After a bit one of them asked, "why is it that people who travel always take pictures of the same things?" I thought about that for a moment, and realized it's quite true. Looking around on Flickr, I see many photos that are similar to -- albeit better than -- mine. A similar photo to the one posted here appears on the cover of a current travel catalog that arrived in the mail, although the travel catalog photo is sharp and clean, with rich saturated colors and a brilliant blue-sky background.
That's one thing about traveling: it's usually cloudy, or at least partly overcast, when I'm there, so things don't look as bright and rich and colorful as they do on TV or in books, travel guides, or National Geographic or Conde Nast Traveler.
Regardless of weather or exoticity of locale (is 'exoticity' a word?), my travel photos are "run of the mill." They're dull. They're "same old - same old." I visited a few places that were somewhat off the regular tourist path, like Lop Buri with its ruins and monkeys, and the Rare Stone Museum in Bangkok. But there's nothing special about the photos. They have no punch, they make no impact, they don't illustrate that "this is a really cool place." The unusual places end up looking usual.
My consternation arises from this: I'm not sure how to take better travel photos. In particular, I'm not sure how to take photos that really show the places that I'm seeing.
While it would be great to capture travel magazine caliber images, the reality is that the magazine, travel guide, and brochure photos often times aren't very realistic. I mean, what does the place really look like? Maybe I'm just not a very good traveler, and that's what comes through in my photos. The places I see are different, they're interesting, sometimes they're kind of fun, but I can't say traveling is particularly exciting or glamorous. At least, not the way I do it.
So, what is it that I want out of my photos? Maybe I have to get a handle on the "concept" before I can develop the skills and the "eye" to illustrate that concept. Or maybe I'm reading too much into this, and expecting too much from myself. Basically, I take snapshots of the time and place as it is when I'm there. My photos are a simple documentation of places and things. My occasional attempts at "interesting" angles or compositions generally fall flat.
I suppose, if people go to the same places, they're going to have similar photos. There is a certain amount of fun in being able to look at someone's photo and say, "oh, I've been there; look, here's my picture." Part of the solution to taking different photos, then, would be to go to different places. Different, however, doesn't always mean better. People go to the same places because those are the most interesting places. Over time, of course, the growing crush of visitors can change the place they're going to visit. Does that mean people shouldn't go? No, not at all. One of the things that annoys me the most -- and there are many things that annoy me -- is "travelers" who complain about "tourists" who ruin good travel destinations. (I'll save this particular rant for another time).
What to do? Practice more, read more, look at more Flickr photos, get better equipment? Or just give up?
It's all pretty trivial, really, isn't it? I mean, who cares? My country is backing an uncalled for carnage against innocent civilians in Lebanon; my country has thrown formerly peaceful Iraq into total chaotic civil war; the forests are being cut, the water polluted, people have AIDS and cancer and are involved in drugs and domestic violence, and there are half-a-billion better photographers than I posting photos on Flickr and on a billion websites around the world... what's it matter if I can take a snappy looking snapshot? And I'm sure there are a lot more productive uses of my time than to whine and moan about this stuff on LJ.
I think I just fill my thoughts with trivialities to avoid looking taking responsiblity for my life.
To wrap this up, I just walked outside and shot this lovely, dramatic photo of a beach on the north shore of Oahu in Hawaii... where the sky is always blue, the sea is even bluer, palm trees sway and sunshine sparkles on the crests of perfectly curling hollow waves. Somehow, my photo, and my reality, aren't in sync with what Hawaii is really supposed to be like. I'm open to pointers: how to I jazz up my travel photos on a day like today?