“If you don’t have the photos to prove it, it never happened.” Has anyone said this to you? We all love sharing our stories about our travels to far off exotic lands, but as they say, a picture is worth a thousand words. Although I can describe a beautiful scene or experience in detail, I much prefer to capture images instead.
I think it’s safe to say that most of us have had romantic fantasies about being a travel photographer. After all, it’s like being Indiana Jones or James Bond with a camera, right?
In reality, not many photographers get the chance to make their passion their career as well. As a result, that romantic fantasy in reality is reduced to a dash to get as many interesting photos as possible from an adventurous vacation.
What you may then be faced with is a struggle of priorities. You (and maybe your travel companion) may start to wonder if you are taking some photos while you are traveling or the travels are a means of getting some good photos.
It’s a question as to when focusing too much on capturing images of your experiences actually detracts from the experience itself.
If you are overemphasizing your photography you likely fit into one of two categories (or maybe both): those who shoot way too many photos, and those who spend too much time composing the images.
For those who shoot too many photos, maybe there is a simple explanation such as it’s a new camera and you just can’t bear the excitement therefore you must shoot as many pictures as possible. On the other hand, perhaps you are trying to capture as much of the ambiance and details as possible for reminiscing’s sake.
Consider your goal. If you are on a trip with the sole purpose of accumulating a stack of stock images to sell, then your priorities are clear. However, if you are shooting for posterity it’s probably not necessary to go crazy shooting every little thing. A couple shots from that beautiful sunset dinner on the beach will release a deluge of memories surrounding that evening.
Also keep in mind that if you intend to show off your photos from a trip, the vast majority of people don’t want to sit through a slideshow of 1,000 images.
Maybe you happen to fall into the latter category and spend an eternity setting up a tripod, tweaking camera settings and getting super-obsessive about each shot. We all want to bring home beautiful pictures but many of the best travel photos are spontaneous and captured while exploring with camera in hand at the ready.
Is your desire to get great photos keeping you from doing the things you might be doing if you didn’t have a camera? Don’t fall into this trap. Try to focus more on the experience. You may one day lose all of your images (hopefully not, back them up!), but the memories may last forever.
Another consideration is the camera you are using. I shoot with a big full-frame DSLR and have found myself leaving it behind because it is heavy, cumbersome and slows me down, not to mention expensive if it were lost or stolen.
As a result, I bought a small rangefinder-style mirrorless camera with a built-in prime lens. I bring it everywhere, it takes great photos, is quick and easy to use and far less conspicuous. It’s also much less intimidating when handing it to someone else to take a picture. I’m very happy I acquired it and my only regret is that I didn’t sooner. I have found that this little travel camera has helped me reach a healthy balance between traveling and photography.
If you are traveling with others, your shutter-bugging obsession can subject them to the same experience-altering dilemma. In this case, streamlining your emphasis on photography may take on a higher level of importance. They just might get bored and frustrated if you are spending the afternoon climbing bell towers for different perspectives and examining every shiny surface in search of interesting reflections.
This is an important consideration as you may not only detract from your own experience, but also rain on someone else’s parade. If you plan on getting serious about taking pictures on a trip, be considerate and at least warn your travel partner(s). It’s undoubtedly a delicate balance but one that we photographers need to keep in mind as we embark on our exciting journeys.
Have you struggled to strike this balance before? What are some of your solutions to this problem?
Photos by Jeremie Schatz.