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photography — The Meaningful Traveler


Forgetting what you love

by Steve Brock on April 25, 2014

Landing in Salt Lake CityLast week I was in Chicago for work. I had an early morning return flight, so I was up before the sun and walking into the terminal a little after 6:00 a.m. As I did so, I turned and looked out on the pinkish glow of the morning sky. “Nice light,” I thought, the photographer in me about as awake as the rest of me. Then I turned and walked into the terminal.

Even as I waited in the security line I wondered this, “What has happened? A year ago, I would have had my camera out and would have found something – anything – to photograph here.” Even in the terminal, waiting to board, I looked out the large windows near the “L” concourse and thought about taking a picture.

“Nah,” I reasoned. “Too much of a hassle. Plus, I already have a ton of airport shots.” At that point, I headed to the gate to wait and to forget I even had the brief desire to photograph.

Two days later at home, I’m on my desktop computer where all of my photos are stored. For some reason, I toggle through the screens and end up on Lightroom, the program I use for processing and organizing my images. The photo you see above was displayed. I have no idea why. I hadn’t been looking at it or any other photos taken around the same time. But Lightroom can have a mind of its own sometimes.

It’s not a great shot. In fact, I added some texture to it in Photoshop to cover the reflection from the inside of the plane cabin that occurred when I took the photo one evening landing in Salt Lake City on a stopover heading home. But I just stared at it, entranced by the colors and the clouds and the reminders that images can bring to you of trips past.

It made me sad.

Why? Because it made me realize that in the busyness of the last several months, I have let photography slip away. I had my trusty point and shoot camera with me in Chicago and the camera on my phone is quite good and always with me. It’s not like I lacked the means. I just lacked the desire.

We can become so busy with things, often very good things, that we let others go. It’s natural in a world where we cannot add even a second to our daily allotment of 24 hours. But last week made me realize that in the inevitability of limited time, I don’t want to lose what matters.

The funny thing is, my busyness right now is mostly spent on other things that matter a great deal. It’s not like I’ve become addicted to video games or watching marathon sessions of House of Cards. In life, we will always have to make choices not so much between good and bad – we’re usually OK with that – but between good and best.

So here’s my question for you: What’s your best? What brings life and joy to you? And are you spending time with it, whatever that might be? Are you investing in what you love or are you allowing the distractions of life to pull you away? What, in your heart of hearts, do you miss right now?

I think I’m in a season of rest, a pause from photography. I’ll still take a shot here and there, but I think there will come a time when the longing to create a powerful image overwhelms me. I will at that point do whatever it takes to take whatever it is that moves me.

But how about for you? Are you in a season of rest? Or have you simply let slide that which fulfills and satisfies you? Listen to those longings. Heed them. After all, you only have 24 hours each day to do not just what seemingly has to be done, but what should be done.

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A different look at Brugge

by Steve Brock on February 6, 2014

Brugge SunsetSpeaking of memories (as I was doing last time about Brugge, Belgium), bear with me on this little road trip down memory lane for one more post here on The Meaningful Traveler.

Last time I showed you several photos that represented some fond memories of the Belgium city. But this time, I want to show you a shot (above) of the most photographed view of the place. It’s like the overlook view of the Grand Canyon or Machu Picchu: everyone takes it.

So while there, of course I wanted my own little digital version of it as well. But not the usual. So what did I take? I photographed the same location everyone else does, but not the same subject. In this case, shooting late in the afternoon as the sun descended, my target wasn’t the usual canal or buildings or perhaps a passing boat. Instead, I focused on the sun itself as it turned everything else in the shot into silhouettes and shadows.

I’ll let you be the judge if it works as a photo. And yes I did add some texture to it in Photoshop to give it some added punch since the sky was pretty boring. But even if it is only a nice attempt, to me that’s a success. Why?

There’s great value in approaching the familiar with a new take just to create something fresh. But another benefit is that the exercise forces you to think about and see things differently. That, in turn, equips you to apply that new insight to other places and situations in the future (see, for example, my shots of Arches taken a month after this trip to Europe but also directly into the setting sun).

What started as a desire to not do the same old shot as everyone else now becomes another tool in my tool chest of photography, creativity and perception.

Creativity begets creativity. With ideas, it’s one area where more really is better. The more ideas you have, well, the more ideas you have. And better ones. Quantity leads to quality.

So go out and find a familiar sight. Then try to discover at least a dozen ways to photograph it, even if it is just with your smart phone. Not all (or even most) will be great. But the exercise will make you not only a better photographer, but a better traveler.

You will have expanded your visual vocabulary and that is definitely something that will come in handy on your next trip, or in life in general. It is just one step further along in helping you better see the world in a new way. And after all, isn’t that really one of the main reasons you travel?

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Turn around

by Steve Brock on August 28, 2013

Want to see the familiar in a new way? Turn around.

“What?” you ask, “how can I see something if I’m looking the other way?”

You can’t.

And that’s the whole point.

View from the Arc de TriompheI’m sticking with the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, France for this example as well. When you climb to the top of the Arc via that wonderful spiral staircase, you get a 360 degree view of Paris.

You could see any part of Paris you wanted. But where do most people look or take pictures? One of two places.

Either they try to get a shot with the Eiffel Tower in it or, even more popular, they try to get a shot of the Avenue des Champs Elysees. The above photo is a panorama that captures both with the famous street right smack dab in the middle. To view the details of that image, click on the photo above and then again on the smaller photo that will appear.

But why look where everyone else looks? Turn around. And when you do, you might see something you didn’t expect. In my case, turning around meant going to the other side of the Arc from the Champs Elysees. And this is what I saw:

Avenue de la Grande Armee from the Arc de TriompheThe street, the Avenue de la Grande Armee, leads toward the Place de la Porte Maillot, sort of the downtown business center of the city where you see all those buildings. Honestly, I don’t think I’ve ever seen, or at least paid attention to them before. But I think they are more interesting than the Champ Elysees, at least photographically. Granted, adding the texture to the photo as I did also helps enhance this image. But I still find the subject as or more visually rewarding than the more traditional look down the Champs Elysees.

I remember once in central Taiwan ascending a famous mountain in the dark of pre-dawn morning so that I and several hundred other visitors could witness the sun rise over the clouds beneath the summit. I don’t have the photo handy (it was taken on slide film and is buried somewhere in a file), but while several hundred people gawked at the sun and took photos of its rise over the horizon, I turned the other way. I ended up with a great shot of myriad sunglass-clad faces all mesmerized and focused on the same thing. It was a much better image than the sunrise.

Sometimes what you seek isn’t in front of you but behind you in a place you’ll never find unless you do one simple thing.

Turn around.

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Looking on the inside

by Steve Brock August 20, 2013

Next time you want to see a place in a new way, don’t just look at the outside. Look inside. Even in places you didn’t think you could…

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Looking beyond what you see

by Steve Brock August 14, 2013

As I discovered photographing the Eiffel Tower in Paris, France, sometimes the best way to see something is to look beyond (or in front of) what you actually see.

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Stories beyond words – Part 7

by Steve Brock May 2, 2013

When telling stories with your photos about your trip, don’t forget to include images that tell the “how” of your journey.

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Stories beyond words – Part 6

by Steve Brock April 26, 2013

We finally reveal where this series of photos was shot and look at a summary of how to tell better stories with images on a trip.

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