Rincon de Guayabitos
How is it that two people (or more) can go to the same place at the same time and come back with markedly different pictures of the same thing?
Do we really see the world around us exactly the same way others do? Some of us don’t even see things the same through both eyes, for me it’s as if each eye has a different white balance, one eye sees “warm” while the other sees “cool.”
Why does it matter? Because we each see the world from a different perspective. If we embrace those differences, we can make better images.
On a recent trip, I visited Petra with several hundred other people. Most people come away from the site with a shot of the “Treasury” from different angles and perspectives. I was struck by the initial glimpse of the structure from a distance as a sliver of architecture between the two canyon walls.
As impressive as the architecture of Petra is, I was equally impressed by the work of nature in the colours and shapes that presented at each turn in our journey through the canyon.
Be alert to opportunities that arise. As Yogi Berra said “When you come to a fork in the road, take it.”
Try something different. When everyone else is looking in one direction, look the other way, literally and figuratively.
Be there – Be present – Be ready
There are a few things to keep in mind when you travel to “exotic” places.
- It’s their country and their culture, we are their guests, they are not our servants
- One of our guides warned us about judging his culture through “western” values, just because it’s not the way we do it a home does not mean that it is wrong
- If you are requested to follow certain rules in certain places, like covering your head or shoulders in a sacred site, do it or stay outside
- If you are taking pictures of individuals be prepared to pay a small amount, it can mean more to some people than it does to you, and it’s quid pro quo, you got something – they got something
- In some cultures, people will want to see the picture, show it to them, it will go a long way to fostering good relations
- If you are in a place that does not allow photography, leave the camera at your side and take home a memory
- Some cultures you are not permitted to photograph children, in which case, we don’t take pictures of children
- Some cultures don’t want you to take pictures of their people – period, so don’t do it
- Please don’t give out candy to children, take things like school supplies and fruit instead
In most cases the people are as interested in you as you are in them and their country. Most of the people you will meet are very polite, but don’t push it.
Your safety and that of your companions and your gear is paramount, no one wants to get mugged or robbed. Most places I have visited are no less safe than parts of our big cities. Thieves and pickpockets are everywhere. If you’re going to see the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace, be aware of light-fingered bystanders. Big cities in the height of tourist season require vigilance.
Your primary and best defence is situational awareness, be aware of everything that’s happening around you, particularly from behind.
Don’t let your handbag or camera hang loose at your side or on your chest, hold on to it with at least one hand like the young lady in the center of the picture above (it would be better is she had the strap across her body.) A favourite technique for thieves is to cut your camera or handbag strap and run. Get and use a slash-proof camera strap, PacSafe makes a good one that is very resistant to slashing. Using a Spider Holster in lock mode is another good deterrent.
If you’re wearing a backpack, move it to your chest when you’re in crowded areas.
Stopping to enjoy a street band is part of the enjoyment of travelling, just make sure that you don’t loose track of what’s going on around you.
Don’t hang your camera on a chair back while you eat, leave it in your lap. If you are at a buffet, take your camera with you when you load your plate. Don’t rely on someone else to guard your gear, their situational awareness may not be up to the task, especially if they are not used to packing gear.
As I said before, most places are safe. Don’t get paranoid about it, if you look scared, you become a target.