I gave a talk to a group of photography students at James Cook University in Townsville yesterday. Well, they were in Townsville and I was in Cairns having a chat with them via Video Conferencing about Travel Photojournalism - hi Townsville!
Anyway I tried to get across the point that a lot of the really hard work that you do as a travel photographer takes place before you even get on the plane.
Because we're often so limited in the amount of time we have in any one destination (and that goes for whether you're on holiday or doing it professionally) you need to be able to maximise your opportunities to get as many good pictures as possible.
Take a huge metropolis like Tokyo. To photograph it intimately would take literally years. I don't know about you, but I don't think I'll ever find somebody willing to pay me for a whole year to photograph Tokyo! So when you visit somewhere as big as this you really need to narrow down your focus.
Going beyond the cliche again, if you've been there more than once you need to search for subjects that a million other people don't photograph. I found one such place in a suburb of the old part of Tokyo called Kappabashi. Look at all that yummy food!
Big deal you say, I can find Japanese food anywhere in Tokyo. But look closely. It's all plastic! If you've ever been to a restaurant in Japan you'll have noticed that displayed in the windows outside are plastic examples of all the meals they serve. This exquisitely prepared fake food is hard to tell apart from the real thing and Kappabashi is the part of Tokyo where they make it all.
Plastic ice-cream, sushi, pouring beer. You name it, they've got it. Tiny little shops crammed with every type of plastic food you could imagine. An amazing little piece of Tokyo and somewhere I never would have found without a bit of digging around.
To practice for your next trip a good habit is to do some research around where you live now. Dig up some interesting place to see or thing to do, something that hardly anybody knows about. Ring up the people involved and get some information and see if you can make some interesting photos.
If you can do as much research as possible before you go your time on the ground in a destination will go a lot smoother.