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One million identical photos

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1. Posted by adagio (Budding Member, 22 posts) 25 Jul '09 01:49

I'm just home from my summer holiday where I was reminded of one thing that kind of annoys me a bit when going to popular turist attractions. Several times in the last couple of weeks I've had people wave me away so they could get that perfect holiday shot - after all what would a holiday be if you couldn't brag about it to your family and friends with perfect pictures. There is no politeness just a "you're standing in my way"-attitude. Actually these people seem a bit stressed.

I used to take a lot of pictures when away on holiday but after having accumulated several thousand on an RTW a few years back I gave it up as I've never really looked at them since. Just carrying around a camera gives me the feeling that I need to document all the things I see and subtracts from the experience of being there.

So I don't use the camera much anymore. If I want to show people where I've been I google an image and if I want to show them someone I met I use Facebook.

Of course some people use photography as an art form and as the whole purpose of travelling but they are in the minority. It seems to me most people are just taking the same pictures thousands of people have taken before them.

How do you use your camera?

2. Posted by si403 (Full Member, 128 posts) 25 Jul '09 08:15

i know what you are saying. I haven't been to many places, perhaps my views will change as I see more places. But atm I feel as though the photos will be very valuable when I am older to look back on. When I went to Thailand I didn't take that many photos. After being back over a year I found a couple of seemingly insignificant photos on a memory card of us standing in an airport which I had not seen before, for some reason I was really happy about this.

I think it's good to document what you have seen as you can easily become muddled up and forget things, and maybe forget little things that will make you smile in years to come. ie 'oh yeah that t-shirt I gave to that kid on the beach' was something which I maybe would have forgotten from India had I not seen a photo of me wearing it.

3. Posted by Piecar (Travel Guru, 880 posts) 25 Jul '09 09:46

Ten years ago I met a guy in Venezuela who bought one disposable camera when he went out travelling. He hardly ever pulled it out and didn't actually go through the entire 24 pic roll in three months. He told me pretty much the same thing you are saying. The pics end up just sitting there and they really never get looked at except for the first time.

I didn't buy it at the time. I liked to take pics of place I've been.....But now I've come around to his way of thinking. I never take pics of any famous landmark because there are a million to look at already. I don't need pics of me in front of said landmark because I know I was there and I know what I look like and I don't really feel the need to prove to anybody that I went someplace. And that beautiful vista you see with your eye never translates to to 3 by 5.

I still carry the camera around, and everyday. But it's for the art now, trying to find some unique little moment with some street dog or Human Parking Meter

John Mayer wrote a song called No More 3x5s which encapsulates your exact sentiment.

D

4. Posted by Sander (Moderator, 4275 posts) 25 Jul '09 11:48

I'm pretty much the opposite, in that I'm still continuing to take ever more photos every time I go travelling. I frequently look at them all, too, especially the ones I've placed online, as they make for a really easy way to bring up memories. Besides taking a lot of photos of the little details and things which gain meaning to me personally during my travels, I'll obviously also take photos of the famous landmarks. And I strongly believe that widely available photos can't compare to my own photos, because the place I see is never the same as in those photos. The clouds are always different, the light is ever changing. The clearest example I can come up for this is the old Jeffrey Pine which used to stand on top of Sentinel Dome in Yosemite National Park. It's one of the most widely photographed trees in the world, as everyone used to try to emulate the Ansel Adams photo of it. And then it died, and it became even more beautiful (in my eyes; probably because this is how I first saw it, not knowing a thing about that Ansel Adams photo). And I hiked up there one morning to catch a sunrise, with no one else around, and the golden light which came flooding over me and that tree was insanely gorgeous, really bringing out the colors in that dead tree. And I took a lot of photos of that - but alas, only with the 3 megapixel point 'n shoot which was all I was carrying. They're nice snaps, and I love them to bits for the memories they evoke, but I'd love to have higher quality photos of the tree under similar conditions. And so I've spent a lot of time over the years searching online for such photos: and they Just. Don't. Exist. And then half a year later, the dead tree fell down, and so such photos can never be made again. (The fallen down tree was still gorgeous, and I took a lot more photos of it on my subsequent visit, but due to people clambering over it and breaking off its branches, it has deteriorated really rapidly since then, until the last time I visited it, it was nothing but a husk of its former glory.) :(

