Last week, I agonised over which three photos to submit for the Cornwall Regional Art Gallery’s juried exhibition. Most of the photos I was choosing from were my travel photographs, which got me thinking about my travels past and future.
In true traveller’s form, I already have the next trip (or six!) booked and planned – at least partially… I will be visiting my husband in a few weeks’ time, and we’ll be flying to Switzerland where we’ll visit some friends we met in Cambodia earlier this year, before driving through Austria to get to Slovenia. I’m fortunate that my husband is patient enough to allow me my vices; he’ll carry my camera bag when it gets too heavy, and he’s (usually) forgiving when I call out “Just a sec! I just want one more…” Given that my go-to lens/camera combination weighs in at a hefty 12 lbs, I always try to make sure that I’m going to be able to carry my gear comfortably (or as comfortably as possible) so that when it comes to be Rich’s turn, I’m not dealing with a grumpy husband. : ) If I’m in doubt that I’m going to be taking distance shots, then my L-series lens is going to have to take a back seat in favour of some lighter-weight options. But a day’s full drive through the the Alps? Come on… That 28-300mm lens is NOT getting left behind!
These trips always set the wheels turning because of the choices I have to make. What do I need to bring with me? What extras am I willing to carry? How much weight am I willing to burden myself with? What am I wanting to photograph? What do I want to achieve? It’s that last question that helps set me on a path of discovery with each trip I take and I have started trying to choose an area of focus for each trip. In Portugal, it was the cable cars and riverfront; Venice’s focus was masks; in Copenhagen, it was people waiting; Vietnam brought my focus to the very old and the very young; and while in Australia, I went with the obvious choice: beachfront portraits. The awesome challenge posed by travel photography is trying to capture images that are different from everyone else’s.
The last thing I want to hear when people look at my photos is “Oh, I have that picture.” I like thinking that the trips I’ve done and the things I’ve seen are, in at least some small way, different from the next person’s. That’s not to say that we didn’t stand and look at the same things, but I’d like to think that we each look at the world just a little differently. Sometimes, I admit, I do take the postcard shots; mainly because I like to get an overview of a location for future reference or send those sorts of photos home in emails. But those are the ones that rarely get printed. The exception to this was Greece, because it’s hard not to think of Georges Meis when you’re surrounded by the blinding white and stunning blues of Santorini. It’s also exceptionally difficult to take a photo that hasn’t been done before on an island so heavily photographed.
This desire to get different shots means that I often spend my days looking for different vantage points–high angles, side on shots, negative space, whatever works!–of main attractions
or I spend my time seeking out destinations that are less travelled or less populated at any given time of year. It’s a bit of a paradox to be a tourist who hates seeing tourists, but such is life and its challenges. The one thing that I do have to remind myself is that photos come second; I travel to experience, not to spend my time looking through a viewfinder.
Ultimately, travel has brought and continues to bring me innumerable opportunities: experiencing new cultures; taking in amazing sights; seeing wildlife at its most natural; and learning about myself and how I handle different situations (for example, I’ve learned that, after 21 hrs’ travelling, there’s not much I handle well apart from ocean and a bed). But the one lasting effect of my travels has been a growing love for photography. It’s how I got started on this path and is one thing that always, without fail, inspires me to try something new. And besides, when you travel, sometimes you get just plain lucky.