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

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

How to kill the travel photography passion

There are a few things you can do to kill your passion for travel photography - some at home and some while out on the road.

But why would I want to kill the passion you say. Well you don't, I'm just saying you might be inadvertently doing some things that are heading you down that path.

Back in the days when we shot film you tended to put a roll of 36 exposures in at Christmas, take a few shots here and there and maybe finish it up by the following Christmas. Alright maybe the keen shutter bugs did a bit more but those were different days.

Why? Part of it was certainly the expense of film but I think another part of it was that keen photographers really concentrated on what they wanted to photograph and stuck to it. In other words they knew it was costing them money so they didn't bother to photograph things that didn't interest them.

Now that we have digital it almost seems to be compulsory to photograph anything and everything just because you can. And that's a sure way to kill the passion. Once you start seeing photography as something you should or have to do then it becomes a chore like any other. You're thinking more about the camera side of the equation and not the subject. So the first way to kill your passion is to just go out photographing anything willy-nilly without thinking about whether it really fires you up or not. Not just interests you slightly but really gets your heart racing. To get back on track you really need to hone in on what you're passionate about before photography in general becomes a chore.

If you're not moved to photograph it you're not going to be moved by the pictures.

As I mentioned yesterday, unless you do this for a job you're not going to be travelling every day of the year (and even pros only travel for a maximum of about 6 months of the year mostly). So you spend the majority of the year at home base. If you're not allowed to photograph willy-nilly then be sure you don't go the other way and not photograph anything until you go overseas.

Yes you can have a dormant passion but the more you exercise it before you go somewhere the more fired up you will be about your trip and the subjects you're going to explore. So be sure to find something travel-related at home base that you could get out and make wonderful images of.

When you're out on the road there are a couple of things that can make travel photography less than enjoyable and point you in the direction of feeling that it's not worth it.

The first one I find is to not really dedicate yourself to it. You don't need to go from sunrise to sunset every day, but when you are out photographing you really need to be in the zone. Thinking about nothing else. Doesn't matter if it's five minutes or five hours, you have to do what's really necessary to get a great image to the sacrifice of everything else.

A lot of people may lack that intensity and then get disappointed because their pictures aren't as nice as they hoped for. It's really hard to take great pictures if you're trying to have a conversation with your better half, keep an eye on the kids and check the email on your iPhone at the same time. Dedicate a set period of time to really work on the craft of photography. If you're on a family vacation get up hours before everybody else and go out alone. Beg, borrow or steal that time away from other commitments. Make sure that you're at your most prepared when lady luck comes along with a great scene to photograph.

Resign yourself to the fact that your best pictures probably aren't going to come when you're 'holidaying' but if you have a certain amount of time to really brush off the cobwebs and explore then that should be enough to keep that passion burning.

And make it fun. If you're out on your own photographing away but nothing is really striking you, don't sweat it. It gets back to that feeling of having to photograph because you've come so far. If it isn't working for you, it isn't working. You need to sit down with a cup of coffee at a cafe and watch the world go by. Wait for some inspiration to strike. Even if it doesn't at least you've taken a moment out to watch the world go by.

Some people swear by learning a new technique to get your passion fired up again. While I can understand that I prefer to look for new subjects. I like to learn something new when I'm at home and use those techniques when I'm out and about. Maybe it's just me but I find it more fun to learn in the comfort of familiar surroundings and then feel confident about using those techniques overseas. When I'm out photographing I like to be totally in the moment and know exactly how I want a picture to look without having to wonder if something will work or not. Not that I don't experiment mind you, I just don't like to use that as a crux to re-ignite passion.

Don't take stuff you don't ever use. When I go away I always carry a tripod and a couple of flashes. Why? Because I use it. I like the effect of using slow shutter speeds with flash for ghosting effects. I also like to shoot at the edges of the day in the darker hours when you need long shutter speeds.

But some photographers hate both those things, feeling they tie them down. Do whatever works for you. If a tripod holds you up and makes photography hard then leave it at home. If you don't like the look of flash don't get one out. In other words keep it fun for you and avoid anything that makes your travel photography less than the best thing you've ever done.

So there's a couple of tips to help you avoid losing that passion for travel photography. If you've got any others feel free to post them in the comments below.

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