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What is travel photography?

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nandbytes View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Quote nandbytes Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Topic: What is travel photography?
    Posted: 06 May 2024 at 15:48
Disclaimer - this is going to be a long post, grab yourself a cuppa….
TL;DR - what does “travel photography” mean for? I am not really sure what it means for me anymore….

After my recent trips, I have been soul searching a little bit... since my childhood travelling and photography have gone hand in hand. Whenever we had the chance to go on holiday, parents got me one reel for the camera (Yashica FX3 which I still have) and that is all I had for the entire 3-5 days trip. So all I had was 36 shots, on recent trips I took more like 3600 on my digital ILC

Once digital cameras took over, I had a point & shoot for a while. I forgot all about film cameras, manual shooting etc. Fast forward to my trip to Japan (2013), I realised how terrible my P&S was especially at low light, I decided to upgrade my camera for better pictures. And that’s all was the intention at the time… to get a few better pictures for myself especially in low light and higher dynamic range situations.

Since then I caught the “photography bug” (think I always had it, just didn’t know) i.e. I want to take good/great photos and treat it as a form of art.
Good photos as I see them are a combination of artistic vision, composition, subject, camera/lens settings, light, location etc.
If you are local to a place you have the advantage of scouting a location, repeat visits, trying different settings, light conditions etc etc.
But as a travel photographer you have to work with the cards you are dealt on the day (while you can make repeated visit, you still cannot do it as often or time it as well as someone local)

I do personally know some people who classify themselves as “travel photographers” and they teach/organise workshops abroad. But even they visit the same location over and over again and hold the workshops in same/similar set of locations that they have greatly familiarised themselves with over the years. So even for them they are essentially making a distant location as “local-like” as possible by which I guess I mean as predictable as possible.

Then there is me... I would like to travel to a lot of places... I wouldn’t mind revisiting the same location but wouldn’t do so many times that I’d know it inside out like a local or regular visitor. The way I see it, there’s far too many places in the world to visit and not enough time in my life to visit them all.
So I can never compete with someone more local. Not that I am trying to compete with anyone but it does mean my photos are not the best they could be, right?
So what does it mean in that case to be “good” at “travel photography”? I am not so sure any more...
Does that mean having a very diverse portfolio of pictures? So for any given location/subject matter you might find better pictures for from someone else local but not with as much variety from the same person.

Whenever you tell people you are into photography I am sure one of the first few questions will be along the lines of “what do you photograph” or “what kind of photography are you into”.
My answer is normally “a bit of everything” which I can see is not at all an impressive answer. People are expecting answers like landscapes, or wildlife, or portraits, or wedding or something else that sounds nice. I’d like to say “travel photography” but I guess I never said that because subconsciously I didn’t really know what that meant.

Anyway on my recent trips I have got pictures... Some good pictures too I think... Just feel they’d be a lot better if I could go back over and over again and keep trying/practicing.
I am not going to stop photographing on my travels of course. While photography is an important part, it’s not the only part of it. A lot of it spending time with family and friends.
May be one day I will have the luxury of making purely photography trips to exotic places. Not any time soon though.

Would be interested to hear peoples thoughts. More so from people who also travel a lot with their cameras and what it all means to them I guess.

Edited by nandbytes - 06 May 2024 at 19:07
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mariuszlo View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Quote mariuszlo Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 06 May 2024 at 18:05
Very good text, nandbytes.

I treat photography as a kind of diary. Yes, many people can construct better sentences, express themselves more beautifully and more intelligently. But what I did is my diary, no one else's.
Now I don't even buy any souvenirs in the places I visit, photos are enough.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote 4paul Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 07 May 2024 at 04:42
Originally posted by nandbytes nandbytes wrote:

for any given location/subject matter you might find better pictures for from someone else local


100% correct, to get the "best" location picture you should be there at the Golden Hour on a cloudless day, a local person is there for all the weather and all the seasons. The legend of Ansel Adams is that he went to the same places in every season, every year ... he is pigeon-holed as "Landscape" box, but also fits Travel.

Same for Wildlife Travel, you don't know where to find the animals, so you'll go on a tour with someone who knows where the animals are. If you go back several times you will know how to find the animals yourself, and you can go exploring without a tour.

In New York there are tours which take people to street wall murals, the tour guide gives a brief talk on the artist and the neighborhood, and people take pictures of the murals. For them it's Travel, for others Art; using the mural as a background for people walking by would be Street.

I still debate what gear to take when travelling, because how often are my pictures "better" than a post card, a picture taken by a local, with Golden Hour light, and I'm there in harsh sun? I can try, but probably a "snapshot" with a compact camera is equal to more gear. Gary Friedman argues "In good light, an RX camera is almost as good as a big camera"; the thing you found is low light is noticeably less good on a small camera. And a tripod for night shots, but who carries one anyway, much less on vacation??

It is a sin in business to not have a "thing", in any business "I do it all" is not good marketing. Even at this late date in history, photographers need one thing to "get noticed". Travel would seem to be "always different" which kind of violates that. If you have a collection of car photos, you could be Car Travel, car photos from every place you visit.

