Updated: Sep 29, 2019
“Travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer.” – Anonymous
Wherever we might travel to, whether it is near or far, we are enriched by experiencing new cultures, meeting new people and discovering a way of life that is different from our own. Travelling offers many opportunities for photography also and it allows us to encompass numerous different aspects of photography – landscape, street, urban, portrait – while documenting a place, its people, its culture and traditions, as well as capturing captivating sights.
Travel photography takes place in many different locations, from the viewpoints of magnificent landscapes to the busy streets, alleyways, cafes and markets which are home to local people. For each of us, travelling offers a chance to produce unique images. It can allow us to capture the beauty and character of a place; the ‘feel’ of the surroundings. It can provide us with a record of precious moments as well as the capture of well-known landmarks and landscapes from unusual or interesting perspectives. Travel photography can document a people in their natural environment and can also capture emotions and interactions as they happen.
Photographing well known landmarks
Famous tourist landmarks are well documented by photographers, amateur and professional alike. It is highly unlikely that I will take a better image than those who have gone before me, so for my own photography I like to look for a different or unusual viewpoint that creates an image that is original to me. These are all aspects of the same landmark castle, in Sirmione, Italy, taken at different times.
One of the great advantages of travel photography is the opportunity it gives to capture images that are uniquely ours.
Travelling with others
Unlike other photography shoots, travelling usually involves other people (unless we happen to be highly paid travel photographers on assignment!!) Previously many of my photos taken when travelling were simply the making of memories, and there’s nothing wrong with that, but travel photography as a specific genre of photography has to have an added dimension. Family and travelling companions like to be included in travel pictures so, rather than taking over the image as in a ‘holiday snapshot’, or alternatively becoming nothing more than a distant dot when a landscape has occupied all the focus in the shot, they can often provide a focal point to enhance a composition.
Treating our travelling companions or people we meet on our travels as focal points in our images can enhance these images and give them added dimension.
Capturing the spirit of a place
The principles of street photography – photography taken of people in public places, often termed ‘candid photography’ – can give an added value to our images, in particular to what might be otherwise dull landscape images. Similarly, capturing people when they are not posing for photographs (below) can relay emotions and add a story element to our photography.
Engaging with the subject
One of the difficulties with travel photography can be not engaging with the subject. It can be daunting to approach someone in a ‘foreign’ place and ask to take their photograph. On a visit to Lake Garda I had been watching with interest the number of dogs being wheeled in buggies. I took a few shots but none of them were at a good angle. I then gestured to this dog’s owner my desire to take a photograph. She was delighted and did everything possible to help me get a good shot!
I spotted this man early one morning feeding the ducks on the lake. I took his photograph from a distance (a poor attempt!) but then decided to approach him and ask if it was okay to take his picture. We ended up having a chat and established a connection that taught me a valuable lesson – it is well worth taking a risk and approaching a person to end up with a better image than a distant shot will provide. He ended up asking me to take some photos of himself and his partner with his camera, which I was happy to do.
Some of us collect souvenirs to serve as reminders of the places we visit. Others take photographs, collecting beautiful images of where we have been. Setting out on each day of our travels with a camera in our bag can ensure that we become more observant, that we capture the essence of the place we are visiting and that we don't miss those unexpected moments or magical spots that we come across.
“Don’t pack up your camera until you’ve left the location” – Joe McNally