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

Monday, May 31, 2010

Which comes first - the camera or the plane ticket?


I was sitting down in my office chair and about to start today's blog post when the phone rang. "Maaate", the booming voice rang down the line. That's Aussie for 'hello dear friend, how are you this fine evening?'.

It was my wonderful friend and insanely keen semi-pro photographer Kelvin Marshall. Go and check out his website - you'll love his wildlife images.

Anyway Kelvin and his wife Judy are two of the most wonderful people on the planet, very dear friends and it was great to hear his voice after the 7 weeks away he'd been away in Namibia. Which is one of my favourite countries of all time so I was also just a bit jealous!

Anyway Kelvin was regaling me of stories of his adventures at a cheetah rehabilitation centre, the dunes of Sossusvlei, the seals of the Skeleton Coast and then we got about half way through his tale. And he hit me with the news. They'd parked their rented 4 wheel drive in town and gone off to do some stuff, setting the alarm and making sure they were parked in a busy street with lots of people around. I'm guessing you know what's going to happen. They came back to find that all of his camera gear had been stolen - 9 lenses, 2 bodies, storage drives. You name it, they lost it. Lucky for them they had all their shot CF cards on them so they didn't lose any photos.

But photographically speaking their trip of a lifetime was over. Now Kelvin is like Steve Irwin on acid - there's nothing that gets this guy down and he is just so enthusiastic it's infectious. I defy anybody to be unhappy around Kelv-man. But he was just about in tears as he told me the story and I can imagine how devastated he would have been. I can also imagine the locals learnt how to swear in Australian very well!

And they had a decision to make. To come home or keep on going. And they continued on with their journey with just Judy's little point and shoot Lumix camera. A few thousand shots later and they came back with maybe not what they would have got with his 500mm lens but they managed to capture memories of a fantastic journey.

And he said to me that those three and a half weeks without his cameras helped him to learn to really experience his travels. To not be so concentrated on looking through the finder and getting 'the shot'. To really savour the sights, the smells, the whole body experience of travel.

And it made me think about my own travel and photography. And how many times my memories of an event weren't as clear as they could have been because I was so busy trying to photograph it. So it was definitely a pretty harsh way for Kelvin to learn this lesson but I think we all need to take a bit of time out every so often, not fret about getting the shot so much and just learn to revel in the magic of travel. And remember that even without a camera travel is just the most incredible thing you can do to enrich your soul.

So while I certainly wouldn't recommend getting all your gear stolen to figure this out, I would certainly recommend you leave your gear in the hotel every so often and just immerse yourself in the travel experience. It will open up your heart and soul and ultimately help you to create pictures that will resonate with your viewers.

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