People have been slinking away from the heat of the city and into the cool air of the Cameron Highlands for more than 80 years. The hill station 200 kilometres north of Kuala Lumpur remains a popular weekend escape and offers a rich array of subject matter for photographers.
The mock Tudor façade of the Smokehouse Hotel and classic red telephone box, overlooking the golf course at Tanah Rata, are indicators of the region’s Colonial heritage. You don’t need to have the deductive powers of Sherlock Holmes to work out the upland region was settled by the British.
The region’s first tea bushes were planted in the mid-1920s, four decades after the upland area was surveyed by William Cameron. The Boh Tea Plantation is now one of the Cameron Highlands chief tourist attractions.
Find the best time to photograph
If you want to capture stunning images of the region’s lush, undulating landscapes then it’s best to photograph early in the morning or late in the afternoon, when the sunlight is softer than during the middle of the day. Try it and you’ll find the greens of trees and tea bushes will look deeper and richer than in the harsh light of noon.
Familiarise yourself with your camera
Get to know your camera before you travel, so you know how to adjust the aperture, shutter speed and ISO settings. The time spent reading the manual and playing with your camera will prove a good investment when you’re out and about.
Landscapes often look their most attractive when they’ve been photographed with a broad depth of field. Many mobile phones now allow you to set the aperture manually—being able to control this is one of the reasons professionals have long favoured using Single Lens Reflex (SLR) cameras.
Low f-numbers mean a narrow depth of field while higher f-numbers mean greater depth of field. Don’t be afraid to experiment and compare the results of photographing with different settings, it’s a way of learning.
Don’t be afraid to get creative
Look out for patterns formed by the rows of tea bushes. Why not attempt to capture them creatively?
Compare the results when you photograph holding your camera horizontally and vertically.
Photographing into lines often looks best when you tilt your camera so it’s vertical.
Don’t be afraid to photograph people. That said, if a person indicates that they don’t want to be photographed you should respect their wish.
Most of the workers who pluck tea leaves wear hats to protect themselves from the sunshine.
That means their faces will be in deep shadow. Even in daytime you can use your flash to fill in the details of faces that would otherwise be bathed in shade.
Make sure you shoot a variety of scenes to capture the feel of the Cameron Highlands.
In addition to landscapes, try photographing close-ups of tea leaves growing on bushes.
The colourful details of Hindu temples contrast with the simplicity of the huts which provide workers with accommodation.
The region is renowned for the diversity of its flora and fauna. In addition to rare plants, such as vast Rafflesia flowers, stay alert for opportunities to photograph colourful flowers. Compare the results when you vary the point of focus between the stamen or the petals. Only you can decide what looks best.
One of the great joys of photography is that people interpret scenes differently and the Cameron Highlands offer up a lot of potential material.