Shutterbugs And The Travel Bug

Photography and travel have always been inextricably linked. As soon as a camera could be hauled about, by mule, porter, or on the back of the photographer, pictures from every locale were made. They might be exotic images from far-off lands, bucolic scenes away from the city’s strife, or just postcards that adorned a cathedral’s gift shop, but if it had trees, pyramids, or boats offshore, a photographer would be out there somewhere training a lens on the scene.

© 2010, Grace Schaub, All Rights Reserved

Today we are inundated with travel pictures, given the hundreds of outlets for such fare. Yes, there are still tons of images used for travel business brochures and websites, but many more non-commercial uses are being made of images on websites that count on “regular” folks to supply them with every aspect of a locale, hotel, or national park. Go to a site like TripAdvisor and you’ll be able to see not only exteriors of hotels but what the view from the window looks like from Room 22F and even what kind of towels and toiletries the hotel supplies. Are they travel photos? Sure, and someday they will be vintage wonders of our cultural obsession with knowing everything we can about where we’ll be going before we even step out our front door.

What’s really wondrous about travel photography is the way it refreshes our eyes. More than one photographer I know has told me that they really got into making pictures on their first trips away from their home turf. We no longer see what we have come to expect, and feel compelled to photograph things locals rush by on their way to shop and work. My office is a few blocks from the Empire State Building in New York, and every day on my walk back to the train station I see hundreds of folks aiming every possible picture-making device upward at the lofty spire, yet I hardly even look up anymore. Yet, when I walk around an unfamiliar city my eyes are wide-open and I can see locals looking at me quizzically, wondering why the heck I’d be making a picture of something they see every day.

I just can’t imagine making a trip and not bringing along my camera. Where I once carried a 35mm and a “brick” or two of film, today’s travel photography seems somehow more complicated as we haul along a laptop, chargers, memory cards, and more wires than I care to count. While the medium has changed, the impetus to photograph, whether it is for memories, “studies,” or more commercial uses, has not. A question might be: which came first for many of us, the love of travel or the love of photographing? For me, as I am sure for many of you, there’s really no separating the two.

In this issue we take a look at some items of interest to travel and location photographers, including the use of flash for outdoor portraits and some insider stories by photographers who travel near and far for their work. We also have an article on selling stock, specifically on the web. Now that images can be shared worldwide directly from photographer to client, some web stock agencies have arisen that act as “bundlers,” convenient places for photographers to reach out to potential buyers. It’s a controversial business, especially for pros who previously counted on stock for a good part of their income. Is this new trend in selling travel stock good or bad for photographers? Take a read, then decide how it might impact your work. Either way, it’s good to know where the market for travel stock might be heading.