The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page
– St. Augustine
Travel photography is something that I love and loathe! Its a fine balance between enjoying the moment and capturing it.
Although you need to know your fstops, ISOs, dof geekery to make good images – enjoying the moment is the ultimate recipe for great images. As an amateur photographer I don’t travel to acquire good photographs, the images that I get are by-products of my travel. Now that might seem obvious but when I got into photography my travels were incomplete without photographs that moved me (i.e. atleast a couple of 3 star images – with a rating of 1 (ok) to 5 (excellent), in Lightroom). No matter how many images that I made and how many places that I visited, my 3 star images were just a handful!(4 & 5 are rarities).
On one fateful trip, I ended up without my digital SLR! My friends were stupefied by the disappointment they saw on my face…” just for forgetting your camera?” was the thought that was running through their mind, which ofcourse they never shared! Life had to go on and so I trodded on behind the group. After a couple of minutes I totally got over the disappointment (well not really..but I just felt better) and having fun with friends and taking in the sights and scenes of the place. We stopped here and there to take the proverbial tourist shot with a point & shoot (pplease!) and totally had fun. I was actually feeling guilty that I wasn’t missing my camera as much as I should have! weird.. (now that tells something about me doesn’t it?..). Going through the images in my library, I actually liked several of the shots that I had taken with the point and shoot (give it 2.5 stars or close to 3). Mulling over, I realized that I actually felt good about a higher percentage of the shots from the point and shoot than from the images that I got from my SLR from other trips.
The only reason that I could come up with was that on the trip without my SLR I had spent less time seeing from behind the camera (yeah..point & shoot) and was actually taking in the “atmosphere” around me and letting the environment wash over me. Boiling it down, “it seems that one actually needs to have a sense of taste and appreciation for the locale, before you can get good travel photographs” – geez! what a discovery! Now I no longer hunt for the best place to setup my tripod, look for the light..and all that mumbo jumbo – I just go and hang around the place for atleast and hour or so (if you’re traveling with company you need to convince them to hang around as well ;-)) and finally make my images when I think I’m ready to move on. Enjoying the moment (and or place) is actually more important than capturing it! (well, its not if you’re on the job) As an amateur (travel) photographer you can afford to lose the moment from your camera but identify & enjoy it with your eyes and it definitely will make you a better photographer. Now if that seems really counter intuitive, it is – unless you try it! Not everybody is a Cartier Bresson, you need to enjoy and lose enough “decisive moments” to actually capture one later.Let me know if you had a similar epiphany.
PS: Sorry if point & shoot photographers felt bad, actually that was then – now I completely get it, the camera doesn’t make good pictures, photographers do!
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- Six Tips for Taking Better Travel Photos with Your Point-and-Shoot Digital Camera (locationindependentprofessionals.com)
- Cartier-Bresson exhibit tells stories in decisive moments (reuters.com)