Mastering Travel Photography


So, you think you can muster mastering Travel Photography? In this century? Well, perhaps you can. And we’d like to help you do just that. So welcome to the irreverent side of the serious business of being all you can be with a light capturing contraption stuck to your face. Even though this guide is in many ways already written, as you will see below it has barely begun its luminous loop from mind to cloud to you, dear travel shooter. The deconstruction will continue we promise, for as long as we remain reasonably rational and at least three people continue to enjoy our peculiar brand of travel photography insight and revelry.

The Last SelfieNo, there won’t be guest comments, because quite frankly we can’t stand the sight of our own blood, even figuratively. Our egos are far too fragile to withstand even the slightest bit of public derision, and so we much prefer to do the deriding ourselves and then cower in the corner. See the photo to the left? By definition of the Photographic Society of America, it’s NOT a travel photo! Keep reading…

Now without further adieu, let’s get down to the serious business at hand, shall we? First up: An official definition of Travel Photography from an august body of serious professionals:

“A photo travel image must express the feeling of a time and place, portray a land, its people, or a culture in its natural state, and has no geographical limitations. Close-up pictures of people or objects must include distinguishable environment. Techniques that add to, relocate, replace or remove any element of the original image, except by cropping, are not permitted. All adjustments must appear natural. Conversion to full monochrome is acceptable. Derivations, including infrared, are unacceptable.” Photographic Society of America

It’s the sentences in bold we enjoy most. If you click the link above (not now, on your own time!) and visit the PSA (Photographic Society of America) website’s PTD (Photo Travel Division), you’ll see what the PTDC (Photo Travel Division Chair)– the venerable George Bebout — has deemed to be law abiding photo travel images. When we visited the page, (now this was a while back so it may have changed after our public bashing) the first slide we saw was of two ostensibly well qualified photo travel photos — in HDR! Not just any HDR mind you, bad HDR. The kind of HDR even we can do!

If the PTDC considers these to be “photo travel images” according to the clearly stated rules of the PTD under the auspices of the PSA, then either the venerable George Bebout is color blind, (explains the monochrome exemption as “natural”), or is having a good chortle over putting one over on the stuffed shirts over at PSA-HQ. In the unlikely case of the latter, Venerable George is our kind of PTDC!

The other rule we find interesting is this- Close-up pictures of people or objects must include distinguishable environment. In other words, a close-up of a native w/o distinguishable environment like those below from awesome travel photographer Eric Lafforge, according to the good people of the PSA, are not qualified and shall not be considered as travel photos! Seriously?

Photos: Eric Lafforge

Burma boy in Thanaka paste
Not a travel photo! Reason – No distinguishable environment. No distinguishable imagination at the PSA either!

Well, at least the world has an official definition courtesy of the PSA. However, since we have seen fit to mock said official definition, we feel in fairness that it’s incumbent upon us to write the Irreverent Photo Blog version. We are quite confident our take will soon push the PSA PTDCT edition fluttering ignominiously from top shelf to bottom floor of the hallowed yet musty halls of Photographic Officialdom. Rest assured, we will not let the inconvenient fact of having given it no thought whatsoever until this very moment stand in our way.

The official Irreverent Photog Blog definition is…

Any photograph taken while travelling, including one’s own soapy naval snapped in the tub at the Bangkok Hilton.

There – take that and stuff it up your official shirts – if you can manage to find some space.

Bennett Stevens Written by:

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