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

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Travel to remote places

One of the rules of selling travel stock photography is that the more people that travel to a destination the better a chance you have of licensing a picture.

This is a rule that I frequently ignore, to my financial peril, but by doing so I manage to get to some pretty weird and wonderful places and see some incredible things.

Now this might not look so amazing - a stained glass window with a religious motif. Big deal. This is where a little bit of background knowledge can help you capture images that go beyond just superficial snapshots.

This photograph was taken in the Basillica of Our Lady of Peace in the tiny town of Yamassoukro in Cote d'Ivoire, West Africa. In an impoverished third world nation, in the middle of absolutely bloody nowhere, we were driving along a tiny dirt track through the middle of the jungle. All of a sudden the dirt turned to asphalt and off in the distance we could see a dome of this giant building.

Built by President Felix Houphouet-Boigny, the construction of the Basillica basically doubled his country's national debt! The Catholic church gave permission for it to be built on the condition that it not be bigger than the Basillica of Saint Peter. So he built it slightly lower and then whacked a great big golden cross on top so that it ended up being taller.

The Pope visited for the consecration and by all accounts the President was pretty happy with himself. So happy in fact that he decided to stick himself in the Stained Glass - right next to Jesus himself! That's him as one of the Biblical Magi kneeling down and making an offering to Jesus. Just goes to show that if you're in charge you can do whatever you want!

The point of this long-winded tale? Well, although I've licensed pictures of Cote d'Ivoire over the years I don't think anybody's been interested in pictures of El Presidente as a Magi. Pictures of obscure places don't sell half as well as places that a lot of people go to.

But if you do feel the need to get off the beaten path then it's a really good idea to thoroughly research your subject before you go. Know what you want to photograph, but more importantly why. Know the stories behind the images. Even if you don't intend to sell, publish or do anything with them, just showing them to your friends and family will make your slideshows so much more interesting when you've got a great story to go along with them. A little bit of forethought will ensure that you don't skip over photographing a seemingly insignificant detail.

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