Chapter 5. Photographing the World
You've Finally Made It to your destination, unpacked your wrinkle-able travel items, ordered room service, and collapsed on your bed in a heap. Congratulations, now the fun begins.
Once you've shaken off the fog of jet lag, get outside and orient yourself by taking a long walk. I usually grab copies of any guidebooks I've brought along, local maps, a GPS unit, a compass, and a bottle of water. Then, depending on the length of the trip, I wander for a few hours to a whole day, just getting a feeling for where things are, and how to get from one place to another.
Make note of tall landmarks that are easily visible from the ground, boundary-forming geographic formations (a mountain to the east, a river to the west, and so on) or anything else that will help you form a mental picture of your shooting location. If you're in a city, try to get an idea for where each neighborhood lies and what it's connected to. Later, this will help you move around without looking like you're lost, and it will give you ideas of where interesting places might be hiding. It'll also help you figure out what areas to avoid.
Figure 5.1. "After 20 hours of sitting on planes en route to Croatia, I just had to get out and take a walk," says Reed Hofffmann. "It also gave me a good chance to see the area around the hotel, including this trolley stop." (Photo by Reed Hoffmann)
If you wander around clutching maps and guidebooks, your appearance is screaming "tourist." Either bring your camera along in an inconspicuous bag that doesn't say "mug me," or bring only your backup point-and-shoot camera when you're familiarizing yourself with a new locale. And always ask at your hotel or inn if it's safe to walk the neighborhood with camera gear around your neck. (In South America I walked out of the hotel to find a man in the parking lot across the street guarding the cars and wearing a very large gun. I figured maybe that wasn't the right area to wander around in.)
Once you've gotten oriented, get out your gear and get shooting.
Different countries often have different color palettes, sets of colors they use for everything from packages to houses. Keep an eye out for these color schemes and use them to make your photos different.
Figure 5.2. "Arriving in San Jose, Costa Rica in the evening," Reed Hoffmann recalls, "we were warned not to stray too far from the hotel. Come morning, with lots of people on the street, I felt totally safe exploring the area." (Photo by Reed Hoffmann)