also then be lots of shorter 3 to 4-day trips focused on European cities or UK. I tend to do all my travelling between September and May and avoid the summer months where I focus on editing and marketing. Post COVID, who knows how many trips I will be able to go on.
What planning and preparation goes into one of your trips?
I spend more time planning and researching a trip than actually being on it. My preparation will start months in advance with lots of research online and in books. I will also spend time looking through social media and seeing if there are any locations or spots that are off the usual tourist trail, places that only locals know about.
I also keep Google maps of different places around the world filled with shot locations that I may have come across over the years. I go through these to see if there are any locations I may have missed that I want to add. By the time I leave for my trip I have a detailed shot list of what I would like to capture.
What is in your bag when you head out on a shoot?
People are always surprised to hear how little equipment I take with me when I travel. My basic list consists of Canon 5D Mark IV and Mark III bodies and Canon L series lenses (24 – 70 mm, 70 – 200 mm). If the shoot calls for it, I may also take a 16 – 35 mm lens (or other speciality lenses), but I have found myself taking this less as it has been replaced with a DJI Mavic 2 drone in my bag.
I also carry a range of Lee filters, a Manfrotto tripod, a laptop and a couple of hard drives for backing up work and a load of memory cards, batteries and a couple of polarizers.
Travel photography is an extremely broad genre, what subjects do you enjoy shooting the most?
My favourite subject to photograph is people – not so much portraits, more everyday life. I like to incorporate some form of human interaction in my photos where the viewer sees an experience rather than just shooting a post card shot.
I also do enjoy traditional landscape photography where you can just slow down and enjoy the scenery.
When you are shooting, how do you give your images visual impact and add that bit of magic that makes your pictures stand out?
My background at university was art direction and design. So, I naturally always tend to think carefully about my composition. Often, I will get somewhere and end up waiting until the right moment to take the photo. It might be waiting for the light to change or for a point interest to come into my shot.
Whenever possible I look to try and add a human connection to my photos to make them stand out from similar photos that might be out there.
What editing and post-processing do you do once you have the RAW images from a shoot?
Most of my editing is done in Lightroom. I start by going through a rough edit and picking the photos that I feel are the strongest to work on. Every photo will require some level of editing even if it is just tweaking the white balance and removing dust spots. If a photo requires more complex retouching than I would move it into Photoshop.
What places have made the most impact on you?
That is a really difficult question to answer because every time I go somewhere new it has an impact on me. A recent trip to Bhutan was incredible and it was wonderful to see a country that is largely untouched by tourism and is also an environmental conservation example for the rest of the world.
I guess the single most important trip in my life was the first time I visited Thailand 15 years ago. It was the first time I had travelled anywhere with a backpack and I spent three and a half weeks exploring the country. It had such an impact on me that a year later I went travelling around the world for 8 months!
Have you had any disaster trips when things just haven’t come together?
New York 2018! I was due to be there for 8 days for a shoot for a client in early September. Historically the weather in New York is very good in September. But after the first day of great weather, it rained non-stop for the next 7 days. After the third day of rain I had to contact the client to tell them that I could either carry on or save them some money and come home early. They were really grateful for the honesty and so I cut the trip short and came home after 3 days.
Do you have a particular all-time favourite image – and why?
It’s funny because I tend to like my images less and less over time. But this image is one of my favourites as it was such a wonderful experience. I had visited a local monastery in Phobjikha Valley in Bhutan and got talking to three novice monks who were intrigued by my camera. So, they asked permission from their monastery to join me at this beautiful location to see what I was doing. I showed them some of the basics of the camera and they took some photos.
Before leaving, I noticed one of the monks sitting in front of the stupa taking in the scene. With the rays of the sun coming over the mountains it was an amazing view. I almost didn’t even take the photo because I was so in awe of the setting.
Where would you most like to go and photograph next?
I’m off to the north coast of Scotland next. It is somewhere that I have never been to, so I am looking forward to that. I was due to be going to China in June, but that was cancelled due to the coronavirus. I’d still like to go there one day. For the foreseeable future I will be exploring more of the UK.
What do you like to do when you aren’t out photographing?
I love playing football and still play Sunday league, albeit for a veteran side now. I also love cooking, especially Texan-style slow cooking in my smoker – something that I have Texas to thank for from my time visiting there a few years back.
About the photographer: Kav Dadfar is a London based full-time professional travel and landscape photographer with over 15 years’ experience shooting editorial and commercial assignments and high-end stock. He specialises in travel, destination, lifestyle and brand photography including social media.
His images have featured in Condé Nast, National Geographic Traveller, Wanderlust, Lonely Planet, American Express Magazine, Mercedes Magazine, Rough Guides, and many national and international newspapers around the world. He is the author of over 400 articles on photography for Digital Photography School, LifePixel and Expert Photography websites.
Kav regularly gives photography talks at events such as the Destination Show in London and to camera clubs. He leads small group photo tours and workshops around the world.