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.
Glad to hear I am not the only one.
I never really got into travel photography. My parents have got a camera and everytime I go on a trip they press it on me. I brought it with me it a few times and took some pictures, but looking back at them I realised that I used it maybe 2-3 times during a 4 months trip.
Lately I have been thinking of getting a cheap digital camera to change that. My memory is not what it used to be and I would like to retain more memories of my trips, especially of people that I meet on the road. A digital camera would be good for me (my pics have the habit to come out blurry), but I guess I wait now how this thread turns out!
I have just started a RTW trip for a year and thought about this a lot, especially as I use film rather than digital cameras and have become very conscious about the environmental impact of taking heaps of indifferent pictures that then stay in a box. I will be taking very few pictures of 'iconic' buildings and views. I have selected a couple of themes to concentrate on with my photography (in my case the themes for this trip are 'maritime detail', 'food' and 'markets'. Within each theme there is obviously a lot of scope. I am nowhere near a professional photographer but am interested in capturing shots that reflect my own personal journey rather than shooting the same as everybody else. In this way I feel in control of what I try to capture rather than following a prescribed list of images. The other thing I am doing is to stay in each place for long enough to do some research for a few days before even taking the cameras out of the bag (this leads to fewer 'failed' shots)....for the rest I am also taking a sketch pad and pencils plus watercolours. Anything else and buying a few postcards will get (usually) far better shots of the 'great' sites/sights. Sometimes the point of taking a picture of an object is in the studying of the object (and its context )or place - the picture you take or draw is almost secondary in importance to the initial study that goes into it. This way the image in your head becomes much more powerful (and personal) than the one you capture on paper.
[ Edit: Edited on 30-Jul-2009, at 09:16 by JohnandJac ]
Coincidently I was going through some of my old phtos last night - some from Canada in 2004 and others from Australia in 2006. The Canadian photos, I must say, didn't really do much for me. I had just chucked them in an album unsorted and it's quite difficult to tell what was taken where. The Oz photos, however, I had taken the time to sort into albums and label and the difference was huge as the memories just came flooding back. I would never stop taking photos when I'm away - for me that is a huge part of the trip. Looking back at my Uluru photos which were taken at sunrise and sunset it is clear to me that these photos won't be found anywhere else. Uluru looks different at all times of the day, in different weather and in different light conditions ad this is how it was when I saw it - not when some pro photographer took a picture of it and put it on the internet. It's a very personal thing. In addition to the photos I had scrapbooked a load of tickets stubs, maps and postcards etc with a few comments - mostly things which I had forgotten until last night. This is what I'll be doing on my travels from now on - taking photos whenever the feeling takes me but documenting them properly when I get home as a useful and lasting memory of my trip and what I saw.
[ Edit: Edited on 02-Aug-2009, at 06:51 by alpha_005 ]
While I am aware that many of the photos we take, particularly of the 'big ticket' attractions, will have been taken by millions previously. It has no impact on our desire to collect 'memory helpers' for later in life. A good photo, like a good song, has the capacity to put you in the skin you were in at the time. We saw Neil Young in Hyde Park last month, in fact many thousands of other people joined us. We didn't consider the event diminished in any way simply because we were not the first people to hear him perform. In fact this shared experience added to our enjoyment. Guess what... we even took a photograph or two!
As our philosophy is to live life for the highlight reel, taking photographs remains an integral part of our experiencing new places. Our photos assist us in recalling conversations, culture, language and other interactions. If we were producing postcards, they may well be of little original value. To us however, they remain valid links to significant personal experiences. Our friends, mostly, already had many other friends when we met. We feel no inclination to decline their presence in our lives on that basis. It seems no less absurd to deny ourselves photographs of the places we have visited on the basis that others have done it previously.
The 1st time i went on the RTW i took loads of pics and felt i missed out on the experience coz i was fiddling with settings most of the time.
the 2nd time i took far less but have now (4 yrs later) forgotten most of the things i saw.
Im about to embark on my 3rd and i plan to take millions! and frame the lovely ones
i definatley photograph as an art form. i want to be a professional photographer someday (preferably for national geographic). if im photographing something that is something very...usual to photograph i try taking it at an unusual angle or put it in the backround of a plant or something. i do know exactlet what you mean though. all these people gathering together their families to get a picture on the great wall of china or infroint of the statue of liberty. its just borring. maybe if you use the pictures to remeind yourself of what happened that is deffinatley acceptable but it does get kind of annoying after awhile.
I've just returned from my summer holidays with my family and sort of had the same realization while going through my pictures.. I've taken these pictures,.. they are mine.. but they look the same as others.. and they would because it's the same places. I did, however, try to take some unusual, not the norm photos.. like the piece of dredging equipment in the canal in St. Petersburg, or the bride standing by the water in her wedding dress. These I'll look at and remember where I was when I took them and they will be unusual enough that no one else will have them (ok the bride maybe she will have one of herself, but not from my perspective).
Having said that, I still take tons of photos, not because I need to but because I can then go through them and decided what to keep and what to do away with.. or to see if there is anything in the photo that maybe I missed. .. the best one was outside a famous church in St. Petersburg.. I go the one with my daughter in the shot, then some of other parts of the church (like the rest of the hundres of tourists there that day), but it was when my son said.. I like the E up there on the tiles.. he pointed.. and I zoomed in and took the picture he wanted.. maybe someone else will get that picture, but it will not have the same meaning.
I'm afraid I'm a snapaholic. I guess it's because I love photography so much but I also keep extensive travel journals and create photo books when I get home.
I can't bear the thought of not documenting our travels, but I must admit, I SO related to your saying that spending all your time taking photos takes away from the actual experience of being there. I try to balance this and take lots of moments to stop and be present.
I also laughed at your memories of people shoving you out of the picture to get a shot! Did I do that to you? Ha ha. Only joking. I hate that, too. I simply wait to get the shot or just take it with people in it. Sometimes, though - the most beautiful shots aren't of the Taj Mahal front on and people-less. They're of the close-up folds of a turban.
Happy snappy travels!
Interesting topic, and I think it's very true. I've also thought often that maybe it would be better just not to take a camera and try and remember it through my eyes instead of through a lens. But as it is I always take cameras with me - both video and still - and I try and document the things going on around the monuments; not necessarily the monuments themselves. When I get home I like putting together interesting slideshows and movies for my friends to see. I do it more as a personal art project than anything else.
I've thought about this before too. I take photographs for both artistic and documentary reasons, and I actually go back and look at many of my photos. Sometimes I just get sick of taking photos when I travel and put my camera away, deciding to experience where I am without the pressure of needing to photograph it. For me it's a mix between taking photos of everything and nothing. Taking a break is ok.
As far as taking the same photo as millions of other travelers....go for it. Unless you've been there before and taken that photo before it is a new experience for you. These photos are for your own memory and legacy, not for public display. You can always delete photos if you don't use them, but it's much more difficult and expensive to go back to a place and capture a photo you didn't get when you were there.
There are so many different reasons to take photos, all of them are legitimate to the individual. Try to consciously understand why you take photos and what you want to do with them.