What comes to mind when you think of travel photography?
Quick. Off the top of your head.
Did you think of telephoto lenses?
Did you think of full-frame DSLRs?
Portraits of people you meet along the way? Is that it?
Or maybe landscape? A photo of sunset with a bird flying, perhaps? That must cut it, right?
Or maybe a photo of a furry Himalayan dog that’s running down the street? Surely!
What if I tell you that’s not it? What if I tell you that everything you thought of, is everything that’s wrong with what travel photography entails?
Hear me out.
I recently went on a 12 day trip to the Himalayas. Halfway along the trip,
I faced an existential crisis as a photographer. I forgot which way the lenses went and where the shutter button was.
Why? I was in a place that’s extremely popular. All the photos I felt the urge to shoot, someone had already shot. Think about it. People have seen it all a million times.
Mountains. Snow. Landscape. Old men. Dogs. Portrait. Roads. Sunset. Horizon. Peaks. That’s it? If it were that easy, everybody would make money off of it, right?
But I learned that that’s not what photography is about. Nor is it what travel is about. No sir!
Stop to smell the metaphorical roses
What makes you and your photos stand apart is how you see, how you observe the place, in a way that’s not been done before. How your vision and your character reflect in your photos defines you as a photographer. And maybe even too as a person.
So every picture I stopped to shoot during my travel, I started to question the why. And the how.
The why tells you if what you want to shoot is worthy of your effort. You do not want to spend time trying to recreate something that has been done plenty of times before, and you do it anyway.
The how lets you get the best out of yourself and brings out your sense of character and style.
The photos from your camera are like the words that come out of your mouth — Make them count and know when to shut up. It will save you a lot of clutter and people will want to listen to what you have to say.
The rest of the trip went smoothly. I was more into the travel and even managed to get some writing done along the way. I resisted the urge to take out my camera very often, and only did it when it mattered. And it paid off.
Now when I look back at my photos from Himachal, what I find are photos that matter. Photos that truly resonate what the spirit of travel is and what photography is.