Learning the delicate art of travel photography

travel photography

Since I’ve been practising DSLR photography (you can see other posts about my learning process here, here, here, and here), I really wanted to bring my camera on our trip to Turkey, Egypt, and the UAE. We were both a bit nervous about having it with us because we’d be very sad if it were lost or stolen, but I figured it was worth the risk. It’s not every day that I get to practice taking photos in cities other than my own, never mind on the other side of the world.

I wasn’t totally sure that my skills would be good enough to make a difference in the quality of the photos but it turned out that, skills or no skills, the camera made a huge difference. And since I wasn’t sketching or doing any other creative activities, composing pictures gave me the opportunity to keep my creative muscles engaged.

The biggest thing I learned about travel photography was, simply, to take photos. I’ve always felt uncomfortable drawing attention to myself with a camera, and hate how touristy it makes me look. On trips where I’ve spent months in one city, there is plenty of time to wander without a camera, to blend in, to be present. But with only 19 days to see 5 cities, I quickly realized that if I wanted photos, I needed to be taking photos. All the time. I couldn’t tell myself, oh I’ll get a picture of that tomorrow since I most likely wouldn’t be back tomorrow. I had to overcome self-consciousness and hesitation and stop every time I saw something that I wanted to remember. I had to really think about what I was trying to capture; carefully composing shots and trying different angles. It pushed me to prioritize photography and gave me a new appreciation for the art.

There were also many times that I had to decide if I wanted to be completely in the moment or be taking pictures, since it can be hard to truly experience something with a camera stuck to your face. During my printmaking workshop, for instance, I was disappointed with the rushed quality of the photos I took, as I was also trying to listen to my guide and learn the steps. I tried to balance it out by taking a few photos then putting the camera away and looking with my eyes rather than the camera lens. Other times, like in the breathtaking Hagia Sophia, I walked with my camera in hand, snapping anything and everything that might help me capture the experience.

I know from experience that memories fade and that these pictures will be the best way to call to mind the experience of life in these cities: the colours, textures, and flavours. While it was fun taking pictures of famous landmarks, I was a little surprised to realize that the pictures I enjoy the most are of the more minute details – the stuff that might not show up in a Google search of that city. These are what I have shared with you, for the most part. You can easily find pictures of the pyramids that far outshine mine, but you might not see Cairo exactly how I saw it, whether you visit it yourself or look at someone else’s pictures.

This is how I saw Cairo. And Istanbul, Luxor, and Abu Dhabi. Enjoy.

Istanbul

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Egypt

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Abu Dhabi

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Are there things I would have done differently? For sure. I wish I had been a little bit bolder, a little more ready to ask for permission to take photos of market stalls and of people. Any images of people were taken without their knowledge and I don’t feel great about that. I wish I had slowed down a bit more in some instances and looked for more minute details. I took a lot of generic street shots that feel pretty bland to me. I wish I had done a little more research and knew ahead of time what sorts of things to look for.

All in all though I’m happy with what I got, and happy with what I learned. I feel more excited about photography than ever and can’t wait until our next trip!

What are some of your favourite places to photograph? Do you have any tips or tricks to share? Leave a comment below.

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3 comments

    • smedford1108 says: May 8, 2015

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