I came across an article in which the writer complained about travel photographers. It seemed an odd thing to complain about and got me thinking …
Travel photography should enhance our travel experience, not detract from it.
First, I agree that the effort of creating a drawing or water colour will increase the amount of detail you see and remember. However, it’s not a practical approach anymore. It worked in times past, before cameras, when travelers were forced to learn to draw as children. How many people today believe they can draw? How disappointing to return from an adventure with only some rough scribbles that make you cringe?
That said, if you can draw, then do.
Second, I don’t agree that taking photos while travelling makes you less observant or disconnects you from the experience. Photographers see more because they have trained themselves to look. They (We) hunt down the visual experience.
The third process, that is not doing either, allows other senses the opportunity to come into their own. It’s all about balance, ensuring you take home the best travel experience you possibly can.
I travel so rarely that I wanted a ‘foolproof’ strategy to ensure it worked well.
For me, travel photography is about making a record and creating a resource.
Making a record
A field trip to Adelong Gold Mill Ruins last year is a good example. Amoungst all our shots of the ruins and the river, I snuck in the map of walking trails. It works as a great contextualising image for the rest of the photos. There were lots of interpretive signs I could have also included, but I felt that this one captured what we were there to do – walk the ruins.
When I’m travelling with camera, I return with photos of accommodation (inside and out), modes of transport (up to a point – I don’t photograph every taxi I get in!), and travel companions.
I don’t take photos of every museum, train station, monument or natural wonder on the tourist trail as these are well documented in the brochures, on the internet, etc.
Instead, I look for the big picture and then the detail. There are the wide establishing shots that help put into context the experience that is to come. Then there are the close ups on the details. It can be a lot of fun working out which detailed image captures the essence of where you are. For that, you have to observe, experience, think and eventually press the shutter.
Don’t forget to turn around and look at where you’ve been. It might not be an awesome picture, in the technical sense, but it should be a reminder of what you’ve accomplished.
Creating a resource
For those of us with an art/craft practice (albeit non-professional), the images we bring back from our travels become a valuable resource. When travelling, I look for interesting colours, patina, shapes, layers, odd combinations, triggers for ideas.
Putting the camera away
I have deliberately travelled without a camera and can recommend it. Sometimes, we need a reminder that experiences are supposed to be multi-sensory.
So far, I’m very happy with the balance that my travel strategy is creating. But that doesn’t mean it can’t be improved. Next time, I will also take drawing paper and pencils. Who knows where that may lead.
- Expand the image making opportunities with different types of equipment
- My contribution to the photography and memory hoopla