Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Some photography links to keep you happy!

I just realised that it's been a while since I forwarded on some of the great photography sites that are floating around the net. I've been tending to do it on my Twitter account but not for the blog readers. So I'm going to reach into my little jar of goodies and pull out some favourites for you.

First of all if you love the work of Steve McCurry (and there's no need to tell you how much I adore his work!) then you'll want to head over to Outdoor Photographer magazine 
for a great interview with the master himself where he talks about his technique and how interaction and appreciation for your surroundings is so much more important than equipment.

And if you'd love to find out how some pretty big companies are looking to take your photographs from you and not give you much in return - all in the name of a photo contest - then head over to Bob Krist's blog post on the work of Frommers. Seriously some companies just think they can get away with anything and rip-off photo contests are just getting more and more common.

And on the light-hearted side for the fashion-conscious photographer friend (and that would be all of us right!) there's this great collection of photography-themed t-shirts.
My wife bought me a t-shirt in Japan with an old ad for a box brownie camera on it and I get comments from keen photographers every time I put it on!

In an age where a lot of great magazines are using less and less photography (and paying less and less for it! but we won't go there) it's great to see a classy publication curated by non other than Magnum's famous photographer David Alan Harvey. Called Burn magazine it has simply some of the most fantastic photography you'll see anywhere.

Now I don't want to overload you with things to see and do but here's a small sample of what has enthralled me lately.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

The most important thing a travel photographer needs...

I got an email from a young woman the other day asking about how to get started in travel photography. She mentioned that she has just finished high school and done a photography course and is thinking she would like to work in this field. She wanted some advice on what I think her next step should be.

And my advice to her was maybe something she wasn't expecting. I'm sure she was hoping I could recommend another course, or maybe some equipment or books but instead I said she should just travel.

Does that sound glib to you? I didn't mean it to be. I honestly believe that the most important part of the travel photography equation is the travel bit. You have to live, love and breathe travel. There are a myriad of ways to (barely) earn a living in travel photography - from commercial work for upmarket tourist resorts to documentary work on vanishing tribes and everything in between.

The majority of my work lies somewhere in between the two extremes. That means that I'm usually travelling by myself (except on those few occasions where I manage to smuggle the wife and kids along!) and taking care of all the logistics on my own. That means organising flights, hotels, times to be in certain places for the light, knowing what is open when, where to find interesting (and photogenic) characters etc etc.

You can't just walk into being able to do that kind of thing without having some experience travelling on your own -or at least independently. There's a world of difference between having a tour leader hand out your tickets for the New Delhi train and having to queue for hours on end in a mad scrambling rush to try and secure a seat for that same locomotive.

You know how it's really hard to create a great photograph when you're in a bad mood? We've all been there right. The kids are driving you crazy, had a blue (argument for you non-Aussies) with the better half, Mum's on your case. It somehow steals your photographic mojo and you just can't make any beautiful pictures.

Well I'll let you in on a little secret. Feeling nervous, uneasy, unsure of yourself or just generally lost will produce exactly the same photographic impotence and there is no magic pill to solve it apart from feeling confident. That doesn't mean that you're going to fit in straight away anywhere you go mind you.

What it means is that you feel comfortable enough to walk around, get lost and be able to get back to your hotel OK (hint carry the hotel's business card with you). Or you feel comfortable with the local traditions and what you can and can't photograph without offending somebody. Or even something as simple as having a pretty good idea what foods are pretty safe to eat and what you should probably avoid if you don't want to spend the next ten days sitting on the toilet. In other words even though the country may be unfamiliar, the travel routine is old hat.

So before you think about heading down the road of being a travel photographer think about heading down the road of being a traveller. Get as much time off work, school, home chores that you can and head on out into the big wide world. Stick a backpack on your back and have a go. Sure take your camera but don't expect to feel really comfortable and create great images until you feel just as comfortable on the road as you do watching the National Geographic channel on your sofa.

Then when you feel comfortable travelling, I mean really comfortable like an old pair of slippers, then you're ready to start making fantastic images. Oh and by the by, I'd already travelled to over 50 countries before I sold my first ever picture! Travel was already in my blood before I felt confident enough that I could do this for a living and be relied on to bring back publishable images every time.

The picture above is my wife (far right) and our good friends Toine and Elsa. We met while hiking in the Nepalese Himalayas. Here we are checking a map whilst surrounded by a bunch of Khampa tribesman from Tibet who spoke no English whatsoever! We had a great few hours walking with them just enjoying each other's company with no comprehensible conversation whatsoever. That's what makes travel so great.