Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Even if you are a photographer traveling to make photographs ...

American Oyster Catchers, Galapagos, Espanola IslandIn my description of this Blog I state,
“Travel, whether on a vacation to the shore, or a 'trip of a lifetime' to exotic locations like the Galapagos Islands can be one of the most rewarding experiences we can have, whether we are photographers or not.
 Meeting new people, experiencing new cultures, learning about our 'Blue Planet,' or viewing the infinite variety of Earth's majesty, and it's wide range of flora and fauna is an incredible opportunity for broadening one's knowledge and viewpoint.
Travel promotes understanding and amity among people, and not only enhances, and enriches the life of the traveler, but encourages a better world in the ever increasing integration of the societies of our planet.
The friends one makes, the places one visits, and the experiences one lives while traveling provides incalculable value for us all.
Travel photography is the best way I know to preserve the memories of the journeys taken. It provides a concrete method of commemorating our new friendships and knowledge.”
Whether or not you're a traveler, photographing your adventures away from home, or even if you're a photographer, traveling to make photographs for a client or project, I think those words ring true.
Susan Sontag wrote in her award winning book, On Photography,
“Photographs will offer indisputable evidence that the trip was made, that the program was carried out, that fun was had.”
Unfortunately, too many travelers run from photo to photo, creating this evidence to take home, without actually experiencing what they've captured via their camera.
As Sontag further observes,
“Most tourists feel compelled to put the camera between themselves and whatever is remarkable that they encounter.”
I am often queried about where to go to get a perfect photograph of a specific location, what lenses to take on a trip, what bag should be purchased to haul one's gear while traveling, or how many memory cards one needs for a long weekend's adventure or a two week vacation.

At the end of my answer to such queries I normally add, “Don't forget to get from behind your viewfinder and experience what you're photographing.” Much of the time I get a, “Oh yeah, sure.” or “Huh, oh, OK.”

In other words, they didn't understand.

Mona Lisa, Leonardo Da Vinci, Louvre Museum, Paris, FranceI've related this story to many about one of my visits to the Louvre, in Paris. It illustrates my point perfectly.

I wanted to see the Mona Lisa in it's new location in the Louvre. It had been in the Grande Galerie in which you can still see many of the world's great works of art, but was moved to a new room so the crowds wishing to view it could be accommodated.

When I arrived in the Louvre's Salle des États. The crowd kept back from the painting in its climate-controlled enclosure behind bulletproof glass, by a balustrade, numbered more than 150. At the top of the railing was a family of 10; mom, dad, 4 girls, and 4 boys.

The family was huddled together with the father giving directions. Then one by one, each family member had their photo taken with the Mona Lisa at their back. Then the group shots were taken, all with the Mona Lisa at their back. Then finally, a photo of the entire family, together, was snapped by a cooperative museum goer.

As quickly as the father could recover his camera from the man who took their family photo, they left, without one family member, ever once, taking even a peek at the famous painting.

Their sole purpose in visiting the Salle des États was to make “indisputable evidence” that they were there. About 20 minutes later I passed the Winged Victory of Samothrace on my way to another gallery and noticed them repeating their shtik in front of the famous sculpture.

In all, they shot about 20 photos in front of the Mona Lisa, taking about 5 minutes while they completely blocked everyone else from the head-on view of the painting.

You tell me, “Does that make any sense?”

Waiting for the train, 30th Street Station, Philadelphia, PAIf you're not going to enjoy your surroundings, learn and experience the culture of your destinations, really take time to view our “Blue Planet” when you have the opportunity, and only travel through the narrow field of view of your camera's viewfinder, I would ask, “Why travel?”

Sometimes I travel to a destination to make photographs, and sometimes I make photographs while “traveling for pleasure,” but either way, I make sure I “travel for pleasure.” It makes me a better photographer, and it enriches my life immeasurably.

Make sure, during your travels, you take most of your time to get from behind your viewfinder to truly make those memories you wish to permanently record and recall via photography. Sometimes you need to let your camera stay in its case, or hang from your neck or shoulder, so your eyes can see unfiltered.

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