Hitting The Road, Photographically Speaking

Travel photography today has its difficulties, what with security lines and restrictions at airports and the concern some security personnel seem to have, perhaps rightfully so, of people with a camera in their hands. Photographers need be aware of the various restrictions and rules that are in place at the airports, available at www.tsa.gov/public and from your carrier. This is particularly so for international air travel, where size restrictions for carryons are becoming ever more stringent. (See our Airline Travel threads in our Forums at www.shutterbug.com.)

But that kind of scrutiny can exist even for those of us just walking around with a camera. Recently I was barred from even entering a large museum in New York with my photo backpack--I mean, they wouldn't even allow me in, let alone check it once inside. And you have to be aware of where you point the camera as well. Start shooting around some "sensitive" site (even if you are not aware that it is so) and you'll have someone checking you out. Those shooting around bridges and tunnels here in the New York area, and even some buildings that seem innocuous enough on the outside, are generally in for some discussion with a suspicious security guard. As the old Buffalo Springfield line goes, "Paranoia strikes deep, into your life it will creep..." (That's a '60s reference, kids.)

Despite this environment there are plenty of reasons to continue photographing when not in the woods or some canyon in the middle of nowhere. Many of us got into photography when we were given or bought ourselves a camera for our first major trip. That might have been for a lucky few a trip overseas, and for many of us the classic road trip in and around the States. Travel opens our eyes to new possibilities and meeting new people, and there's no better way than photography to record and remember what we experienced. Indeed, even today after numerous journeys I find that a trip to a new place is the best cure for any photographic block or inertia I may be suffering. It could be a new culture or marvelous landscape that does the trick, or just the way the light falls differently than where I spend most of my days.

And photography does more than just help us bring back travel trophies. It almost forces us to focus our energy on where we are, and to begin to frame our experience in the context of that most powerful tool of communication--the image. These days it also allows us to share our experiences with people around the world, not just our friends and family who might in the past have viewed our album or slide show.

Photograph life around you these days and you can join in a trip discussion with those seeking information about a locale, or show people in other parts of the world who you (and we) are. The old line "Photography--the Universal Language" is more relevant and important these days than ever before. While an image can capture oddities it can also show similarities, and we sure need more of a sense of shared humanity these days than ever before. And once you have made those shots do something with them--yes, share them with friends, but also with the world via the web. You never know who'll be looking at your pictures and how it might affect them and their world. I always remember reading about how Walker Evans approached his images--that each one told a story and one day would become part of a visual history of the time it was taken. While we need not burden every image with such meaning, it can inform us of the type of image that we can begin to make as we journey around the planet, and through our lives.

With all that in mind we present our Travel issue with tips and techniques and work by photographers who simply enjoy, or who make their living from traveling the globe with their camera. Ever since photography began people have seen it as an indispensable part of the travel experience. There's no reason, despite the mood, to change that view now.