Monday, November 5, 2012

Traveling and Photography - A Realization

While this blog has primarily been dedicated to photography (techniques, meet-ups, industry news, practicing artists/past legends, shoot reviews, etc.), it’s also served as a spot for me to reflect on my travels.  To me, traveling and photography go hand in hand.  It’s been ingrained in us since we were children that one of the most natural things to do while on vacation is to take pictures.  It serves as a reminder of where we were and what we did with our friends and family as we travel through life. 

After having hung up my Kodak Star 110 camera as a child and not touching a camera for years, I developed a new found love for photography and the photographic image in 2008.  This was brought about by my first trip to New York City and my desire to capture elements of this iconic city on camera.  But not just the standard “I was here and I took a picture” shots; I wanted to create something different from the standard tourist shots that I was used to seeing.  Since that time, I see traveling as an opportunity to capture something that I can’t see while I’m home.  Maybe it’s the change in surroundings that allow my eyes to see new possibilities for images everywhere; maybe it’s the ability to capture the true sense of a city that only a photographer and the bond with his camera can; or maybe, at the very least, it’s a need to document a piece of my own personal history.  When an image is created via film, it becomes a tangible object that can continually be revisited.  The same can be said of a digital image that is printed.  The things we see and encounter on our travels become real, tangible memories that can be held in our hands.  There’s something magical about that.

I tend to get overly excited about what cameras and film I’ll be taking on a trip.  It takes longer for me to pack my camera bag than it does to pack my suitcase and I’m usually traveling with no less than five cameras.  I may not use every camera that comes along, but at least I’m prepared for whatever shooting situation might arise.  Even with a large supply of film and an array of cameras at my side, I often find myself being disappointed with the amount of images I come back with.  I always wish I would’ve shot more.  It’s funny, because when I regularly shot digital when traveling, I came back with an abundance of images.  The images weren’t all keepers and the majority of them are simply taking up valuable storage space on my hard drives.  One of the reasons that I l began shooting film more is that it’s allowed me to slow down, examine the scene and use my exposures wisely.  I began shooting film because I wanted to craft my photos from hand (using film, chemistry and making optical prints) and I was tired of the over-processed, too perfect look of digital and now I find myself wishing I had the quantity of pictures that I did when I was shooting digital.
It took awhile, but I think I’ve realized that I will never take as many pictures when traveling as I did in the past.  There are a few reasons for this:
(1)  I’ve been shooting film avidly for almost two years now.  I’m in the mindset that I have a limited number of exposures and I want to use them wisely.  I have trained myself to be even pickier than I was before.  I will never go back to firing off exposures because I can. 

(2)  When traveling, I have a limited amount of time in a location with an abundance of things to see and do.  In order to accomplish all that is planned while on vacation, sacrifices have to be made.  One of those sacrifices can sometimes be the amount of time spent photographing a particular location or the aimlessly wandering around taking photographs that can be easily accomplished while you’re at home. 

(3)  These travels are not specific photography excursions, where the entire day will be spent photographing whatever it is that I want.  I’m trying to create experience and memories with my wife and those don’t always include a camera. 

At some point in my life, I’ll travel to destinations for the sole purpose of photography.  Until then, I have to stop putting so much pressure on myself to come back with rolls upon rolls of film after a four, five or even seven day vacation.  I’m still shooting while on vacation, just not to the same degree that I shoot while I’m not on vacation.  I also have to accept the idea that sometimes it’s alright to shoot something to show that “I’ve been there.”  Vacations and travels are about experiencing local cultures, enjoying a new landscape and taking in this massive world that is outside of our doorsteps and comfort zones.  I briefly touched on it in my last blog post about Seattle, but the feelings and the memories that you bring back should resonate with you longer than any tangible item.  Engulf yourself in the city, become part of the local culture and reflect often.  It’s the true essence of travel; if I embrace this idea, my travel photography will come much easier and may even break down the rut that I seem to find myself in.

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