My strange and developing relationship with photography and writing

I love taking photographs when I travel. The simple action of holding a camera in my hand makes me slow down and look for details that would otherwise pass me by. My viewfinder acts like horse blinkers, shutting out the distraction of new and occasionally overpowering sights and to a degree, sounds. These simple acts help cement memories of time and place, allowing me to recall details far more readily than they could otherwise come to me. If I do forget a detail, I’m often stunned by the details that suddenly fills my mind when I see an image of mine years down the road.
The one photo of Angkor Wat I managed. After waiting an hour for sunrise, I fell very ill about 5 minutes later and was out of commission for a week. A nice shot, but very different memories.

Over the last few years I’ve started to try and find local photographers books at the places I visit. I find it fascinating to see both their interpretation of of places that I’ve seen firsthand, but also how those places can be vastly different depending upon the season, the weather of just the time of day. Most of these tend to be limited run books, sold in local bookshops or giftshops and not generally the kind of thing that you’ll pick up on Amazon. By the same token, I love to see other travellers websites, to read their thoughts and see their images. I’ve a list of places I’d like to visit that I’ve not yet done so, and I’ve added so many to it thanks to them.

That’s part of the reason I still keep this site. I’ve kept a personal website in various forms for close to twenty years now. Prior to social media taking over it was a good way to share talk of various parties, holidays and events with friends.

Coming up to 10 years ago I started again and made my site exclusively a travelogue for a trip I was taking coast-to-coast across the USA. That was really the start of the travel explosion for me. Every spare penny went into ‘the next trip’ and I’d write a heck of a lot more than I do now. Looking back at those past entries, I wrote more in a diary style, with a very linear timeline – ‘I did this, then I went there before I saw etc’.

Over the last couple of years the balance between writing and images on this site has tilted firmly in the direction of images. I’ve recently returned from the Baltics and have on a number of occasions sat down to edit photographs or start writing and found that I haven’t been able to do so. I’ve been thinking heavily about why that is and I think the answer is simple, but as with most thing has an underlying complexity.

Time has moved on, the person that I am has changed but I’ve not acknowledged that or made any accommodations for it.

I still wish to write about my travels and share my photographs with whomsoever has an interest. If anything that I share here gives a moments enjoyment or sparks that sense of wanderlust that I have when seeing other peoples work then I find that simply amazing. This I know is unlikely, after all this is a very low traffic site and most visitors will be people I know, people I’ve met travelling or have stumbled across it in some fashion. I’ve no idea when it comes to generating traffic and it all sounds a bit tiring to me. I’ve a Twitter account with a few followers which I suspect are most bots, and a Flickr account on which the average image gets around 300-500 views before tailing off forever. So believe me there are no delusions of grandeur here!

Of course a big part of this is how infrequently that I update and again it all comes back to a couple of things.

First, that history of liner writing.
Secondly, I tend to hate my own photographs.

When I get home from a trip, the first thing that I do is transfer all my photographs onto my Mac, then sit down and flick through them all.

Lightroom Catalog.lrcat - Adobe Photoshop Lightroom Classic - Library 2018-09-30 15-17-14.jpg
A selection of my library showing photos from Agra that I’ve never published.

Crap, crap, crap, crap. Really crap, terrible, yeah that’s ok I guess… Crap.

Taj Mahal
A final edit photo from that day.

I absolutely savage them except for a couple which I post here and then get so disheartened that I don’t return to them for months. In turn this means that I don’t write anything because – in my mind – I couldn’t possibly write about anything unless it directly follows the last entry.

Months later on a slow day I may finally look at them. Now the tiredness of travel and the ever-present sadness that accompanies returning from a trip has gone and I’ll look back on things with a more rational and considered eye. This time I’ll see that alongside the croft that accompanies any days photography are the shots with potential, those that need a little TLC, those that I remember that I planned to edit in a certain style hence shooting in a style that makes the straight out of camera shot look odd.

Lightroom Catalog.lrcat - Adobe Photoshop Lightroom Classic - Library 2018-09-30 15-27-00
A good example: a 39 burst shot of a train passing at sunset. I was hoping to get a good silhouette in the windows. I didn’t get it at first, so waited for the next train. This time I got it first shot.
Of course, when I first after returning home I didn’t think of that. What I saw was 39 failures. The final image wasn’t made until 15 months later.

That’s when I start to enjoy the second half of photography. The sorting and the editing. It just takes me longer than most.

Lightroom Catalog.lrcat - Adobe Photoshop Lightroom Classic - Library 2018-09-30 15-30-48
A good example of patience paying off. I liked the light coming pouring into the tunnel and the texture of the wall. I just needed someone to come by. But when it came to review, what jumped out – the success or the failures?
The final shot.

However, by that point I’ve probably been elsewhere and posted an entry to that regard. Now of course, I couldn’t possibly write about ‘old news’ even though I now have the photographs to illustrate and accompany my writing and so it doesn’t get written about at all.

It’s something I noticed recently when I changed the design of the site to introduce galleries. Posting photographs of Norway and Iceland when I’ve barely written about those trips. Posting the Amsterdam gallery I’m not sure I even mentioned returning in 2017.

I’m going to make a change. I’m going to break that linearity that my traditional style forces me into and remove the self-induced pressure to keep it. Instead I’m going to write more in the style of my recent post about Plokstine (ironically, written and illustrated with photographs edited on a bus about an hour after visiting) where I talk about a single event or destination. This may occur on the day, or months after the fact but it will help remove the mental roadblock that keeps me from providing more regular content.
One of my all time favourite shots. It’s nice technically, but it captures the memory in my minds eye of the Hong Kong skyline. This was shot it 2012 and wasn’t published until 2015.

If you are reading this as a subscriber through WordPress or the old rss feed, thank you for doing so and I hope that I’ll be able to provide more regular, yet more considered posts from now on.

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