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I'm a Cairns, far north Queensland, Australia professional photographer specialising in travel, editorial and environmental portraiture.

Friday, November 14, 2008

When reality gets in the way

When you're planning your holiday you tend to get lots of glossy brochures with stunning images of your potential destination. And they all purport to show reality. The reality of the place when the photographer visited.

What they don't tell you is that the photographer had to be there at the right time of day, at the right time of year, when the weather gods were smiling on them and the stars were all aligned.

Living in a destination means that you can pick and choose when you photograph something. But for the majority of us the reality is a lot different. We often only have a week or two in a country and only a night or two in any particular town. That means that you often show up somewhere and it looks nothing like the brochures.

This is Wat Si Chum in the Thai city of Sukhothai. I pedalled my little rental bicycle for miles in the blistering heat only to find this. It was all hidden behind scaffolding. The joys of restoration. What can you do? Travel photographer Susan McCartney in her fantastic book on travel photography talks about going on assignment to Europe for a client and finding every major monument behind scaffolding! Ouch.

When I first rode up I was bitterly disappointed. I got up close to see if I could get a photograph in nice and close but the scaffolding almost completely hid the statue. I took a couple of shots but they didn't really work.

So I left rather dejectedly, but as I was riding away I turned around. And this is the sight that I saw. With a telephoto lens compressing the perspective the giant face of the statue looks so serene behind what looks like the bars of a prison! I'm sure this will never make the brochure but it shows reality in a photographically interesting way. Sure reality gets in the way sometimes but reality can be just as interesting as the fantasy. And don't forget to buy a postcard on your way out the door. :)

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