A judge at a competition meeting of my camera club once commented that a certain photo was great as part of a collection documenting a particular travel experience, but the photo was not great as a stand-alone image. The comment made me think about my travel photography. Is my goal to create a few competition/sales worthy images? Or, is my goal to capture as many of the sights that interest me as I can in the limited time of a trip?
Blogging has turned out to be the easiest way for me to collect trip photos. Photo books, slideshows, and a few prints are usually on the agenda too, but often they do not come to fruition. What ensures that my blog gets completed is knowing that one of my favorite pastimes is to read an old blog from a trip I took weeks, months, or years ago. And when I take the time to do that, I never think, "Why did I take so many pictures?" For me, the more memories, the better.
My style supports that. I like to keep going all day and use my camera to help me see and appreciate what's going on around me. I'm always consciously looking for something visually interesting to me, whether it be a lovely scene, a small architectural detail, people, or whatever. If something or someone catches my eye and I like what I see, I tend to make a photograph or two or three - quickly - and then move on. Snapshots? Maybe. But I know I'm using what I've learned about composition and camera settings as best I can as I go.
I'd have to shoot very differently if my goal on trips was to nail a few fabulous travel shots. Each shot might require things like research, planning, pre-visualizing, patience, repeated attempts, ingenuity, physical effort like climbing, creativity, perseverance, lugging a tripod. To say nothing of getting up very early and staying out very late. And even then, no guarantees. I'd also have to display them differently - say a collection of 10 or 20 top photos. This is a style that works for some photographers.
There are times - even on trips - when I do slow down and consciously work a scene. For me, though, it doesn't necessarily lead to better photos. For example, in Paris recently, I walked over to the Eiffel Tower (Tracadero side near my hotel) so early one morning that the tourist barriers were not in place yet. I was excited about getting a reflection of the tower because it would be impossible once the barriers were in place. I spent at least an hour trying different angles, etc. and still didn't get good results. I didn't pay enough attention to the "mechanics" of the pool (much cloned here but still distracting) or the background behind the tower which included many cars and even renovation scaffolding. I remember Carol Leigh saying, "Sometimes you need to just walk away," and this was what I should have done instead of wasting so much time.
Later that same morning, I took photos on the fly from a bateau on the Seine and like them much better. Here's one example:
But my favorite photo op of the morning turned out to be a couple of newlyweds who were mugging for a group of cheering teenagers on the bateau. It's the kind of photo you can't pre-visualize, but it seems to be the type that most pleases me.
Now I'm wondering…. if I had decided to try to nail say one fabulous shot in Prague - what would it be? What did I experience in Prague that now, in hind sight, I wish I'd spent a lot more time and effort on? Instead of moving on quickly, that is, in pursuit of the next visual treat to photograph. It would have been great to get buildings without distortion but more time & effort would not have helped that. I'm not even going to spend time working on them in LightRoom for this blog let alone buy a tilt lens. I guess the reality that I can't think of anything means that I'm pretty happy with my style as is and probably won't do anything differently. And actually, there were times I slowed down and tried to create something original. I tried shots like this on the Charles Bridge for maybe 10 minutes….with questionable results.
And I patiently watched people enter a church for Mass to get photos of particular people….like this little girl…. but these are small efforts compared to what some photographers do to get a shot. I've read many impressive, astonishing accounts of how amazing photographs were achieved. By other photographers. Still, I've come a long way in recent years. On my first trips to Europe, I took only photos of people I was with, and if I wanted to remember any of the sights, I bought postcards.
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