Thursday, October 15, 2009

Whoa what's with the new colours?

If you're just popping back for the first time in a while you'll notice a new look to Have Camera Will Travel. How come? Well I've just set up a new website on Photoshelter - something I've been working towards for the last few weeks, captioning and keywording my favourite pictures to put up into galleries. Anyway it's pretty much done so I'm opening it up to you, my loyal blog readers, and at the same time changing the look of the blog so it matches the other site.

I'm working towards populating my site with thousands of stock images from various parts of the world, many of which have never been seen before. Many will be from Cairns and north Queensland as well as Hokkaido in Japan, as well as pics from India, Nepal, Africa and Thailand. All will be licensed as RM stock and I'm then hoping to get some photographs up for sale as prints which I hope you'll like.

Anyway I hope you like the new Paul Dymond - Photographer website and stay tuned for more blog posting.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Photographers should definitely write!

Thank you everybody for your emails and comments on Monday's post about travel writing and photography. It really made me sit down and think even more about these ideas that have been running through my head.

And before you think I've gone completely off the rails and am going to go back on what I said on Monday, rest assured I'm not!

I think photographers most definitely need to be able to express themselves with the written word. Hell if I didn't think we needed to be able to write I certainly wouldn't sit down to pound out my blog five nights a week.

I guess I was talking about a specific writing situation - that of the travel writer/photographer. For the most part travel writers in Australia get sent on famils where a PR company will send them away somewhere interesting for a few days to gather story ideas.

Notice I said writers get sent on famils. Photographers don't get sent on famils mainly due to reasons of economics. Why pay for two to go when you can send one to write and take some pictures as well, or give any camera-phobic journos a disc of images to use with their articles?

Famils mostly tend to be pretty structured in terms of what the writers see and do, often down to the time they need to be where. And these timetables are not structured at all around photography. They're designed to give the writers as much access to as many interesting places in as short a period of time as possible - more bang for the buck.

But as photographers we often need as much time as possible in one place. And not only do we need more time, it has to be the right time. Take this Boyd's forest dragon above. These guys don't just pop out and beg you to take their photo. You need to be calm, quiet and most of all patient. They might scamper when they see you but if you wait 10 minutes or maybe even more they'll come back and you can get a photo. Unless you're being told that you've got to move on to the next spot.

When you go away on a trip you've organised yourself then the tables are turned. You can plan your trip around the light. Organise interviews when the conditions aren't right for photography and skip breakfasts and dinners when you need to be outside in the golden hours of day. But even then you're likely to be on a pretty tight time frame, especially if you're getting help from a tourism bureau in terms of accommodation etc so you've had to tee everything up in advance.

Either which way you'll probably find yourself leaning towards one end or the other. Either you'll be fretting about being in the right place at the right time for photography (and totally forgetting to jot down any notes about the experience) or you'll be concentraing on writing down your feelings and putting the photography on the back burner.

So I guess I was talking about the type of travel photography we see in newspapers and magazines where there's been a limited amount of time on site and most of that time revolves around getting access to good information for an article.

But does that get you out of needing to write? Not at all. Captioning, keywording, the ability to talk in the same written language as your clients, the ability to communicate the logistics of an assignment. All of this is vitally important. I thoroughly enjoy writing, and these days channel that passion into writing about photography mostly.

But really fantastic, out of this world travel photography that takes the viewer's breath away is a pretty tall order from a writer who is also trying to cover as many angles as possible to maximise their time away and get as many articles as possible out of a short trip. It's not a question of the writer not being able to photograph - many of my writer colleagues are far better photographers than I am.

But the writer usually needs to move quickly and fluidly, talk to lots of people, discover lots of details. The photographer looking for brilliant images needs to slow things down, spend time with their subjects and let things develop in front of their lens while they wait. And most likely they'll need to skip all planned dinners as well! After all the food can wait, the light can't.

What do you think?

Monday, October 12, 2009

Travel photography and writing - do they go together?

This image was taken on assignment for a magazine out of Jakarta, Indonesia known as Destinasian. I've done a couple of assignments for them over the years and they've always been great people to work for. Everything gets shot on medium format print film (which means my film cameras almost die of shock when I get them out!) and a lot of it is natural light, high quality imagery - which suits me down to a tea.

But one of the unusual things about working for these folks (at least here in Australia) is that I don't have to write anything. Here in Australia, and I believe the UK, as well as more in the US now, many travel publications expect their writers to photograph and their photographers to write. And I can't help but wonder if this hasn't played a small part in the lowering of expectations in the eyes of magazine and newspaper readers.

Being a travel writer as well as a photographer invariably means that something has to suffer and often that is the photography. Why? I think it's mostly a time thing. When you're a writer you can watch a scene and describe it beautifully for the readers back home no matter how good or bad the light, whether there is anybody interesting in front of you or not.

In other words you can take something that might make a lousy picture and make it sound fantastic. Sure the Taj Mahal can seem pretty impressive even if you visit it during the middle of the day but the written word can make it sound much more spectacular than any image taken during that harsh noon light.

Photographers don't have that luxury. Unless you're creating a fantasy world in Photoshop you're pretty much reliant on what the laws of serendipity throw your way. Which often means a lot of waiting around for beautiful light, interesting people and something that is visually enthralling. Something that a writer usually doesn't have time to wait around for. They need to be getting on to the next experience so they have plenty of things to fill their article with.

So the quality of imagery falls, especially in travel magazines where the writers are at the destination for such a small amount of time. So the publisher has a choice of either going for the images the writer took, which may or may not be publishable, or reaching for the CD of free images from the tourism bureau. Now you get into a situation where we see the same tourism images popping up again and again and again and it's hard to differentiate one publication from another. Living in one of the world's premier travel destinations means I see the same pictures pop up over and over and over ad nauseum.

But what to do about it? I certainly don't have all the answers and in some ways am just musing to myself (and the few thousand others of you tuning in) but I can't help but wonder if the answer might lie in good old fashioned collaboration. In writers teaming up with photographers to create article packages. For the photographers to create images (or pull them from stock) that align themselves with the text to create something inspirational. For writers and photographers to talk about the aims and direction of the story and work together.

Another way might be for photographers to get their own image collections on-line and aggressively market them to travel publications. But can you compete with microstock and freebie tourism bureau give-aways? Again I think it falls back to quality. Being able to offer something that nobody else can. Then it just becomes a question of whether the publications are prepared to pay for that quality - at least enough to support an income.

This train of thought was sparked by a good friend of mine by the name of Ewen Bell, a wonderful photographer who also writes beautifully. Quite a while back now Ewen and I were chatting on the phone and he mentioned that he was working hard to improve his writing. And I thought, you know what, I work every waking minute of every day to improve my photography but I have no interest whatsoever in trying to be a better writer.

I can write competently and have been published in lots of magazines (sometimes even without pictures!) but at that moment I had a bit of an epiphany. I suddenly realised that I want to work to become a better travel photographer and continue to evolve my style but I have no interest in working that hard to be a better feature travel article writer. Which made me realise that I have no business trying to be a travel writer because it's in nobody's interest to be merely good enough to be published. We should all be aiming to be so brilliant that it would be impossible for people not to publish us.

And I think if more people really concentrated on what they love and really want to excel at, then that would go a long way to improving the level of published material that we come across every day. Of course I'm still stumbling along trying to figure out how this is going to work but following your passion was never supposed to be easy.