- You photograph the same places everyone else does! Three years ago, I went to Europe with my aunt and niece. I couldn’t wait to photograph all those beautiful, iconic places that I had heard about! I was sure I would come back from the trip with lots of award-winning photographs! And I did come back with lots of pictures. Most of them, however, had the same major flaw – they were filled with pictures of strangers. Apparently I wasn’t the only one who wanted to photograph the Eiffel Tower and I discovered that it is impossible, as a tourist, to take a picture of Notre Dame without hundreds of other tourists in front of it.
- You don’t travel with other photographers. Photographers are always up before dawn so they have the best light. Just picture a beautiful pink sky behind a windmill or over a flower field in the Netherlands. Photographers aren’t interested in photographing in the middle of day, unless of course, it’s a cloudy day. Bright overhead sun causes harsh shadows while clouds diffuse the light. We tend to nap, eat or work on photographs during the middle of the day and then head out again in time for the golden hour, sunset, and even some night time photography. Remember when I said I went to Europe with my aunt and niece? They aren’t morning people and their idea of a landscape photo includes a close up of their faces in the center of it! They took more selfies than I did photographs!
- Things don’t turn out the way you imagined. I read the book Misty of Chincoteague as a girl and so as an adult, I’ve always wanted to photograph the wild ponies on Assateague and Chincoteague Islands. I was picturing wild ponies running along the beach, their manes flowing with waves breaking
and spray thrown up behind them. I shared my vision with a couple of friends and we headed to Maryland to make it happen. Flowing manes and running ponies aren’t quite what we found when we got there. Apparently, the ponies are bloated because they eat the salt water cord grass that grows in the marshes on the island and to compensate for all the salt in the cord grass, they drink twice as much water as a normal horse. They don’t run much because they have to eat almost all day long just to get enough nutrition to sustain themselves. And the mosquitoes were unbelievable! At one point, we were chased to our car by a mosquito swarm! The locals joke that the Maryland state bird is the mosquito!
- You don’t have back up plans for bad weather. And then there was the time my friends and I decided to photograph wildflowers in the Smoky Mountains in the spring. We really should have checked the weather before we headed out. Unbeknownst to us, a hurricane was coming up the coast and that caused strong winds in Tennessee. Have you ever tried to photograph moving flowers in shady wooded areas? Yeah, our flowers weren’t sharp and in focus. There are other things to photograph in the area, but no fun in wind and rain. Plus we ended up in a parade, which brings me to my next point.
- You end up in the wrong place, at the wrong time. Apparently there is a car show every spring in Pigeon Forge and that was the weekend we chose to go to Tennessee. After we gave up trying to photograph wildflowers in the wind, we headed back to our hotel, and that’s when we made a wrong turn. We ended up in the middle of a parade of hot rods! There were lots of muscle cars and one Subaru Outback in the Hot Rod parade that weekend! What could we do except go with the flow? We rolled down our windows, put on plastic smiles and did the royal wave. Three hours later, we finally made it back to our hotel!
So, what’s the answer? What’s the best way to travel and take great photographs without running into some of these issues? This is my personal opinion, mind you, but I have come to the conclusion that if the primary reason you are traveling is to improve your photography and find new things to photograph – a professionally organized photo workshop is the way to go! When you go on a photo workshop, an expert for the locale you are photographing takes you to the places tourists don’t go, or if there is an iconic place to photograph, he/she knows the best time to photograph it without a crowd or how to arrange a private photo shoot at the location. The photographers on these photography workshops also provide photographic instruction and photo critiques. I have been on three photography workshops now that were organized by Arizona Highways and have always come back from them with new skills and great images.
There are many other reputable groups who provide photography workshops: National Geographic, Meunch, and Aperture Academy to name a few. You can also pick up a current issue of any photography magazine and you will see lots of ads for photo workshops in the back. One thing to note – a photo tour is different than a photo workshop. A photo tour takes you to the best places to photograph something, but a workshop includes photo instruction.
PR Coordinator Becky Kempf has been telling people about the Library for almost 14 years. When she isn’t busy evangelizing about books, reading, and the Library’s concert series, she’s out photographing dogs, birds, rusty old cars and her grandchildren.