About Me

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

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

How a travel photojournalist travels Part 1

This is the view down to Cooktown Harbour, Cape York in far north Queensland. The view hasn't changed much since James Cook got stranded here a couple of hundred years ago. It seems that everybody liked last week's series on breaking into travel photography so I thought I'd go into a bit more depth by showing you how an assignment comes together.

Pam's Place, Cooktown. A wonderful little hostel right at the northern end of Australia. Run by an incredibly friendly guy named Scott and his horde of equally friendly parrots. I was here to do a story for Backpacker Essentials magazine, the official YHA magazine. As I walked past the front desk one morning Scott pulled me aside, looked me in the eye and said, "Mate I've just got off the phone with the head of YHA Queensland and he mentioned that there was a travel photographer up this way. I said I didn't know anything about a photographer but there is a travel writer up here. So which are you? A writer or a photographer?" If you read last week's blogs you'll undoubtedly know how much joy I had in replying that I was both!

The confusion had come about because Scott had seen me head out each day armed with notebooks and pens as well as copious amounts of camera equipment. A writer doesn't need camera gear, and a photographer doesn't need pens. But I'm a travel photojournalist and I'm going to show you how a work assignment for us differs from that of either a writer or a photographer.

My assignment was to drive from Cairns to Cooktown, stopping off in beautiful Port Douglas and Cape Tribulation along the way. I had an itinerary of some things that they definitely wanted covered, as well as a request to get some material suitable for a front cover and photographs of their properties for use in advertising. The trip would take about a week and they needed the article package a couple of weeks after I got back. So now I had the brief it was time to start the research.

The first thing I needed to do was look at recent issues of the magazine. I was looking for a couple of different things. The first was the photographs. How many did they use? What were the subjects? What did the front covers look like? I quickly discovered that the front cover always runs to a formula. It has to be a vertical portrait of a young person (often female but sometimes couples) enjoying themselves in the great outdoors. The shots accompanying the articles also often feature young people enjoying themselves in various activities, but there were also landscape, wildlife and local people shots as well. In other words I had to make sure I ingratiated myself in with a group of young, happening twenty somethings and also take lots of scenic photos.

On the writing side of things I needed to know what style this kind of road trip article took. I discovered that because such large distances are covered in such a short period of time that no particular emphasis is given to any one place. Instead each attraction usually rated a paragraph or two before the author moved on to the next spot, working on creating an overall feeling of the area as opposed to any one particular feature.

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