Travel Photography: Don’t say cheese!

They say a picture is worth a 1000 words. I say a 1000 pictures can’t capture an experience. Why this bitter tirade against photography, you may ask? For someone who hasn’t so far travelled without a camera and competes hard with her spouse for the best photos of the trip, I certainly made it over to the “dark side” pretty easily! The trigger was my recent trip to Santorini, Greece. A zillion people sighing and gushing over a good ( but not unique) caldera-view sunset along with a zillion flashes of the camera, the clash of the selfie-sticks, the scramble for the best angle and most surprisingly, the rush to get photos of some strangers taking wedding photos. For me, this sight meant enough cameras to last a lifetime. Too dramatic? Ok, at least to last a few holidays then.

Every holiday has now become merely a photo-tour or more appropriately a “photo-shopping” tour. A simple google search on travel photography shows how big this trend is – thousands of hits for tips on clicking great photos, travel photography courses and workshops, blogs showcasing travel photos, etc. Photography completely dominates the travel space. While researching a destination, photos set our expectations about the place – and of course, in the process, kill any sense of anticipation! Holiday photos over-shadow our experience of a place while we are there and then to add to the trouble, they over-power the authentic memories of a holiday once we are back. What is not in a photo, didn’t exist!!! What did not get a few hundred “Likes”, cannot truly have been worthy! This obsession with clicking a photo of everything that we see often negates our ability to just soak in a place and sight. We push and rush to get the perfect shot, the perfect light, the perfect angle. And we lose the real experience in the bargain.

But can a photo ever capture my biggest moment of peace in life – sitting alone on top of a sand dune in Wadi Rum? Can it ever playback the playful sounds of the hippos wading in the water while I enjoyed a bush dinner in Masai Mara? Can it ever do justice to the grand tableau of the Great Migration? Can a camera capture how insignificant I felt in the shadows of the mighty Mt. Chomolungma or while shivering on the shores of the vast, icy Lake Baikal? I now realise that in all my best travel moments, my camera failed me. Why then should it be a necessary companion? Not just the sights, but the sounds and smells, my own mental state – all make up a cherished memory. Why should I handicap myself – shut all my senses and rely merely on the shutterbox? Can I be daring enough to break these shackles and travel without a camera during my next trip? Can I attempt to bring back stories, memories and friends – not just images? I hereby willingly sign up for this challenge. Wish me luck!


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