A Warm Welcome from “To Travel Hopefully”

Welcome, fellow traveler!  I’m delighted to have you stop by and visit “To Travel Hopefully”.  This forum is dedicated to travel photography, but it will be unlike any space you may have visited before.  Most travel photography sites either showcase images from the author’s own travels or provide lots of technical details about how to shoot certain subjects.  “To Travel Hopefully” takes a broader perspective.  I’ll certainly be sharing plenty of images I made while traveling in more than 100 countries around the world, and there will be some posts about photographic gear and techniques, because these topics are relevant to creating powerful images when you travel.  But I’ll also share a lot of other content aimed at helping readers capture great images while traveling, and equally important, I’ll emphasize how photography can be a wonderful means for us all to travel with greater cultural awareness, interact more deeply with the people we meet on our journeys, and share what we experienced during our travels with more power.

Do you ever wonder how professional travel photographers capture those amazing images that go so far beyond the postcard-type shots to really inform and move the viewer?  Would you like to be able to make those powerful images yourself?  It’s possible, and not as hard as you might think!  While professionals on assignment may have access to equipment costing more than a luxury car, local “fixers” who can arrange the types of shoots they’re seeking, and the weeks or months required to get the right events during the right light at the right time of day, there are ways that the rest of us can gain similar kinds of advantages to make remarkable images, too.  We’re going to focus on how to get shots like the pros do, even without having the time, budget, and local connections they have.

Lilac breasted roller, on safari in Serengeti National Park, Tanzania

Travel has been a big part of my life nearly since I was born.  My family moved to England when I was one year old, and after the year we spent in the UK we continued to travel frequently and broadly throughout the world.  By the time I was six years old I had my first camera, a Kodak Instamatic, in my hands to try to capture what I saw on our travels.  As I became increasingly serious about photography, several camera upgrades followed, but I remained passionate about capturing the best images I could and using them to share the experiences acquired during our trips.

It was during my middle school years that I first started to understand the power that sharing images can have in shaping people’s understanding of diverse cultures.  On returning from a summer spent living in Brazil, I asked my history teacher if he’d be willing to devote a period one day for me to present a slide show of images from that trip.  He did me one up and invited all his history classes to come to an hour-long assembly.  As I showed the photos and explained what we were looking at, fellow students became more and more curious and started asking questions.  How did practitioners of Candomble meet to perform rituals in secret when they weren’t allowed to meet openly?  Why were Brazilians reluctant to relocate to their new capital city of Brasilia?  How could government sanctioned torture continue once word had gotten out to journalists?  What had started as an easy way to dodge an hour of history class had become a powerful learning experience, and I felt proud to have been able to share what I had experienced in those three months in Brazil with some of my peers back home.  That feeling still keeps me excited, as the adventure has continued through regular travels with my wife and two daughters.  When I travel I still want to learn as much as I can about the people, the landscapes, the wildlife, and the history of each destination; make images that are compelling and different; and come home ready to share what I learned with others.  With today’s new mobile apps for planning, digital photography for capturing, and social networks for sharing–the job is easier than it was when I was a kid, but the passion remains the same.  When my family travels, we try to seek out the most authentic experiences, even when they are not always pleasant or uplifting, and to have meaningful local cultural interactions rather than sanitizing the travel through staying in luxurious tourist-style hotels.  By the same token, I believe the images made while traveling and shared afterward should reflect the full experience, pleasant and otherwise, so that they have the power to teach and to move people.  We’ll focus quite a bit on advocacy in this space.


Benito, a tobacco farmer in Cuba’s Vinales Valley, enjoys the fruits of his labor

Where did I get the name for this site?  When I arrived as a freshman at Harvard, my dorm had a sign hanging in the entryway that declared, “To travel hopefully is a better thing than to arrive.”  I was fascinated, because that quote expressed the very sentiment I felt when I traveled, camera in hand: namely that the journey itself was the good stuff, and that travel was not something to get over with.  I looked up the quote.  It’s from an essay by Robert Louis Stevenson, and I’m quite sure the Harvard administration put it up in my dorm as a metaphor for hopeful academic and overall life journeys rather than as a literal statement about physical traveling, but it has stuck with me all these years.

Please join me as we explore the world through learning to capture great travel images.  The same techniques, gear, and philosophy that allows us to make amazing photos in remote destinations around the world apply equally well to documenting everyday life close to home, so I will focus on shooting the familiar as well as the exotic.  We’ll dive into how to shoot memorable images in specific destinations as well as how to plan, post-process, and share those images.

Throughout our journey, I’m very eager to learn your thoughts.  What got you hooked on travel photography?  What have been your most memorable moments while traveling, and your favorite images associated with those adventures?  How have images you’ve seen shaped your outlook, and how have your images impacted other people’s?  What topics would you like me to address here?  I encourage you to share your thoughts and provide feedback using the comment box at the end of each post.  Let’s make this a dynamic and interactive forum.

I’m excited to embark on this journey with you!

Alpenglow on the glaciers and peaks of Lago Gray, Torres del Paine National Park, Chile