Themes in Travel Photography

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Travel photography is fun and exciting.  It can also be boring and random.  One of the secrets is how you approach your location and how much you plan before you go.  One of the things I do in getting ready for a location is to do my homework and find a “theme” to go with a location.  We typically go to Paris every year.  If you’re in the same location time after time, you need to have a focus or you’ll just get random images from all over. 

As I am writing this blog, I have my July – December 2019 website update on display.  In the “Places” section of the website, I have last year’s Paris theme on display.  The theme was “Above.”  We went up every tower, monument or place with more than a couple of floors that we could find.  We hit the Eiffel Tower, the Montparnasse Tower, the Pompidou Center, the Arc de Triumph, and any other locations that got us above Paris.  We found a new thing this year – a balloon in the Parc André Citroën that lifted you up over Paris just south of the Eiffel Tower!

Using a theme like “above” gives your images a direction.  We had plenty to do to seek out these locations.  It was a lot of fun!  We photographed the traditional sites – the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triumph, etc. – but we did it from the perspective of above.  This made our images different from the traditional / typical tourist pictures.  That’s when your photography gets a bit boring – when you have images that could have been taken by anyone at any time.  When you are just wandering the city, that’s when the images become random. Boring and random does not help your photography.

Whenever you travel to a new location, or revisit an old location, tools like Google maps and lists of great things to see enable you to visualize your images and plan your trip.  Are you going to be somewhere only in the afternoon?  Pick locations that get great afternoon light and skip those where the light is problematic.  Staying overnight?  What’s the best thing to photograph at sunrise?

Last thought – become familiar with the locations and have alternatives.  One morning I got out early and took the Paris Metro to the top of the Canal St. Martin.   The Canal cuts through the west-central part of Paris and empties into the Seine.  A great walk and a great opportunity for photography.  When I arrived at the top of the canal, the sun wasn’t quite illuminating the canal – so I had a cup of coffee and waited.  Then I walked over to the first basin on the canal – Bassin Louis Blanc – and it had been drained!  They were doing canal repairs.  Which prompted a bit of a plan B – and a great image of the empty canal basin.

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