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

Monday, November 2, 2009

Releasing your inner travel photographer passion


You'll have to excuse the hairy legs - natural sun protection! This is the pose of your typical travel photography junkie- here working hard in the Okavango Delta in Botswana.

Yesterday I spoke about passion, and how you need it to produce great photography (or art of any nature for that matter.)

Now if your passion is photographing weddings, babies or still lifes then I'm afraid I'm not much good to you. You see while I am married, do have a couple of babies and a collection of vases I'm not really passionate about photographing any of them.

You know the architect who never finishes his or her kitchen? Well I'm the photographer who never really photographs his kids - seriously with the intent of creating art anyway. A waste I know but there you have it.

If your passion is travel photography however, then that I know a little something about. There is a myth about having a passion for travel photography - and here I'm not going to differentiate between amateur or pro because in the creation of art it makes no difference whatsoever.

That myth is that your pictures will suddenly get a lot better if you could get on a plane and visit somewhere much more exciting, interesting, stimulating (insert your own adjective here) than the current 'boredom city' place you call home. Rubbish, rubbish, rubbish. If anything you're more likely to create nothing but cliches and seen-it-all-before type pictures when you go somewhere exotic because you're not really following your passion.

Travel itself isn't your passion. Your passion lies within the travel genre. It might be architecture, it might be markets, it might be culture, it might just be the lure of the exotic. But the act of travel alone won't bring those passions on. Your passions lie inside. They're the kind of things you enjoy not just photographing, but reading about, watching documentaries on. It might be forms of transport, festivals and ceremonies, wildlife, spectacular landscapes.

But unless you've got a trust fund, the chances are you can't spend 365 days a year traipsing around the world looking for exotic examples of your passion. Maybe you get a couple of weeks a year, maybe a month or more, but your time available to take 'travel' pictures is pretty limited. So you really need to explore those passions to see if there isn't some way you can photograph them closer to home.

Let's say you're fascinated with India. The colours, the religions, the people. Do you need to go all the way to New Delhi to give in to your passion. I live in a small rural community at the end of the earth and we have a couple of Sikh temples and quite a large Indian community. We also have people from Indonesia, Nepal, Bhutan, Laos...you name it we have them. So if my passion was portraits of people from different cultures I would be set. (Now I know we have a lot of readers from India on the blog so you'll have to swap another country in here!)

At the end of the day I'm interested in stories. Many of those stories revolve around travel because I love the exotic. But, realistically speaking, unless you're getting paid to do this you can find lots of exotic things to photograph close to home. You just need to look inside you to find out what might interest you.

Sit yourself down for half an hour or so and write out a list of things that you absolutely love to find out about. Not necessarily do, or watch, but just learn about. Now which of those things could you get access to and photograph? And do you think you would enjoy photographing them? Have you thought about photographing them before? Does your pulse race a bit when you think about the great ways you could bring your own vision to this subject? That's when you know you're getting close to your passion.

When you've worked out a few things you think would be fun to photograph go and find out who you can contact to get permission. And then when you've done a few photo shoots and, if you really enjoyed it, see if that group of people has an affiliate group in an interstate or overseas destination. See where I'm going with this. If you don't want to make this a career but love travel photography with all your heart, then look for places close to home to feed that passion and try and tie it in to your annual overseas trip.

Think locally to follow your passions and use that knowledge as a springboard to help you find your passion when you hop on a plane next. Remember that the act of travel itself most likely isn't the passion, it's certain things that excite you at your destination. Try and find an equivalent subject at home and you can feed your passion every weekend, not just for a couple of weeks a year.

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