Photography is rarely a cheap hobby what with the money many of us invest in cameras, lenses, filters, bags, and all the other accessories that can quickly deplete one's bank account. Then there are all the editing programs, computer upgrades, digital storage, and online classes one invest in to further their craft. But have you ever thought of foregoing the gear upgrade or that specialty lens in order to travel with your camera? If not, maybe you should and here is why.
Travel Diversifies Your Portfolio
Not everyone has been lucky enough to live or work in photo meccas such as the Pacific Northwest, Southern Utah, or Iceland. And not all locations are going to have the epic landscapes or rare wildlife that help make a photography portfolio stand out among others. So this means, in order to diversify one's portfolio, one must travel. Now that can be as simple as just getting out of town for a weekend trip or it can mean planning an international photography adventure. Either way, a change in what we normally shoot will help broaden our portfolio and showcase our art.
Being from Florida originally, I had to be a long way from home to be photographing Japanese macaques in the snow. By doing so, it makes my portfolio a bit different than many Floridian photographers.
This diversity also helps us in creating a unique portfolio. Travel is so readily accessible in today's world of low cost airlines and cheap accommodations through services like AirBnB, that many photographers have embraced the travel lifestyle. Yet, each one chooses different destinations and locations to create a unique body of work all of their own. As you travel to various locations, your portfolio will start taking on its own style and telling your story through the images you curate.
In this picture collage, there are five countries and twelve different cities represented. How many other people do you think would have chosen those same countries, never mind locations? It is through travel that this collection comes together as a unique body of work.
Travel Challenges Your Skills
While many of us start out shooting in our own backyards, it is important to step outside that comfort zone to grow our skills. When traveling, we are able to hone the skills we already have developed through increased repetition. Changing conditions and scenery help exercise the basic photography skills such as composition, reading the light, and familiarity with our gear that we have built in practice at home.
It also gives us a chance to learn more skills, such as planning for weather, scouting new locations, and finding out that maybe we didn't understand back button focusing as much as we thought we did. These lessons help us improve our craft and give us subjects to further study when at home.
Having driven around the North Shore area earlier in the day, scouting potential shooting locations, I knew exactly where to come back to when clouds started moving in over the mountains at sunset.
Photography trip planning, in and of itself, is a skill that has to be developed if not depending on workshops or photography tours at the destination. This skill is one that only comes about by actually doing it and seeing the results first hand. With each subsequent trip, the process refines itself based on your individual experiences, travel style, and photography goals.
Rental car or mass transit? Hotels or camping? What style of travel will give you the best experience while giving you the necessary flexibility to create your images?
Travel Creates Opportunities
When traveling with photography as the main objective, it opens up a ton of opportunities.
Obviously, sunrise and sunset only happen once a day each. So what do you do between those times? Try different types of shooting based on the weather and light! This can lead to experimenting with neutral density filters or trying your hand at high key black and white images or even spending some time playing with intentional camera movement shots.
Intentional camera movement is a technique I started playing with when I was out shooting fall colors in the Smoky Mountains one season. I had a bit of time on my hands and had read an article on it a couple weeks before so, I thought I would try it. Ends up, I loved the results and now have a small collection dedicated to ICM images.
Visiting new places can bring a mix of excitement and trepidation. Some photography destinations have been thoroughly visited prior so you have a good idea of what awaits and your goal is to create your own twist on an iconic or well loved site. Other times, you might choose a photography adventure; opting to travel to a location not as well known in which you can really stretch your photographic vision and potentially create new icons for other photographer to chase after. The choice is your as to how much exploration you want to do on your trip.
Antelope Canyon is known worldwide with photographers coming from places as far as China and India just to photography these slot canyons. Personally, I can't recommend the experience enough. They are an amazing sight and unlike anything I have seen before. Its also a very intense shooting environment due to the actual elements (dust in the air always) and the time constraints.
Off the Western coast of Aomori Prefecture, Honshu's (Japan) most northern prefecture, sits a tiny island only accessible when the ocean is calm. This area is rarely explored by photographers, even those in Japan. There is nothing close by other then some small fishing villages. I found this when I decided to drive across the country just to see what was there. That drive to explore allowed me to create several images including this one. I hope one day to be able to revisit that area as there was much more to see and photograph.
Traveling for photography usually takes you to some interesting places and places other photographers like to visit. When out in the field, striking up conversation with the photographer next to you can help build your network. Sometimes, its just a pleasant way to pass the time while waiting for the sun to rise or for a bison to pose. Other times, it can open the door to local knowledge, invitations to further travel, or even a business opportunity. You just never know!
When on a group tour in the Faroe Islands last month, striking up conversation lead to an invitation to visit Scotland next month. This is one of many invitations I have received from fellow photographers and travelers, simply by starting a conversation. Just remember, it is always nice to respond in kind as you can and offer to show them around your area if they decide to visit.
Opportunity also comes in the form of capturing landscapes, wildlife, or even historical sites before they disappear or are restricted. More and more, natural areas are becoming the victims of vandalism, arson, and climate change. Because of this, we never know when our images may become something never to be seen again.
Captured several years ago at a place called Botany Bay Plantation Wildlife Management Area on Edisto Island, South Carolina, this driftwood tree was washed away, along with many others, during the 2016 hurricane season. As a low lying barrier island, eventually this entire refuge will be washed away by storms and rising sea levels.
Travel Is Fun
In the end, as photographers, we just want to have fun with our art of choice. By getting out there and changing up the scenery, we can add a level of fun to our hobby. Even once we return home, the images and stories we have collected continue to bring joy as we share them with others. So get out there and start planning your photography trip!
Often the solo adventuress, Alyce Bender roams the globe, exploring Earth's natural beauty. Her images have been featured in galleries from New York to Florida, while her work as an international artist has been recognized from Japan to the U.K.
Bender is happiest in the field and passionate about sharing unique animals and environments from around the world in hopes of connecting people to the planet through imagery. She believes that connection is key to promoting environmental awareness and protecting vulnerable species and their habitats.
To see more of her work and articles, please visit: www.abenderphotography.com