That gets more into Documentation, chronicling places or events, as opposed to "pretty pictures". A Diary, like Maruisz said.

Does Travel mean "different place every day?" If so the only people who could meet that definition are rich people, or "influencers" who get sponsored trips. In my archives I have pictures from a lot of different places, but I don't think I have enough from every place to do a blog or travelogue or a magazine spread. Nowadays even magazine articles seem to highlight sponsored locations and events, so probably a Rough Guide is better, with few pictures.

The older I get, and the more I travel, the fewer pictures I take, unless it's something I think I have a unique "angle" on; I do that in my home area. On a recent trip to New Orleans I made astonishingly few photos, even though the weather was lovely every day for four days. I've been several times, I was less encumbered but still had two cameras in the hotel room, I took one, and used it infrequently. I used it for "artsy" pictures I can't make with a PointandShoot, didn't use it much at all for Documentation.

And of course there is the idea "if you have 2000 dollars to make your photography better, buy a trip to some place you have never been, that alone will do more to improve your photography than Gear". Opening your mind's eye is more important than the pictures themselves.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Snegren Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 07 May 2024 at 05:29
I guess travel photography is photographing whatever you encounter on your way while travelling, either by planning or by coincidence, anything that tickles your photographic interest. Naturally this requires carrying photographic equipment.

On a trip to Iceland I carried a backpack with 10+ kilograms of cameras and lenses (to be prepared for anything) and a full size tripod on half-day treks. I have more or less given up on that, I'm no longer prepared to make that kind of effort. Although I was not planning to ever return to APSC frame size, due to a broken collarbone I recently travelled to Italy with a little A6100, Sony E PZ 10-20 G and Sony E 18-135 OSS zoom and was favorably surprised by the results. And yes, I have a travel tripod. I used the same set on a business trip the Australia and again was happy.

And yes, I too take too many pictures.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Dopol Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 07 May 2024 at 09:19
I lived in Amsterdam for more than 40 years. I think I know most of the photographically interesting subjects. Still, I like to look at the photos taken by tourists (fellow Dyxumers). They see things that I no longer see. An angle, a building, happy lighting, and so on. An inspiration to take another look at my city.

When I look at photos of Amsterdam in my archive, I am often surprised by photos that I had forgotten. Just like Mariszlo, my archive is also my travel diary.

When I just return from some trip, I start enthusiastically tinkering with the photos (Post Processing is one of my most appreciated aspects of photography). That stops after a day or two and only weeks or months later do I finish PP and post photos or I make a 'definitive' diary version of the trip (and show results on Dyxum).
A different angle on photography also helps me. I love good lighting. Subjects take on a new face when the light is different.
When you as a photographer have 'special light' as a subject, you can look at subjects in a different way and take new types of photos in new environments.
I love taking photographs while traveling. Just like Snegren, I am increasingly turning to the APSC camera. with a 10-20mm and 18-135mm I travel light and photograph easily.
And even if a subject is photographed more beautifully by someone than what I made of it, my photo is part of my travel story.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote addy landzaat Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 07 May 2024 at 10:24
Most travel photography is a different kind of photography:
- Street photography
- Cityscape and architecture photography
- Wild-life (safari) photography

True travel photography documents the travel itself. So, the hotel, the car/bus/plane, travel companions and, yes, sights you see. These days it is more common to do this in video vlog form.'

I tend to say I do travel photography but in reality I do photography travel.

And I disagree that for the "best" location picture you should be there at the Golden Hour on a cloudless day. Golden or blue hour has to fit the subject. If not, it is boring.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote nandbytes Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 07 May 2024 at 21:05
Originally posted by mariuszlo mariuszlo wrote:

Very good text, nandbytes.

I treat photography as a kind of diary. Yes, many people can construct better sentences, express themselves more beautifully and more intelligently. But what I did is my diary, no one else's.
Now I don't even buy any souvenirs in the places I visit, photos are enough.


That's a very nice way to put it. Thank you for sharing, don't mind if I borrow some of your thinking
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Post Options Post Options   Quote KoBra64 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 07 May 2024 at 21:07
I don't qualify myself as a travel photographer if asked but as a hobby photographer who likes to shoot wild life, street and landscape. I don't really care if that answer is not impressive.
Like others, for me travel photography is a documentation of the trip and yes, you have to deal with the given circumstances which often aren't ideal, especially on a group tour.
Most important to me is trying to get a nice composition so I always try to get the right angle etc with the result of taking way to many shots. Most of them end up in the bin.
Don't know if I am good at travel photography and I enjoy shots from others that might be better then mine but they miss the feeling I get remembering my shots taken. Diversity helps for an interesting portfolio I guess.

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Post Options Post Options   Quote nandbytes Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 07 May 2024 at 21:15
Interesting thoughts on gear for travelling here. Not something I initially intended to discuss but more than happy to as I am addicted to tech.

I certainly see a lot of value in taking smaller APS-C gear. I did so myself when I travelled Italy.

Since I have come to appreciate dual card slots when visiting what could be once in a life time which kind of leaves with mostly FF options.

On FF my bare minimum travel gear is 20-70mm f4, 70-200mm f4 G2 macro, and 35GM. If need be I am happy to crop 2x on my A7RV which still leaves me enough pixels to print big.

