Every time I return from a trip I have so many pictures that I can never look at them all again, nor can I even begin to remember what they all are. This problem is only exacerbated by the digital camera age. Now that we don’t have to worry about the availability of film and the ultimate processing, we snap pictures with abandon. After I returned from a seven-month, RTW trip last year this problem of “not being able to see the forest for the trees” seemed insurmountable. I had so many photos that I was nearly drowning in them. This made me think: What is it that makes a travel photo really good? The answer came to me quickly. It is the photo that captures the humanity of the location you’re visiting and nothing does that better than a photo that contains local citizens doing exactly what they do in their everyday lives. However, I must admit, there are some photos that are so well composed that they still can capture the essence of a place without any humans in them. But I’ll be brutally honest here. A picture of a cathredral or train station rarely does this. Let me give you some examples.
I took this picture in Viet Nam and it conjures up more for me than so many others that I took in that country. I was sitting at a little cafe across the street and noticed these two waitresses leaving the restaurant where they apparently worked (Note: I tend to make up my own stories, in my own head, to fit scenes I witness when I travel. It’s a little mind game I play). To me this photo not only recalls my memory of how important the bicycle is as a mode of transportation in that country. It also reminds me of the feeling I had at the time of how elegant Vietnamese women could be. I will always remember the fact the even in this rain-drenched, muddy locale, where I couldn’t walk across the street without getting dirty from head to toe, these women, clad in white and pink could manage this and stay fresh as daisies in their silky and flowing attire.
In contrast, look at this picture of Singapore. It has absolutely no character and it could be Los Angeles if you don’t look too closely.
Compare the skyline photo to this chap going about his regular workday also in Singapore. Just seeing him going about his everyday business as well as the little eatery in the background brings back so many memories. I can almost smell the food even. Now that’t memories.
Here are some other examples. I think you’ll see where I’m heading with this.
As I mentioned earlier, sometimes, if you’re lucky, you photo’s composition can capture almost as much of the culture of a locale as those that contain people going about their lives. Here are just some that I think are good examples.