Using Jet Lag to Your Advantage

Using Jet Lag to Your Advantage

Using Jet Lag to Your Advantage

¬†Fast Planes and Big Oceans. Why You Can’t Beat Jet Lag.

Humans have been around for a couple hundred thousand years, and only within the last 70 have we begun flying big planes across big oceans. The idea that 16 hours is a “long” time to travel between Chicago and Hong Kong, or San Francisco and Sydney, or Tokyo and New York is entirely new. Our bodies have absolutely no idea what’s going on when you instantly wake up 12 time zones away.

The internet is full of information on how to beat jet lag. It’s all based on one false assumption: that you can somehow beat 250,000 years of human evolution, nearly all of which has been anchored by the fact that we’ve always stayed in pretty much the same place throughout the course of our history. Our internal clock knows how to regulate virtually everything about us based on a consistent 24 hour schedule.

Taking Advantage

I took the picture at the top of this post this morning in Koh Samui, Thailand. I had already been up for two hours, and I was wide awake in bed as the sun was beginning to rise in the east. I figured I might as well watch it rise rather than stare at my room’s dark ceiling.

That’s the best part about being jet lagged – it lets you see the world in a different way. Not only are you in somewhere new and different and far away, you’re also able to catch a rare glimpse of wherever you are at all uncommon hours of the morning. For long term travelers of more than a week, enjoy it and use it while it lasts. Short term travelers may very well stay jet lagged the entire trip. It’s a bit frustrating perhaps, but use it to your advantage for the best photographic and travel experiences. Why waste time lying in bed when you can watch the world wake up?

Here are some other scenes I’ve captured thanks to severe jet lag:

Tallinn, Estonia

Good Morning Tallinn


Morning in Zurich

Good Morning Zurich


Morning in Shanghai

Good Morning Shanghai


Morning in Munich

Good Morning Munich


Tips for Pre Dawn and Sunrise Shooting

Early morning shooting is easy. You feel like the entire city is yours. And there’s nobody around to stare at you and your tripod or add visual distractions in your pictures. I’ve found two main techniques help make the most of jet lag photography.

Bike in Utrecht

Colorful HDR from The Netherlands

The Colorful HDR Technique
Bring a tripod and use HDR to add balance to scenes that need it. This works best when the city is too bright against the dark night sky, or too dim against the relatively bright post-sunrise morning sky. You can either shoot a single shot in RAW and edit as an HDR as I did in the shot above, or take a full mulit-exposure HDR for maximum dynamic range.


Utrecht, Netherlands

High Contrast BW from The Netherlands

The High Contrast Black and White Technique
Take a single shot and edit in high contrast black and white for a moody effect. This works well during balanced scenes such as blue hour. That’s the hour before sunrise when there’s some light in the sky, but not so much that it overpowers the foreground. Again, use a tripod to ensure the highest quality. Overcast nights are good for scenes like this too – the clouds reflect city lights and add balance to the sky.


Nobody likes Jet Lag

Least of all, me. But taking pictures and exploring the early morning hours of your new locale beats the hell out of frustratedly trying to force yourself to sleep. Embrace it, and good luck with your jet lag photography.

Do you take pictures when you’re jet lagged?

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