For some people the urge to travel is irresistible and this compulsion leads to a variety of colourful entry and exit visas in their Passports. Most of those will have some sort of photographic record of their journeys and for a few this will be the thing that drives them most – the opportunity to record stories from other lands of other people as a set of images. Of course we all have our occasion, event and holiday snaps and perhaps we hold on to them for reasons other than their technical brilliance, but to go a step further, indeed several steps further, and make this who we are drives but a very few. A lot more of us probably feel that this goes on the Lottery-Win-Bucket-List (guilty, probably very guilty). Some of us might even use our social media skills to share this with friends, family and the like minded of the billion or so people with access to the world wide web. Some make a living from this. Most don’t. We are all, however, on this spectrum somewhere because we are bound at the very least by a common love of photography, or we wouldn’t be here doing this.
John Chamberlin FRPS MFIAP took us on a journey starting in the Falklands and ending in North Uist via South America, North America, Africa and Continental Europe with an obvious passion for photography that started in 1979. A mixture of wild life, landscape, street and anecdote that made for a fine club evening.
So there is a difference between a (travel) photographer and a body with a camera. It’s not the gear, though John said his was top end (it bounces rather breaks) and that it has taken some years to collect. It’s not just the capability to travel, though being there obviously is a pre-requisite, glaciers and associated wildlife don’t usually occurring in your local high street unless you live in the right latitude – and that tends to rule out things like High Streets of any size, Polar bears being bad for business and not just because of their poor credit rating. It’s not just a knowledge of the exposure triangle and the rules of composition. It is something to do with attitude, not just to the having a “correct” attitude towards art or artisanship – for every one of those you will find a dozen dissenters within seconds – but a willingness to learn from mistakes and successes, persistence, an open mind, a questioning attitude a structuring of a basic inquisitiveness and an eye for framing a picture.
All these things come together in practise and there is something in the act travel that compliments this necessary restlessness. Robert Louis Stevenson nailed it when he wrote: “For my part, I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel’s sake. The great affair is to move” (An Inland Voyage, 1878). The great affair is to photograph, to capture the micro-stories in different places, that the travel photographer keeps moving. All this high minded stuff doesn’t mean that the mechanics can’t be learned, but in travel as a category John showed us that a number of genres have to be mastered and that takes time, patience, practise and a critical eye from the photographic side.
From the photographer it takes humility too. John made the point that most people are basically sound. The others you need to take reasonable precautions against, and where as they are out there they are not, generally, the majority. Certainly this has been my own experience having travelled in Europe, North Africa and the Middle East and yes I have met both sides in that argument and I agree with John on this. One of my pet hates on our side of the camera are the Photo-Daleks. They are the ones with the cameras and the self granted right to take that picture anyhow. No contact, not even a smile and a open gesture that suggests you want to take someone’s picture, no idea of a please or thank you, just an aggressive pointing of the lens, a click then off. I am not saying that the candid does not have a place, but that involves a high degree of discretion, a different sort of detachment.
Of course if you are intending to sell your image then there are the issues of Model and Property releases. If you carry a smart phone there is an app for that. Indeed several apps for that for both Android and i-phone, though the property releases are generally ignored (tends to be a planned one off sort of thing, so hard copies are less of a kerfuffle, but should be in place for sound reasons and covers not only locations but props that have a potential or actual copyright implication. We have covered this before on the blog, 20 Feb 2014, and these links might help when Photographing Minors, Photographing Adults and Photographing Property). This is all part of the planning process and in that lies the success or failure.
Part of that planning purpose is also the kit you carry. In a realm of limited space and against the iron law of Murphy that states the lens you need for this shot is not the one currently on your camera, the photographer has a basic choice to make. Budget aside, are you going to take two or three primes or a couple of zooms? Yep depends on what you have to start with, but if you collect your accessories as you go – John made the point it doesn’t have to be new – you can build those choices into your system over time. Travel tripod, a good idea. Filters to taste, but probably a polariser at least, though a grad often comes in useful – though you can use post to alter within the capability of the format you are using to spread the dynamic range, or there is always HDR, some systems have that capacity built in. Something to carry it all in too, though not something that screams expensive equipment in here, please steal me.
As you develop you know pretty much what your style is, evolve your own rules, your own tastes, though you need to be careful about not getting locked into restrictive patterns. Our thanks, then, to John Chamberlin for an informative and enjoyable evening.
N E X T M E E T I N G
Practical evening – Table Top Photography. Bring your camera and tripods … maybe something to photograph??