Travel and photography are the perfect bedfellows, the wonder and exploration of new cultures, experiences and adventures, captured through the lens of a trusty camera and preserved for prosperity. The great American author Mark Twain wrote “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness,” and it is this quote that I am constantly reminded of when I travel. In this article we are going to look at why travel photography is such an enjoyable and educational pursuit.
The Cat and the Car – Havana Cuba by Jason Row Photography, on Flickr
Let’s start by saying, travel photography does not have to be about traveling to distant exotic climes. A great many of us will live in cities or towns that are either beautiful in their own right or close to somewhere beautiful or inspiring.
In these days of austerity in many parts of the world, try taking a look at your own region in a different way. Try to imagine that you are visiting it for the first time, do some research on events, history and even your own local cultures, then go on a photographic trip to your own city. The research you do will open your eyes to scenes that never even registered in your sub-conscious before, giving you new insight into your own area.
Travel in your own city by Jason Row Photography, on Flickr
In Mark Twain’s quote you could easily replace, travel with photography, such is the relationship between the two. Traveling with a camera is a great way to understand new cultures and meet new and interesting people. Your camera, used well, can become the ice breaker and break down language barriers. It can capture the colors and light of a new experience as well as the history and diversity of a different culture. To do this however, you must be prepared to embrace the place and people you are visiting.
Very often, it is all too easy to happily wander around merely taking “snapshots” of the scenes in front of you without engaging with your surroundings. Take the time to lower the camera, sit on wall or in a cafe and truly watch the world that you are in, look and listen to you environment, drink it in and you will soon see things that you would never have thought of to photograph, suddenly becoming a creative possibility, a potentially great shot.
A smile is not only something that a photographer should look for but equally something he should also give. A smile can open the doors to many photographic possibilities. When I was in Chennai India, I saw a young mother, who was living with three children on the side of a busy highway. I realised that there was a photographic possibility but also was aware of the moral dilemma of photographing someone’s misfortune. So I smiled at this young lady, and the smile she returned was one of the most beautiful I have ever seen. It opened the door to allow me to take a few, discrete photos, capturing her sad but intense beauty. I gave her some rupees to thank her and hopefully allow her to buy some food for her children.
This is leads to another moral dilemma in travel photography, paying people to take picture. My personal view is to judge each situation on it’s own merits. The Indian lady never asked for anything despite her situation and it was for that reason that I gave her something. This sort of experience is very much part of the joys of travel photography.
The beauty of a simple smile by Jason Row Photography, on Flickr
Of course travel photography is not just about people, it is about capturing the culture, sights and diversity of new places. It’s about putting yourself in the right location and the right time and watching a beautiful scene unfold in front of you, then taking shots that encapsulate that scene, the end result being an image that can convey a sense of story and place to the viewer and trigger wonderful memories for yourself for many years ahead. Seeing the world through a lens, can be, if you allow it, like seeing the world through new eyes, stimulating, exciting, motivational and educational. To me, those four words sum up travel photography completely.
Icebergs in the mist by Jason Row Photography, on Flickr