Ever since early photographers began capturing images of faraway places in the mid-19th century, travel photography has enthralled people with tantalizing glimpses of distant lands. Even before the dawn of air travel, photography was shrinking our world by transporting us to foreign countries. Thanks to an assortment of intrepid photographers who roamed the globe looking for the unusual and the exotic, magazines like National Geographic brought the outside world to living rooms across America.
Today, many of us travel with cameras in search of evocative images. But as pictures from around the globe flood the Internet and publicize many of the world’s photo hot spots, it’s harder than ever to find unique shots. When was the last time you saw a fresh composition of Yosemite Valley or the Taj Mahal? Are there really any new ways left to depict lions while on a Kenyan safari? How do we find compelling images without slipping into cliché?
As a working travel photographer, my approach to shooting a destination begins even before I pack my bags. My pre-trip planning includes compiling a thorough shot list for the location. Beginning with specific requests from the client, I find more ideas from browsing stock photo sites to see how a location has been covered by others. Bookstores and the library carry photo books covering diverse locales, and tourism websites often feature regional photo galleries. These potential shots become the foundation of my itinerary as I organize them by location, best time of day to shoot and proximity to other shots.