Welcome to my second post. I am sorry it took me a couple days to get this up, but hopefully you will find some of it useful in your own photography.
Photography is one of my two favorite things in the world. The other is traveling. Luckily, travel and photography are like two peas in a pod. This is part 1 of a 2 part post about travel photography and how you can take great pictures while traveling. I’ll discuss some of my techniques and mindset and will talk a little bit about some of my travel pictures, which I’ll post at the end.
Enjoy, and as always, feel free to get in touch if you have any more questions.
The traveler, from veteran National Geographic explorers to eager honeymooners to college students, is never complete without a camera, snapping away to remember all the great times passed, beautiful places seen and interesting people met. However, years down the road most of those pictures end up in boxes, or today, with our explosion of digital cameras and ever-expanding hard drives. Every year we travel to amazing, exotic, photogenic destinations and hope the magic of our journey will fill our cameras with photos as breathtaking as the things we see. A month later, however, we often sit unsatisfied with what we came back with, or at least disappointed with the number of good shots we got.
With the proliferation of cameras, everywhere we go, especially tourist destinations, people are taking pictures. I am always amazed when I visit famous sites at how many people I see taking pictures of it. Honestly, you can get a professional picture of almost anything with a simple google images search, and besides, what personal connection do you have to a picture of a building or a statue or a painting, except for that you took the picture? Everybody has already seen Big Ben, the Eiffel tower and Angkor Wat, show them what they have not seen, what you discover on your adventure. The main point I want to communicate, my thesis if you will, is that in addition to actually knowing enough about the camera to get the effects desired, one must actually think about taking pictures and have a serious connection to what they are doing, for it to come out in your pictures. When we explore the cultures of others, the best results will come from a mindset where we can get inside the head of the local and show their life with our commentary on it.
My number one rule is to never let photography get in the way of my trip. I will go out of my way to get a great shot, but I will never sacrifice doing something cool because I can’t take my camera with me, or worry about a dead battery when I’m a week into living with Tibetan nomads. For me, it’s about the experience, and if the only thing I bring home is memories, I am okay with that, but I do love taking pictures and showing them to people.
The experience is something you have to create for yourself. It is a little scary, a little risky, but way easier to create an awesome experience than you might think. In most developing world destinations there is a pretty distinct barrier between where the tourists go and where the locals go. Cross that line, and things might be a little grungy, but they’ll also be 10-100 times cheaper (I’ve spent many a night in sub-$2 hotels) and you’ll probably find something you weren’t expecting. You also get to experience the place you had come all this way to visit. Unless you’re really stressed out and have strictly come on vacation to lay on the beach and drink margaritas, remember that you can always come home to daily showers and safety regulations.
Switzerland, 2008. I was staying with a friend’s family in their village in Switzerland, a place that doesn’t get too many visitors and where most of the older generation has spent their entire lives. I was out for a morning walk and saw these girls with their grandmother (possibly great-grandmother), I motioned at my camera and this girl posed just like that.
Tunisia, 2009. Look for little details that others wouldn’t think to look at, let alone photograph. I was standing in line a little vendor on the side of the street when I looked down and thought the guy standing in front of me had interesting feet. I dropped down, snapped this shot, and was back up before he finished paying. Always have your camera ready.
India, 2011. Another feet picture. You’d be surprised what you can find if you just look down.
Tunisia, 2009. The ultimate testament to always having your camera ready. I was exploring this little beach town on my own when I heard some kids laughing, turned and saw these boys come out a door and run down the alley. This is one of my all time favorites.
Dominican Republic, 2008. Always think about how to creatively use what’s around you, and be prepared to wait for the shot. I was exploring the old part of Santo Domingo and found this cool yellow bug parked there, framed by this beautiful wall and doors. I took a few pictures but wanted more depth in the picture and I looked up and saw this guy walking his bike coming my way from a few blocks away. I ducked into a doorway, set my camera (I set the shutter speed at 1/45 to try to blur him a little bit) and waited.
Tunisia, 2009. Create a connection with the people you photograph. I started joking with this guy about his fish and he turned into a model.