Great Expectations on the Road

Over the years I have had a difficult relationship with travel photography. It’s one of the reasons I became a photographer. I took a year off after high school and travelled in the western US and took a trip to Nepal. During that year I shot as many pictures as I could with my Nikon FM-2 and realized they were coming out pretty well and I barely knew what I was doing. When it clicked that I might be able to make a living doing that, I was hooked. But then the stakes got higher as I got more serious about photography. I never shot any travel pictures professionally since my career went towards sports and then portraits but every time I went anywhere I would have expectations that I had to shoot something good. It was an opportunity to be wherever I was and shoot something that stacked up against the great shots of that place I had in my head. If I found myself in Yosemite I would try to shoot an epic landscape along the lines of ol’ Ansel or when standing in front of the Eiffel Tower all those many images of it come to mind and ones inner tourist compels one to take a picture. But the problem was there was never enough time to do it right. To really shoot something seriously I find I need to be alone and to have time to wait for light, do a little scouting and really observe. But that’s a luxury when traveling for any reason other than shooting exclusively, and I usually found myself frustrated that I could never get what I wanted or that I had missed the opportunity a little.

Plus where would all those pictures go? Not my portfolio. Some would end up with stock agencies but as that industry got saturated and since I rarely had any releases that happened less and less. When I was shooting film they would just go in my files and that was becoming a space issue. It was all just practice I guess and there is nothing wrong with that. But a while back I found myself going on a beach vacation to Mexico with an underwater housing setup, a Linhof 6×12 system, a tripod, a Nikon 35 outfit and a huge bag of film, all a big pain in the ass to travel with. I ended up getting a few interesting shots and I trashed the 35mm system when I fell in the ocean with it, but that’s another story. So at some point I decided I was sick of all the baggage both physical and mental.

Lately I have stripped down the gear and just bring a Nikon body and 2 lenses or the best little camera I can find that shoots raw files and use the limitations it has as creative parameters to work within. By doing that I find I don’t have the expectations to take the ultimate picture of wherever I am. If there is time and great light I’ll let the shots come to me. Oddly enough since then I find that it’s been a lot of fun to get some decent shots and then be impressed with myself that I did it with a point and shoot. I was in Paris and Shanghai to shoot a job in a studio with all medium format gear which is a whole other way of shooting and head space but here are a few shots I managed with the little Canon G9 when doing the tourist thing after hours:

One Response to “Great Expectations on the Road”

  1. John Yankey

    Colors just make me happy! This is food for my eyes… the skyline is classic, but i just love the blue reflection on the water, the shadow of the people… nice one!


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