Tourist v. Travel Photos

July, 2015

7.17.2015 with additional updates 10.4.2016
Until I started organizing my back catalog of photos onto Flickr, I don't think I fully appreciated the difference between taking photos as a tourist and being a travel photographer. 
For many years, I was very much a tourist photographer. I took photos mainly when I traveled. The purpose of these photos was to document the places that I'd been and cement the memories. The photos were really only important to me and maybe my traveling companions. The photo said "I was here," but not much more.
But somewhere in the middle of the 365 project that I completed this year, I started taking travel photographs - even though I'd not really traveled anywhere - at least no further than I could over my lunch hour. Travel photographs also document where I'd been and cemented memories of my travels and experiences, but there was something more. These photographs could be appreciated by people who hadn't physically shared my experiences, but could through the photo. And even if you were one of my traveling companions, a travel photo would show a perspective that maybe you hadn't seen at the time. 
This is an old photo - a very old one - but maybe it may have been the first time that I'd tried to do something artistic beyond documenting my travels. I like this photo because of the different perspective. I'm sure it was an accident, but it captures the off-center feeling of looking up at grand architecture. I love the way the panels are distinct yet part of the whole pattern and I like the way the ceiling disappears into the distance. I now know this to be a "vanishing point", but I'm sure I wasn't thinking about this technique at the time. 
The details are blurry, probably because of the point-and-shoot camera I was using and my lack of understanding about how to properly photograph indoors, but I don't mind. This photo isn't about the details, it's about the textures and patterns and perspective. 
I still sometimes take tourist photos - I now call them "establishing shots." This documents the place. It is my record of travels. But then I stop and look - really look and embrace the place. I look both at details and for a broad overview - the unique feel of the place. Only then can I take a Travel Photograph.
Photo taken in the Sistine Chapel, Rome, Italy 1996. Photo taken with a Sony Cybershot.
Back to Top