Nowadays it's kinda weird how I approach photographing the big landmarks. I'll go there with at least half my purpose being to take really nice photos, for which I have a process which involves lots of ambling around getting a feel for the place, and then when I've decided which shots I want to take, I'll go and sit, and wait for the right moment. Maybe I'll take some test shots to get a better feel for what I can do with composition (and yeah, I'll mutter to myself about tourists wandering through those pictures, since they often end up being worthwhile in their own right), but mostly I'll just sit and observe. Especially when sunrise or sunset is nearby, or there's clouds doing interesting things, I find it easy to have the patience to sit there for 2-3 hours waiting for the light to be just right. And frequently the window of time during which it's all "just right" only lasts minutes. But as soon as that photo for which I've been waiting so long has been taken, I forget about photography, and just drink in this perfect sight and revel in the feeling of being there and seeing that unique moment. And it's that feeling which the photo later enables me to recall, and which no other photo, no matter how postcard-perfect, can compete with.

And later, when I go through my photos for editing, I frequently find myself marveling, "Oh wow, yeah, I saw that! That's so stunning," and that process helps me fixate the place in my mind, takes away a lot of the risk of forgetting just how it was.

[ Edit: Edited on 25-Jul-2009, at 11:52 by Sander ]

5. Posted by adagio (Budding Member, 22 posts) 25 Jul '09 13:14

People are different I guess or maybe I just take terrible photos. I have lots of photos from the last 10 years in photo albums and on my computer but I never look at them and on the rare occasion I do (usually because I'm cleaning up my mess, electronic or real life) they do nothing for me. For me it's also true that the experience rarely translates well to 3 by 5.

Of course I don't mind people taking photos - in most cases it's a free country - but sometimes I feel a bit like an elephant in a porcelain store trying to avoid all the cameras pointing in all directions around the major attractions. Often I'll get up really early to be able to quietly and stresslessly take a place in.

BTW Sander, I like this photo from Lofoten. Lofoten is a nice place - I was just there, as my holiday this year was spent driving from Nordkapp to Oslo on my motorcycle. From this one I'm guessing you probably don't use a pocket size camera like me. I can understand the appeal of photography when it's more than just documentation and carbon copies of what the eye sees, but really good photos take more money, time and practice than most people (including me) are willing to put in. Well I guess time and practice in some cases can make up for the money part, but anyway...

[ Edit: Edited on 25-Jul-2009, at 13:15 by adagio ]

6. Posted by Sander (Moderator, 4275 posts) 25 Jul '09 14:08

Quoting adagio

From this one I'm guessing you probably don't use a pocket size camera like me. I can understand the appeal of photography when it's more than just documentation and carbon copies of what the eye sees, but really good photos take more money, time and practice than most people (including me) are willing to put in. Well I guess time and practice in some cases can make up for the money part, but anyway...

