21 September 2010

Travels with Non-Photographers

Generally, I take three types of photography trips: solo, with one or more photographers, or with my patient and long-suffering wife (who is decidedly not a photographer).

The first type of travel is easy: I do what I want, when I want and take as much or little time as I wish doing it. The down-side is that if you are rut-prone, you may stay in it longer than think, not even realizing you have a wheel or two in the ditch.

Traveling with other photographers can introduce compromise into your schedule and subject matter. But that is often leavened with the opportunity to sound new ideas, bounce concepts off of each other and try things you might never have thought about. In other words, you may find yourself pulling out of that rut. Good traveling companions are important though. Stubbornness is rarely a virtue in a group. Patience is though, as photographers understand each other at least enough to know that good image making takes time and perseverance.

My wife...what can I say? She is the ever-patient photo-widow one could only wish for. She understands that I need the time and space to make my images. She also understands that sometimes it may be best for her to not venture out for those late evening Provençal village strolls or a sunrise on the Charles Bridge. She knows that I will be taking just a bit more time than she wants to give, and I understand that. During the day she slowly sight-sees and I slowly capture my scenes. Occasionally she'll swap a camera out of my pack or hold my tripod for me. I will occasionally say, yep, that's a nice ceramic plate...buy it. It's a good partnership.

But what about traveling with a mass of non-photographers? Sounds like a recipe for frustration, non? It can be but like most things, it is all in how you manage it. I got a full dose of that recently when my wife and I traveled to Provence to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary with 19 other people...non-photographers mind you. Oh sure, there were a lot of cameras, and even two other DSLR users, but no one else (crazy enough) trying to make a living at photography!

So, did it work out? Did I get frustrated? Yes and almost never. The trick was to let them do their thing and I would do mine and we'll meet in another hour or two (or more). C'est parfait! I got to wander narrow medieval cobblestone alleys or shadow-ridden Roman corridors with my only constraint being to meet the others at a certain time. I can work with that. The time allotted was not always enough, but usually that had to do with the overall day agenda that I (fortuitously) set. Often I was a bit aggressive in estimating what we would be able to cover in full, busy day. But, we made adjustments as needed. Waiting for folks does try one's patience, but I can honestly say that I waited for others as seldom as they waited for me. A reasonable approach and attitude begets a satisfactory outcome...n'cest pas?