Some say keen photographers are a major pain in the ass for travellers. What drivel!
A while ago, behind the cloak of anonymity, a Travel Rant blog was posted about how photographers were a pain in the ass, that they should leave their cameras at home and that they might feel more alive if they did.
Well predictably coming from the other side of the fence, I would say that this is utter drivel. If you get serious about photography it will enhance your travels. In fact, the world would be a far, far better place if only serious photographers were allowed to travel.
Quite simply, serious photographers tend to travel better, see more and (dare I say it) engage more with local people than non-photographers. Sure there are exceptions and some snappers do seem to walk around with all the kit, but none of the brains, but whenever I am up at 4am standing on the edge of a sweeping landscape waiting for the sunrise, the only people I see are fellow photographers.
When sitting on the dunes of the Sahara, looking at the panoply of stars, I can almost guarantee I will only be surround by snappers. Who waits at the top of a volcano until the sunset has completely disappeared even though this means that they will have to walk down in the dark, and then do the same thing the next day as the weather is better? Yes, you've guessed it – photographers!
Whilst many other travellers are hanging around in traveller bars telling tall tales about how they like to go places where travellers don't, we are there, taking shots and doing more for the local economy by making the odd contribution to locals for taking their pictures.
Given sensitively, this usually goes to older people who are preserving local traditions, not to youngsters running internet cafes and selling puff. This preserves and values traditions that are so often marginalised by the travelling masses.
Serious photographers actually tend to be more considerate than non-photographers. We tend to wait in discrete places often waiting for the dread-locked über-traveller to shift their languid butt from the prominent location on the steps of a monument or where they have sat, just for the purpose of being seen.
They will sit their until their bum goes numb, reading their well thumbed copies of the Lonely Planet or some lame student-y novel like The Beach as if they are doing something so damn profound.
We hover in the shadows, waiting for that brief moment when we can get a picture of something without a liberal coating of hippies in Thai Fisherman's pants or tourists in shorts and bum-bags.
A few years ago I was photographing Kulkucan's Pyramid in Mexico for a book. A few people had got up early and were waiting when the site opened. Three serious photographers waited at the bottom, and composed their shots considerately so we could all get pictures without the usual crowds.
The fourth – who had no camera – proceeded to drag her barely-clad-ass up the stairs in front of us all. Considerate? I don't think so, and due to the unique acoustics of the monument (which at the time I knew nothing about) at least she was aware of our displeasure.
True there are some snappers who are rude and do stick their cameras into people's faces with out asking, but this is because they are social morons – not because they are photographers.
I have also found that this tends to be done more by people taking pictures with a compact camera or a mobile phone, than by a serious photographer. On my photography tours, everyone treats the subjects of their pictures with humour and courtesy, realising that this is not just the right thing to do, it will enhance their travels, as well as their pictures.
Serious photographers realise that not only will you get better pictures by talking to people and engaging with them, you will have a better time and crucially so will they. I get to to talk to far more people, shake their hands, and look them in the eye than I ever would have done if I were travelling without a camera. Certainly far more than the camera-less über-traveller!
So if you want to make the world a better place, and to experience more of the world and the people in it, see more sunrises and sunsets, climb more mountains and generally live your travel life to the full, then you should get serious about your photography. End of.
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Steve Davey leads his own exclusive range of travel photography tours, Better Travel Photography, with land arrangements by Intrepid Travel