Travel photography

The Stories Behind 5 Stunning Travel Photos

Arresting images require timing, patience, light and skill. We asked travel photographers for the stories behind their best shots


Mount Fuji, Japan (2017) 

Takashi Nakazawa known professionally as Takashi – has spent eight years shooting a single mountain. His photos of Mount Fuji have earned him plaudits including a win at the 2018 Sony World Photography Awards.

‘When I shot Mount Fuji for the first time, I encountered a superb view of a pure white swan crossing a lake, while the mountain emerged behind a bank of fog,’ recalls Nakazawa. ‘Since that moment, I’ve been completely fixated on this mountain.’

To capture this image, Nakazawa took up a post on a road in the Yunooku-Inokashira area to the east of the mountain, at around 1,200 metres above sea level.

With his Nikon D800 and 125mm telephoto lens in hand, he waited two hours for what Japanese photographers call the ‘Pearl Fuji’ moment, when the moon crests over the mountain.

‘Just as I was ready to shoot, some clouds covered the peak so I quickly moved to another spot several hundred metres away,’ says Nakazawa, who used a f/11 aperture and 1/50 second shutter speed. ‘Here, the moon had appeared above the clouds and the sunset illuminated Mount Fuji with a rich red colour. It was an amazing moment.’ 

Daryl Chapman

Kai Tak Airport, Hong Kong (1998) 

Kai Tak Airport and Kowllon City, Hong Kong

Daryl Chapman, one of Hong Kong’s most prolific automotive photographers, visited Kai Tak Airport nearly every weekend and public holiday from 1992 until the night it closed in 1998.

He had chosen this shooting location – atop a footbridge above the entrance of the Kai Tak Tunnel in To Kwa Wan – for the very first time on the day he took this shot.

From his vantage point, two towers framed planes as they swooped toward the tarmac – accentuating the proximity of the airport to the city’s dense streets. Overall, it was an ordinary day for Chapman, if not a bit slow: only about three or four aircraft descended before he captured this Cathay Pacific Boeing 747-300 with his Canon SLR. 

‘Since the airport was so close to the city, it gave me a lot of photography choices,’ he says, recalling the joy of watching aircraft bank sharply over Kowloon City and land on runway 13. ‘The fact that this photo has become a classic Hong Kong image is something I treasure.’

Hong Kong is the home base of Cathay Pacific

Tom Cannon

Coral Bay, Australia (2018)

Coral Bay, Australia
Credit: Tom Cannon / SWNS

Based in Coral Bay, about a two-hour flight north of Perth, 27-year-old underwater photographer Tom Cannon runs tour and content company Ocean Collective Media, a job that enables him to photograph the whale sharks, manta rays and humpback whales in the Ningaloo Reef on a daily basis.

The day he shot this image in March 2018 started off differently than most. ‘We had only been on the boat for about 20 minutes when we came across this young whale shark, just about 5 metres long,’ says Cannon. ‘It was really curious about the bubbles from the boat so it kept hanging around.’

Cannon shot this photo half above water, half below on his Nikon D810 with Aquatech underwater housing. He opened up his aperture to let more light in, while his wide-angle fish-eye lens enabled him to fit in the entire scene.

‘Around 15 minutes into shooting, the shark just stopped still in the water, so it was almost vertical, and let me take its photo,’ recalls Cannon. ‘It was one of the friendliest whale sharks I’ve ever encountered – it kept following me around even after the photo!’

John McDermott

Angkor, Cambodia (2014) 

Angkor, Cambodia

Originally from Arkansas in the US, John McDermott began visiting Cambodia in the early 2000s to pursue ELEGY: Reflections on Angkor, a photography book that serves as a portrait of Angkor before mass tourism.

Since then, he’s set up a fine-art and photo gallery in Siem Reap and continues to shoot temples around the region. Among his favourite images is this photo of Bayon – a temple in the Angkor Thom complex with 54 stone towers, each with four enormous face carvings pointing in the cardinal directions. To enhance the mysterious nature of the temple, McDermott used an old Nikon FM2 film camera loaded with 35mm Kodak black-and-white infrared film.

‘That morning had particularly good clouds – they add drama and depth to a picture,’ says McDermott. ‘There were some inherent difficulties using the film and it required a lot of time in the darkroom to the look and feel right. The result symbolises the power of the ancient Angkorian empire in a very surreal way.’

Aung Pyae Soe

Bagan, Myanmar (2011)

Bagan, Myanmar

Aung Pyae Soe, an award-winning travel photographer based in Yangon, gravitates to the ancient city of Bagan, which has just been listed as a Unesco world heritage site. ‘It’s filled with more than 3,000 pagodas and all of the seasons have their own beauty, so I never feel bored,’ says Soe.

To shoot this image, Rays of Bagan, Soe climbed up Mee Nyein Khone Temple – one of the pagodas in the area – early on a winter morning, then waited about two hours for the sun to rise. Readying for the perfect moment, he set his Canon EOS 5D Mark II to a tight aperture of f/32 to increase his depth of field.

‘Suddenly, mist appeared across the area and the sun cast this golden glow,’ recalls Soe. ‘I got lucky to get this flare from the sun – I think it’s my old lens that made this possible.’  

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Discovery online brings together all the inspirational travel writing from our two inflight magazines, Discovery and Silkroad. Be sure to look out for the print editions when you next fly with Cathay Pacific or Cathay Dragon.
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