Personally, I’m not a big fan of new year’s resolutions. Common sense dictates that if we really want to make change in our lives, we should resolve to take specific steps toward that change every day. Promises we make on December 31 each year will most likely be broken by January 15. That’s certainly what I’ve observed over many years on the running trails and gyms where I’ve run or worked out daily. A huge surge in attendance begins on January 1 and dissipates within about two weeks.
So this year, ahead of the new year’s holiday, I’m re-posting my earlier thoughts on what we travel photographers should resolve to do differently. In the three years since I originally posted this article, I actually have made progress against all five resolutions.
- Book that once-in-a-lifetime trip now:
Visit that exotic destination you’ve always wanted to see! Buy this photo
That travel photography “bucket list” needs to be emptied before you kick the proverbial bucket. I know too many people who always found excuses to put off taking the trips they most desired, until it became too late for them. The kids are too young, my job is too demanding right now, I can’t afford the cost. I’ve made these excuses, too. But the one thing we can’t live a full life without and can’t ever lose once we’ve attained it is experience. Every trip I’ve taken helped me grow as a person and as a photographer, and also helped me grow closer to my family and other travel companions. So book that trip today and go this year. You won’t regret it.
- Just get out there and shoot:
There are countless exciting subjects for your photography within a few miles of your home. Buy this photo
Even professional travel photographers can’t be on a lengthy shoot in an exotic part of the globe all the time. So, book those once (or a few times) in a lifetime trips as soon as feasible, but in the meantime find some wonderful local attractions where you can hone your craft by making compelling images. I love to shoot little-known local cultural events such as street fairs and performances of dance, theater, and music. It’s also a great pleasure to find scenic spots near home where we can make some striking landscape images that haven’t been shot thousands of times before. Remember, you’re the local expert near your home, so seek out frequent opportunities to shoot in your own community.
- Learn to use your camera as a tool to bridge the gap between your culture and the culture of the land you’re visiting:
Photography can bring us closer to the people we meet on our journeys. Buy this photo
Instead of letting your photography separate you from the people you’ve come to learn from, resolve to turn your image-making into an opportunity to meet more people and get to know them more deeply. Check out my pillar post on how to do this: Post on Photography as a Cultural Bridging Tool.
- Approach wildlife with respect:
The more we learn about and respect the fauna we encounter during our travels, the healthier they will emerge from the experience (and the better our images will turn out). Buy this photo
A photo safari is a life-changing experience and should be on every travel photographer’s list. But just as our cameras can be used either to alienate local people or to bond with them, so can photographing animals be used to harm them or to respect and help preserve them. Read this post for more detailed tips (Post on Wildlife Photography), but in the meantime I will summarize by emphasizing the importance of prioritizing the animal’s welfare ahead of our desire to get an amazing shot of it. Getting too close to wildlife will stress the animal and could even cause it to become lunch (or cause a predator to starve by losing its meal). The more we get to know a species’ behavior before encountering it in the wild, the better our images will be and the healthier the animal will emerge from the encounter.
- Continually improve technique:
I strive to hone my technique with every shoot. Buy this photo
There are more important elements in photography than technique, but a mastery of technique does help us make the images we want, so I always work to improve mine. If you haven’t already gained the confidence to shoot in manual mode, start learning now. Remember that while cameras have become very smart, they aren’t artists and they can’t know what the photographer is trying to achieve, so learn to take control of your camera’s settings today. Here’s a short post listing five key techniques that will help your images stand out: Post on Top Five photography “hacks”.
So, resolve to take that trip of a lifetime, shoot locally while you’re waiting for it, learn to use your camera as a tool to interact beneficially with the people and the wildlife you meet during your travels, and work to hone your technique. I’ll be doing the same! Happy trails in 2020.
What do you resolve to do in 2020? Please share your thoughts here.