HOW TO FIND INSPIRATION FOR YOUR TRAVEL PHOTOGRAPHY
Itchy feet? Long bucket list, but short on budget? Looking for inspiration? Wondering where to go next? Wonder no more. Here are five tips for finding inspiration and your next destination.
FINDING THE RIGHT SPOT
Although my bucket list is very long, on top if it Iceland, it’s not always possible to pick from the destinations I enlisted. If I have a few days to travel but can’t spend too much ka-ching on it, I try to find a close enough and affordable location where I can still indulge a bit in photography.
Knowing this I’m sure you understand, I prefer seeking out my destinations based on what there it is to see outdoors. And by see, I mean photograph. This can be modern cityscapes, rustic villages, unique architecture, mountain vistas, beaches, lakes, waterfalls, rivers, hilltop views, outlooks. Anything really as long as it’s outdoors with a sunset or sunrise view. So, dear foodies and party-lovers. This post is not for you, I’m sorry.
TIP #1 SET A BUDGET
I have to admit, this is the most unpleasant part of it all. Pfui, as we’d say in German, but it has to be done. Oh well. I find setting a budget essential because this already narrows down my options and saves me a headache later on. Strongly recommended.
TIP #2 NATGEO IS A GOOD START
So how do I find my next destination? I look for inspiration by relying on the many enthusiastic photo-taking globetrotters. My number one influencer is Natgeo. I’m a huge fan of National Geographic guide books. I own over a dozen of the Traveller editions and three large hard covers of the 400 Tips series. The visuals in these guides are always well chosen and communicate a certain feel about a place. I suppose not many can top the NatGeo editors in choosing the right shots for their texts.
Don’t get me wrong, though. You own of any these books to gain inspiration from them. We don’t need to own everything to be able to enjoy them. Large book shops will often have a good selection of NatGeo travel guides. At least in Austria and the UK, some will also have a small coffee shop. Grab a few of the books and get some inspiration over a nice cup of hot beverage. By the way, this is the Austrian way of being alone in a crowd. A cuppa and something to read. What could be better?
If you’d rather prefer being alone alone – as in literally, among your own four walls in peace and quiet – you’ll find fantastic travel stories on the National Geographic hompage, too and sip home-made coffee or tea.
TIP #3 GET SOME INS(T)PIRATION WHILE YOU FIND A LOCATION
If I run out of NatGeo book-based ideas, I usually go online and continue the exploration on Flickr and Instagram. These two pages are probably the most useful tools not only for finding inspiration, but also to find ideas for compositions and new perspectives. On Flickr you’ll even get the metadata for some of the shots, which is pretty cool. Clearly, the photographs you’ll find on either Intagram of Flicker are mostly not professional images, but they will give you a great sense of a location. Perhaps that’s why I’m such a fan.
A New York Times Magazine article in August 2016 rightly pointed to the fact that apps with geotags, and especially Instagram, offer “wildly unfiltered” content about a location, revealing insider perspectives which makes them better than “any other guide”. I couldn’t agree more with what Jenna Wortham wrote and I suppose Flickr and Instagram are the most handy applications to make use of geotag searches.
Now, I’m not saying that 500px or NatGeo Yourshot are not brilliant platforms. They are. I love them. Photos on both pages are best of the best. It’s rather that on these sites the authors often don’t indicate where a shot was taken – I’m guessing – to prevent copycats from producing a similar image. Which is fine. But when you’re trying to plan where to go next, that might be a deal breaker for you. Having said that, I still browse these galleries and marvel at the beautiful shots. To be frank, 500px and NatGeo Yourshot feature only the most stunning and inspiring images.
TIP #4 VISIT AN ART GALLERY OR MUSEUM
Here’s a random idea. Visit your local gallery or arts museum. This might seem somewhat strange, but I find great inspiration in classical arts. If you picked the location but still can’t quite envision that perfect composition or shot, landscape paintings can provide new ideas that are different from what you’ll find on online platforms. Essentially, 500px of Flickr mostly feature images of a similar style, “strongly colored wide-angle grand landscapes with prominent foreground elements that feature epic conditions at often familiar locations” as Sarah Marino rightly puts it in a very well written article about photo consumption and conformity. Paintings might provide you with a fresh view. This is something great classical masters did, too. If you look at the work of Rubens, for example, he studied the great masters before his time and implemented parts of them in his own paintings.
TIP #5 PLAN AHEAD
Once I made a decision about where to go (I tell you this is a difficult one because part of the decision making process is to check flight prices or calculate driving distances, fuel prices and toll), and have that dream shot in mind, my next step is to get a LonelyPlanet guidebook and plan the trip of a lifetime. Mind you, each trip is a trip of a lifetime, even if I’m revisiting a place.
The reason I love the LonelyPlanet guides because they give you all the details you could possibly need to plan your journey. From weather averages, through when it’s best to visit, information about the local culture, prices, must-know details about safety, everything. What makes the it even more attractive is its the fact that it’s concise, giving you exactly the things you need know – neither more, nor less. Not to mention that LonelyPlanet guides are generally really well structured. I could find the section I need in any of the guides blindfolded. Well maybe having a quick peek under the blindfold, but I could definitely find it very easily.
Finally, where LonelyPlanet can’t help, GoogleMaps can. I’ve planned quite a few road trips with the Maps tool. Though be warned, sometimes the destination addresses are not completely accurate, but it gives you a good idea how much time you need from one location to the other.
Whatever happens, whatever the weather, enjoy travelling. Even if you can’t get that dream shot you’ve planned, the time you spend at the location of your choice is still priceless. Even if it rains. The weather conditions were absolutely now what I wished for my hiking trip in the Dolomites this August. Accordingly, the image I shot of the Drei Zinnen was not that initial dream shot, but it still turned out fine, despite all odds.
I hope this post helps you to find ins(t)piration for your next trip. If so, please share it with others. Remember, sharing is caring 😉