You can’t see it; but, a little tear is creeping out of my eye… The tear is because I know how correct this piece is and my new heavy, long lens is by now, on it’s way from the store. What have I done? Have I forgotten the time my zoomer fell apart in the middle of a Germany Ski Vacation and I used my little 24mm lens for the rest or the trip — some of my most memorable images. This piece from Rohn Engh’s PhotoLetter is spot on – slamming us right back to reality. Read on, and weep with me or cheer up that travel can become fun again…
Snap Out of It
As social media changes the way we experience vacation photos, there’s no better time to improve the shots themselves. Lesson one: Focus on the details
At least that’s how I thought one became a great travel photographer back in 1996. This was pre-Instagram. Pre-iPhone. Pre-digital-camera revolution. I was 17 and on my first backpacking adventure across Europe. The camera was a Nikon N50, a hulking, professional-looking SLR. I didn’t know what most of the buttons did. Still don’t, actually. Like many young folk who travel across the Atlantic for the first time, I figured that I would not only find myself, I’d take National Geographic-level photographs of the canals of Amsterdam at night, old men smoking at Parisian cafes and children cavorting around fountains in quaint Roman piazzas.
My inaugural European sojourn was formative and eye opening (the cheese really is better over there!), but it nearly killed my travel-photography dreams. I shot only two rolls of film over the course of two months. My equipment was just too cumbersome to carry with me, and I was too self-conscious about my “art.” In my quest for frame-worthy shots, I came away with a handful of boring ones: A street. A bridge. A church tower. An empty field. Another church tower.
I still managed to fall in love with travel that summer and vowed to document my subsequent trips with photographs that didn’t look like bad postcards. I kept my cameras small. (For the Flickr nerds: My favorite film point-and-shoot circa 2001 was the pocketable Pentax IQZoom 120mi.) I shot more loosely and generously, sometimes tearing through several rolls of film a day. I wouldn’t consider what I captured particularly meaningful to anyone except myself. But years later, flipping through the mix of matte and glossy 4-by-6 prints, I experienced my biggest travel-photography epiphany: The more you document seemingly insignificant details on a trip, the more vivid the memories.