Travel and Photography, what a beautiful blend of guilty pleasures. Frankly I get an eerie feeling when I hear photographers saying that they are exclusively “travel photographers”. The reason why this triggers uneasy feelings in my mind, is because I find this statement as a little bit too pretentious for my taste. It is like saying “I only take pictures when I’m on travel”, and unless these photographers have the resources for doing so, they’ll be limiting themselves to practicing and enjoying photography as a whole. As a Social Photographer, I approach my local hometown the same way I approach serendipitous encounters when traveling.
For me travelling is an amazing opportunity for getting close to foreign cultures, and thanks to them, one eventually gets an invaluable experience of life. If you love to travel and you also share love for photography, you have an extremely beautiful thing waiting to burst in your hands. Photography makes us get more sensitive to ordinary happenings that otherwise could remain unseen. As outsiders, we have the joy of seeing everything with fresh eyes, that’s why it’s so easy to feel bored about local environments because we wrongly think that we have captured everything possible, which is of course a mistake that I learned about just years after I started to make photographs. There are certain things that you should consider on putting some energy into when approaching your travels with the marvelous discipline of photography.
It all starts home, or at the hotel
Planning is always crucial, but when working abroad, it must be done even with more care. The main reason why planning should not ever be taken for granted when doing travel photography is because our resources are way more limited. Everything becomes scarcer when travelling, from time to geographic displacement, especially when travelling with company that is not passionate about photography as we are. There are certain tools that will help you on getting a rough idea of what to find at certain places. Some of these tools are free to use, and are pretty obvious, but I’ll mentioned them just in case:
- Google Maps: Google maps has become a powerful tool for knowing distances around the areas we as travelers could get closer to. It shows distances in several transportation mediums, even in walking distances.
- Google Street View: Not all countries have the benefit of being Google Street View accessible, but if your destination is inside the victims of Google Street View machinery, you can use this tool to walk around venues in a virtual mode prior your arrival. Let’s face it, this could jeopardize the charm of getting lost while wandering the streets, but sometimes time is so scarce, that it might be helpful even for the most adventurous street photographers.
- The Photographer’s Ephemeris: This great lightweight tool helps you in the planning of outdoor photography. It will be helpful even at your own hometown. The thing about this web based app (also available for iOS) is that it helps you predict the location of both the sun and the moon at a certain time and date. This is helpful for photographers that need to know how the light will fall on the land, whether is day, night, dawn or dusk, for any location on earth.
Learn about the laws and culture
One thing you must always have clear when travelling, is to always be respectful. This apply for culture, religion and even laws. It doesn’t matter if you are an open-minded person walking into a conservative country or conservative person inside a pretty liberal culture, you have to be respectful. There are certain countries that have some picky rules about photography, and also if a person doesn’t feel comfortable while being photographed, please be respectful and try to understand them. Don’t be confrontational and start arguing about your right to photograph people on public places, or start to point out that they don’t mind being filmed by surveillance cameras as some photographers are doing these days. Just remember this, if you are rude with people, you are making other polluting the craft of photography; therefore you’ll be contributing in making our beloved passion harder to practice with absolute freedom anywhere in the world, period.
In order to avoid being frustrated with unfulfilled expectations, try to get an objective grasp on distances. If a place is pretty far away from your hotel, try to dedicate just one day to that place, or even consider getting a room or a B&B at that place. Doing this will reduce the amount of frustrations while photographing certain venues all over the world.
Certain genres of photography are more demanding in terms of time, physical performance, and of course available light. One of this genres is landscape photography. Personally I’m a Social Photographer, and landscapes are not my thing to do, but I do love to watch them. I tend to do contemplative readings on some beautiful landscapes, and I have accompanied some friends in their landscape photography adventures. One thing that I have learned, is that scouting is essential. Sometimes you could just walk to a venue without even taking your camera, because you’ll be looking for the perfect spot for a prior perfect photograph.
Learn about the weather
One of my other passions in life, is weather. I love storms, rain, heavy winds and apocalyptic clouds. I have found that it is important to know about the weather to predict light, and don’t be afraid of the rain, just manage to keep your gear dry and safe, you’ll be surprised of the results threatening weather can have on photographs, no matter your preferred niche or style.
Get your files secure
One healthy practice when travelling, is to create a flexible backup discipline for your files. You are not home, and anything could go wrong. When travelling on assignments or joy, I save my files on my laptop, and on my external hard drive. I do this task every single night, because you don’t know when something weird could happen to your files.
Please share with us your own tips and tricks when doing some travel photography, and have a nice light.