Full disclosure: I’m a professional fine art photographer, so I’m a bit opinionated when it comes to taking pictures, in particular travel photography. There are plenty of, sometimes useful, books already written that attempt to help you get the most out of your camera and take the best travel snapshots possible. Buy some and keep the ones that help you.
I’m not going to discourage you from taking pictures. Actually I would encourage anyone to take amazing photographs, preferably better than mine. Contrary to what people believe there is very little competition in photography. We all have our unique view of the world, and there are an unlimited number of viewpoints a person can take to view the world from. Recreating an image that someone else took (or sometimes millions of others have already taken) is in most cases relatively easy. A quick search online will show some amazing pictures of the Eiffel Tower, and most of them look very similar. I still take the “traditional” Eiffel tower picture every time I visit Paris (or Las Vegas). However the second Eiffel Tower picture I take, I’ll always take from an uncommon viewpoint. I might crawl on all fours over the pavement, looking up at the tower to create a different composition.
On the other end of the spectrum, next time I might charter a helicopter like I did in New York to fly over the tower and get an aerial view instead. The opportunities are endless, and even the most common landmarks still have many unique angles that haven’t been explored yet. The challenge is to find one that works. Be crazy, be creative, and try something unique. Thanks to the digital cameras there is no risk of wasting expensive film anymore. So shoot away, and have some fun.
But wait… before you start: Taking good pictures takes time, a lot of time. So instead of snapping away and coming home with thousands of pictures spread out over multiple memory cards, I set myself a goal. What am I going to do with those pictures when I come home?
Being a travel photographer my goal is two-fold: I mainly take pictures for myself of anything that somehow left an impression while I was traveling. That way I come home with some pictures that tell a personal story of my trip, and I usually end up printing and framing some of my work for my own enjoyment. The second goal is to fund my next adventure by selling some of my work as photographic art. To do that I need to ensure I come home with some truly unique viewpoints that people will love enough they’ll want it on their own walls. Not everyone who enjoys traveling is as dedicated to (read: obsessed with) photography as I am while traveling. Finding some unique point of view takes a lot of time and effort. I notice more and more people choose to take very little pictures while they are travelling, and instead opt to buy the work of a travel photographer like myself from the place they visited. I’m fine either way.
Photography is a way of feeling, of touching, of loving. What you have caught on film is captured forever… it remembers little things, long after you have forgotten everything. (Aaron Siskind)
Also, to get some inspiration check out my photography book A View to Take Home – featuring inspiring travel photography from Western Canada.