How Travel Can Impact Your Photography

If I saw something in my viewfinder that looked familiar to me, I would do something to shake it up.
~ Garry Winogrand

A while back, we had a crazy idea.

We’re not the kind of people that like to sit still. Or in one place too long. Or do the same things over and over again.

So we decided to sell our home, change our lifestyle, and shake it up a bit. Yes, we’ve traveled. But it was always more of the “two weeks here” and “two weeks there” style.

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So we asked ourselves, “what if we had very little commitment in our Colorado home – condo living in other words – that allowed us to live simply and travel when ever and for however long we choose?”

So off we were on to our new adventure.

This summer we started our new lifestyle with a trial run – six weeks in Europe. Nope, we didn’t “vacation” for six weeks. Instead we found apartments to rent that came with wifi access, worked when we needed to and explored the rest of the time.

As a result, we went to amazing places, lived like a local, got all of our work done AND had the adventure that has definitely started a new pattern for us.

Yes, I know travel isn’t something everyone wants or everyone loves. But its still a reason many people get into the world of photography.

If you’ve always dreamed of taking your camera and traveling whenever and wherever you choose, here are some tips we found as we set out on our newest journey.

1. Look for the details few others see

When you live at home, in one location year after year, you begin to take things for granted. But when you travel, you see things in a completely different way. Little things make you laugh. Little things make you say WOW. Those little things then become a part of your photography because you “see” them differently. And you want to show them to the world through your imagery. No matter where you are, head out to experience new things from time to time. It will change your perspective and your photography.

2. Increase your level of patience

In the US, everything is done “yesterday”. If you think it, it had better be done NOW or its simply too late. That doesn’t hold true anywhere else. And if you can’t speak the language proficiently, you may end up in the wrong place at the wrong time. We found this to be true as we booked a train in Italy, only to end up on the wrong train and having to wait almost two hours extra to get to our final destination. Oh well. We learned, and we still got where we were going. Just a little later than we expected. You may have decided you want a business now and you can’t wait for clients to come pouring in. Yet it might not happen quite the way you envisioned it. That’s okay. Its not the final outcome that’s important; it’s the destination. Everything is for a reason; just experience it and go along for the ride.

3. How much we’re alike

We avoid hotels whenever possible. If you can get a comfy little apartment with the locals, you’ll see true culture at work. And what’s funny is how much you discover we’re all alike. When we opened up the windows at 10pm at night, the music started blaring – and with many of the songs we know because they were our top artists. We saw advertisements for movies we’ve seen advertised back at home. And when we flipped on the television – there are our shows being dubbed in other languages (which can be amusing in itself). I’m not talking about how America has influenced cultures around the world (that’s a post in itself), what I’m talking about is how things affect people in much the same way. We all love family and friends, good food, and time together. The same things make us laugh and make us cry. When you learn how to reach out to someone 10 minutes away from you, chances are you can do equally well with someone 10,000 miles away from you.

4. Take the time to do meaningful work

When you see an artist like Goya, Rembrandt or Michelangelo, you’re not witnessing something created in a day. You’re looking at something that was learned over a lifetime. It makes you think a bit more before you shoot each image. Technology allows you to instantly capture anything and everything. Yet that may not always be the best way. What are your goals? What do you hope to accomplish? Spend the time planning a little before you shoot – it can make a huge difference in your final results.

5. New fire to do something new

Sightseeing and meeting people from all over the world starts your mind wandering. When you live in a huge “classroom” that presents you with something new every day, its hard not to get excited and start planning for something else. The key is to record all of those ideas in a notebook or iPad (or whatever you use) and categorize them later. What are you passionate about? What could work into what you do now and give you new direction for the future? You’ll surely see a ton of things out there that present opportunity; don’t let them slip away.

6. Change your customer service skills

When you’re lost and can’t speak the language, frustration sets in. Yet you’re the one with the problem. So you have to stop and figure it out. That’s when a smiling face, someone who speaks “a little” English, or gives you a tiny piece of advice opens up your world to new opportunity. You’re looking for someone to understand you and provide you with a little help. Which is exactly what customer service means. How can you help just a little to someone who is frustrated or needs a new idea? It may be an email, a comment on a blog, or even a telephone call when its least expected. If you look for tiny opportunities, you will be rewarded.

7. Prioritize

While I was away for six weeks, I didn’t read a lot of my email, read and surf the news sites, or keep up with the “happenings” on social site. And guess what? I survived. In fact after six weeks I discovered that a lot of that really doesn’t matter to me one way or another. So instead of going back to the “same old way of life”, I’ve decided to delete a lot of the things that wasted my time. And I have a lot more time to spend doing things that I know I truly want to do and will make a difference to my business overall. If you can’t fit everything in, chances are you have to many things on your plate. What matters to you? What can you give up to make room for something that does? Sometimes all it takes is becoming aware of how you spend your 24 hours to determine how you want to change them.

And with one final note, when you’re out and about, offer to take a portrait of a family that’s touring. I know you’ve had the same trouble we have – a ton of photos with everyone in the picture except for the photographer. When you see someone doing this, jump in and offer to help. Then make a change or two, use your professional eye, and give them more then they’ve hoped for. Yes its with their camera. Yes you’ll never see them again. Yes they won’t be clients. But it can make you a better photographer. How can you quickly turn the scene from boring to wow? How can you think quickly to improve the surroundings? You’ll be surprised at the results.

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