What did the trick for me was going travelling for two years. Time and practice are pretty much inherent when you go travelling long-term like that. :) I started out with that 3 megapixel compact point 'n shoot which I mentioned, and over the first nine months of my trip took some 7000 photos, and ever so slowly I started to see what worked and what didn't, and to experiment and try new things. (Maybe the difference with the thousands of photos you took on your RTW was that I had a laptop with me, and so could take the time in the evenings to edit and evaluate and learn in near real time? (Or maybe photography is just my medium, while it isn't yours, I guess...)) :) By the end of those nine months I was really getting everything possible out of that camera, and so I upgraded to an entry-level DSLR (which were just becoming affordable (though it took far too much of the money I'd painstakingly saved by working in New Zealand over the preceding months) - Canon had one, Nikon had one, and Olympus had one, and that was it) with a crappy zoomlens (albeit still good enough to take that lorrikeet photo with its nice depth of field) :) - and nearly two years later I was starting to run into the limitations of that camera (plus was starting to earn some decent money), and so now I have a semi-professional DSLR. It's frequently a pain to lug it with me everywhere I go - but always worth it for the results. :) (If you want to know the dividing lines between those cameras to compare photos in my gallery to: July 2004 and March 2006. Although I personally think the line is pretty blurred, as there's a period of growing into the camera: it's just that over time, you start to get results which simply wouldn't have been possible with the lesser camera.)

I do understand the annoyance-factor of hundreds of cameras everywhere. Mostly I try to think of it as a good thing, though. People are actively taking time to create something. Sure, it's only the press of a shutter, but still. It's like 99% of blogging: all those people writing inane stories about what their cat did that they and how much they hate work. There's one view which says that it can't compare to the great literature of the ages, so why are they feeling the need to inflict their drivel upon the world? But there's another view, which I subscribe to, which says that at least they're not being passive media consumers, couch potatoes who spend all their time in front of the television. They're going out creating. Most of it won't have too much value to too many people. But all of it will have some value to some people, and every so often, some of it will be really amazingly good, and totally validate the whole. And I believe that holds for photography, too.
Also, I know that as a photographer, ever since I started being more 'professional' in how I approach photography, I've been a whole lot less stressed out about people walking through my shots, and have learned to bide my time or to work around them. I appreciate it when people obviously stop to let me take my photo (even though they frequently stop inside the photo as they don't understand the reach of a wide angle lens) ;) but usually wave them on with a smile (smiling helps a lot from both sides of the equation, I've found). It'll take time for all camera-touting tourists to learn the value in showing consideration and understanding, and until they do, you'll probably frequently get the angry looks directed at you when you're in a photo (and you'll be totally justified in getting annoyed at that). But overall... yeah, I still think humanity is ending up ahead in this equation. *g*

7. Posted by tleb (Full Member, 117 posts) 25 Jul '09 14:52

For me my most frustrating picture taking trait is that it's not reflexive for me.

If I see something really interesting or special that would make a great a picture, I tend to forget about my camera, and go into observer mode. Then afterword when I am thinking about whatever had really grabbed my attention, I think "I wish I had a picture of that". Then I reply to myself "you did have your camera, nob".

Then I promise my self to think about my camera next time. So I start taking pictures of everything to develop the habit. Except then I get so bored of it, that the next time, I don't think of my bloody camera. Then another conversation with myself ensues.

[ Edit: Edited on 25-Jul-2009, at 14:55 by tleb ]

8. Posted by adagio (Budding Member, 22 posts) 26 Jul '09 14:00

(Maybe the difference with the thousands of photos you took on your RTW was that I had a laptop with me, and so could take the time in the evenings to edit and evaluate and learn in near real time? (Or maybe photography is just my medium, while it isn't yours, I guess...))

Quantity was definitely an issue for me. It's very easy to take a lot of pictures with a digital camera and as most internet café computers were not really good for browsing through a lot of large pictures I ended up just burning them all to CD's once in a while and when I finally got home there were too many pictures from too far ago that I could be bothered with sorting them. So I hardly know what's there but maybe some day in the future I'll take the time to go through them - at least I don't have the heart to just throw them away. In the meantime I'll enjoy looking at photos taken by better photographers than me, but the interest to put in the work to produce something unique myself is not there, at least not now - fortunately we're not all the same.

And about smiling - I think most tourists do smile and are polite, but it's of course the last few percent you notice. Actually I like to sit and watch the different kinds of tourists. The funniest kind is the one who jumps out of the bus listens to the guide through his headphones and runs around the site and takes photos of everything with and without the wife in front of it and finally jumps back in the bus moving to the next location.