I sometimes add 1.4x if I feel there might be the odd wildlife. When I went to Norway and Spain I took the viltrox 16mm f1.8.

Since then I am wondering if I should cut my gear down even further to 16mm f1.8 and a tamron 28-200mm.
I lose the f4, sharpness, 1.4x, macro capability. I had the 28-200mm before and prefer the 20-70mm as my walkaround zoom for most part. Its very rare I need wider than 20mm. So I don't always bother carrying my 16mm f1.8.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote nandbytes Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 07 May 2024 at 21:20
Originally posted by addy landzaat addy landzaat wrote:



True travel photography documents the travel itself. So, the hotel, the car/bus/plane, travel companions and, yes, sights you see. These days it is more common to do this in video vlog form.'

I tend to say I do travel photography but in reality I do photography travel.


I guess I'd fall in same category in that case, I rarely photograph to document. If it do that its normally on my phone.

I guess get my camera out for taking pictures that one day may/could end up printed in our family album or our wall. Btw not saying you can't print phone pictures (we do that too rarely).

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A7RV, 20-70G, 70-200GII, Viltrox16mm/1.8, 35/1.4GM, Sammy85/1.4II, 200-600G
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Post Options Post Options   Quote nandbytes Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 07 May 2024 at 21:25
Overall take away points for me so far is the diversity and unique angles that locals may miss.

Also I have been thinking "necessity is the mother of invention". You are forced to work with the cards you are dealt i.e. light, subject, people, time limits, so on and so forth. Perhaps that inspires some amount of creativity you would otherwise overlook.

I was at photography award exhibition at the weekend. One of the top shots was actually a landscape that had a blue sky with white clouds as supposed to golden hour (winning shot was a golden hour shot ). I'd love to visit at dawn/dusk but while travelling and that too with family its seldom an option. So you look for ways to get creative in other ways. Just my thoughts so far....
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Pallanza Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 07 May 2024 at 23:40
Sometimes, I thought about this point too: Why? What for?

Friends of mine are travelling (my feeling!!) 45 of the 52 weeks of a year. Me? 6 weeks? 10 weeks? Their travelling is hiking/ wandering, mine is more architecture, landscape, museums, art. Sometimes, especially when travelling in a group, my travel photographing just happens in a hurry.

Imho, an important problem is forgetfulness.

Since some years, I do make photobooks, just for me (no exhibitions etc.). Making a photobook, is selecting and editing images. I do research for better understanding what I have seen and photographed. In my photobook on a travel through Peru you'll find texts about their old cultures.

So, these photobooks preserve my remembrance, and they improve my understanding of the things I have seen. Naturally there is picture editing etc.

So photographing for me might be a two-purposes-thing: Keeping the remembrance of interesting / nice ... things I saw on my travel, plus getting better understanding of the things I have seen.

Let me give an example:
We had visited the Meteora Monasteries in Greece. In one of these, the murals have been painted by a painter of the "Cretean School". Whats that? Ok, when the Osman conquered Constantinople in 1457, many Greeks fled to Creta, and those byzantine artists got to know European art - the Cretean School arose. Their most famous representant: El Greco, whose works we had seen at Toledo (Spain).

So travel photography does help me to understand things better and does help me the preserve the remembrance of what I have seen - in those aspects and those details which seemed to be important to me.

There was the question as to the equipment.
I do use a Sony A7r3, mostly a 24-105mm, sometimes a 24-240 mm lens, normally without lens-swapping. For most purposes, these lenses are enough. Supplementary, on travel I have a smaller Sony A6600 (18-135 mm) and a small Sony Rx100 iii with me. Thats not to heavy, and for the small formats in my photobooks, their quality is more than sufficient.


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Post Options Post Options   Quote nandbytes Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 08 May 2024 at 17:53
We visited Meteora in Feb
A very good example of having to shoot in less than ideal conditions. Would have loved to stay for the sunset but our tour wouldn't stretch that far as we had to drive back to Athens.

One thing that can really help I have realised is to book and manage your own trips. At least you can try to pick a good time to be some where. But if you are dealt with endless could cover not a lot you can do then.
Also I now only go on trips I can plan and control. Does mean a whole lot more planning for me to do but also means I can plan to be at the right places at the right time. Not always possible of course but you do the best you can
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A7RV, 20-70G, 70-200GII, Viltrox16mm/1.8, 35/1.4GM, Sammy85/1.4II, 200-600G
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Bob J Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 08 May 2024 at 18:02
For me travel photography is a mixture of urban and rural landscape, with a bit of street thrown in. Fairly similar to what we did when we met up (although we travelled to Neasden and Greenwich).

New places are inspirational. I don;t think you are any way old enough, but being a volunteer courier for Anthony Nolan (other charities that require you to travel are available) has opened up a lot of travel options for me... the one problem is that you can tend to treat the exotic place as quite mundane after a while (I'm attempting a bit of a reset after lockdown).

I did an atricle on 35mmc which skirts around the same issues...

https://www.35mmc.com/18/05/2022/travel-broadens-the-mind-by-bob-janes/
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