Boring Vacation Pictures?

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve bored myself before, during, and after a vacation or excursion. The destination was fine, but I wasn’t enthused with the resulting photographs. But I’m a seasoned photographer, what gives?

I used to be guilty of taking too many digital images of the same subject from the same point of view. With the explosion of smartphone photography, this approach has become aesthetically numbing. No matter the camera type, any of our photographs could technically qualify to grace the pages of National Geographic. But what would make our pictures of, for example, the pyramids or the Effiel Tower, stand out from the usual fare?

I’ll tell you what I do. What you don’t see in this picture of the pyramids is the line of bus traffic I waited to pass by. The camels entering the view made it appear like a scene from 1910 and not 2010.

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Speaking of camels, I ditched the standard animal shots to wait for them to cause a “traffic jam.”

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How many times have we seen open-air markets in foreign lands? Too many. I waited till nightfall and photographed the person who cleans up in Old City Jerusalem’s street market.

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Forget about staged or group portraits, it was more interesting photographing these Bedouin guides during a night expedition.

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Here’s a quickly assembled color series from a trip to Hawaii.

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Here are my tips to create a compelling narrative while developing a critical photographic eye before, during, and after a vacation.

1. Google your destination. See what has been photographed before and what possible perspectives may be available for you to shoot from. Then again, it may be preferable to not look at anything until you arrive there with fresh eyes.

2. Become familiar with and shoot with one focal length. Too many changes between wide angle and telephoto views can be confusing to you as well as your audience.

3. Ruthlessly edit down the number of images. Get rid of duplicates.

4. Ruthlessly select the best images from your destination. A single image may represent a single experience or a single stop.

5. Regard your selections as special, as if they were in a show. As a matter of fact, make prints instead of putting your photographs on a video screen. 10 to 20 compelling images will be more interesting than 200-300…trust me.

In my next post, using the above method to edit images from a recent trip to San Diego and Carlsbad, California. I took about 300 digital and film images, but I’m not going to bore you with everything. ūüėÉ

Goodbye Folsom Street

After a two year hiatus, I was mentally and physically “gearing-up‚ÄĚ this week in preparation of attending Sunday‚Äôs Folsom Street Fair¬†. ¬†I’ve decided not to go.

With over 250,000 attendees, this San Francisco leather and fetish festival is packed into about 13 blocks. It is a photographic goldmine, especially for portrait photographers. As a street and documentary photographer, my images from past fairs show quirky moments that I specialize in. Unfortunately, many of those images are too risqué to be shown to a general audience.

According to local media, in addition to regular warnings of not bringing kids and/or stay away from the area if the nudity is not your cup-of tea, there will be warnings of getting consent before you touch anyone or take a picture. Flyers say ‚ÄúGear is not consent. Nudity is not consent. Ask first before photographing or touching someone. No means no.‚ÄĚ

Due to the nature of the event, I acknowledge that there were serious incidents¬†of touching at past fairs (years ago, a drunk woman gabbed my butt and ran away…and that happened before I even went through the admission gate!). And I acknowledge current events such as the “me too” movement are driving needed awareness.¬†¬†But I, and many other photographers, don’t attend Folsom Street because we¬†need¬†to¬†touch someone or collect pictures for porn collections. We pack our gear to get great images. The below photograph was taken about 7 years ago and hangs¬†in¬†my home office. It’s part of my¬†San Francisco collection. When kids ask me who it is, I tell them it’s Bane, from Batman. ! ūüôā

I’m not here to debate¬†the First Amendment. Anyone¬†can legally photography on a public street but these “warnings” create a hostile environment for photographers with camera gear while those¬†photographing with the ubiquitous smartphone¬†are not branded as perverts.

What am I gonna do about it? It’s Not Complicated.¬†I’ll just¬†save¬†the admission fee and film and photograph places that are not criminalizing photography.