[ Edit: Edited on 26-Jul-2009, at 14:13 by adagio ]

9. Posted by Q' (Moderator, 1987 posts) 26 Jul '09 22:03

Great topic !

From my personal point of view; I first really picked up a camera to force myself to get out of the house and do stuff. Which is one of the reasons, I have so many wildlife and nature photos. I was going through a time when I was spending way too much time in front of a computer working. And at some point in my life, I had figured out that I'm a goal oriented person. I don't do anything for no reason, and so I decided to turn that around to help me live a healthier life. I don't think I'll be the next Ansel Adams or Annie Liebowitz, and I don't really care. People have offered me money for some of my shots, but I've never sold anything to date. Anyways, I started searching for unique local spots to take photographs. My camera also goes with me to dance shows, and events. I have some great friends who dance. For me the fun part comes from finding and going to these places and events. Or sometimes, if I just need to get out, out comes the Nikon, wipe the cards, find a charged battery and I'm off. Lucky for me, my wife feels the same. She's doesn't want to be the one taking the pictures, but she's got her binoculars. She spots 'em, I shoot 'em. We're probably the youngest birdwatchers you'll find. Neither of us are avid hikers (who the hell enjoys treking through endless numbers of trees anyway ?), and "birdwatching" gives us something to do while getting our exercise. It's something we do. One of our prized possessions is a 15" digital photo frame that hangs in our living room. That's where most of my work ends up. Friends that come over like to look at the photos. But I don't get into a huge discussion about them. And I don't do "slide shows". The only one I've ever done was after I shot a halloween party, and all the people who saw it were featured in the show. I used to post to a website called usefilm.com to have my shots critiqued. But I'm really short on time these days, so haven't kept it up. I do miss the comeraderie of other serious photogs though.

You can't really fault people for wanting to have their moment in front of the "classic" tourist icon. There's a whole school of theory in photography about "capturing the moment". It began with Henri Besson's work. Eventhough modern photography has moved very much away from that, the theory still applies to probably 99% of all frames shot these days. As some of the others have said, a photograph reminds you of a moment in your life. Or a moment in someone else's eyes. I would say that's what most people really want from a camera anyway. Most of your typical tourist shots are poorly composed, out of focus, and overall poor quality photos, but as a photography teacher of mine once reminded us, "when you're on your upcoming holidays, put everything you learned here out of your mind and just enjoy witnessing the moments in your life".....

Having said that, I think any serious photographer will have a different view of any scene. One of the local colleges here used to take their students out to a field of grass, mark off a 1m x 1m plot of land, and have them produce 24 unique frames for critique and marks. That's not easy. I got lucky and had a fire hydrant as a subject. Photography trains you to see I've always thought. Serious photography is about expressing that vision. I think it's a shame that people feel that they must justify the relatively expensive purchase of a camera. I think it's the marketing that says you must have the latest and greatest gadget or you'll miss some important moment in your life. Oh the horror !! When in reality, a cheap disposable will do the same job of bring you back to that moment. Unfortunately fear and guilt are powerful marketing tools. But nothing to do with what I think it should be all about.

[ Edit: clarified a point ]

10. Posted by Ofelia (Respected Member, 142 posts) 27 Jul '09 03:51

I definately belong to the "more photos the better" -school of thinking. I know I could probably google a better picture of Taj Mahal, but it wouldn't be my photo. I also like to look for strange, new angles and often take photos of things that other people concider boring, but which I, for some reason, like. It feels like I've managed to capture a small moment in time which belongs only to me. Silly, I know.

As for actually looking at the pictures, I usually keep them as a screen saver on my computer, so that they rotate, and I get to see my favourite photos almost daily. I'm also planning on getting a few printed out, just some of the best ones, and making them into a big photo album. Not too many- no one has the patience to go through a hundred photos of every single place I've been to!