How to Photograph People while Traveling (meaningfully)

Travel portraits allow us to connect and tell stories about the places we visit.  In our fast-paced, digital age, it is so easy to take a snapshot and upload it to our favorite social media outlets, all while briskly walking by.  If we can make an interesting photograph without actually looking up, what happens when we stop to share a few words, look closer, and make a true connection?

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If you have a trip in the books or simply have a love for travel, there's a really good chance you'll snap a shot or two of a stranger now and then.  How does it feel?  I know, it can be a vulnerable experience for both photographer and subject, but it doesn't have to be.  

I hope the following tips might help you not only take more meaningful travel portraits, but also connect and honor the people you meet along the way.  

Photographs tell stories, but the act of making them, whether on an iPhone or Canon 5d Mark III, can add depth to our experience.

 

1)  Make a Genuine Connection  (Learn the local language and smile.)  :)

While preparing for your trip, take a few extra minutes every day and study the local language.  Learn a few key phrases and local slang.  This delights locals and shows respect.

I will never forget our very first day in Bali when our driver, Gustaaf, was a wee bit late (an hour or two).  When he finally arrived full of apology, I quickly responded with “Sampunang sangsaya!”  (Essentially, “no worries” in the local Baliness dialect.)  He was delightfully surprised and this allowed our first exchange to be one of laughter, smiles, and mutual respect, despite the late start.

Whenever possible, it was my goal to communicate with locals in Indonesian or Baliness.  Their delight and warm smiles in return never grew stale and this connection allowed me to create beautiful portraits, beyond typical travel snapshots.

Portraits taken in Bali, Indonesia

Portraits taken in Bali, Indonesia

Photograph taken in Bali, Indonesia 

Photograph taken in Bali, Indonesia 

Portraits taken in Bali, Indonesia

Portraits taken in Bali, Indonesia

To keep it real:  

It’s not always so easy.  In the small fishing town of Hopkins, Belize, even though there was no language barrier, I found making portraits of the locals much more challenging than in Bali. 

However, the same lessons were revealed.  Approach someone with a smile, compliment them, show respect, and ask politely to take their photograph. Many people in Belize, mostly men, declined.  As a photographer who is visualizing a killer shot, it is hard to walk away, but it is more important to show the upmost respect. 

                              

2)  Zoom with your Feet (Change your vantage point and work quickly!)

Once you’ve made a genuine connection and you have your subject’s permission, “zoom” by moving your feet, rather than just the focal length of your lens.  Think about how it feels when someone points a camera at you – perhaps you are a closet supermodel, but I assume most us get a little sweaty palm action as the self-consciousness creeps in.   

Therefore, for the following series of images, I began by kindly approaching this lovely woman as she washed her dishes.  Realizing I was stepping into a stranger’s personal space, with immense respect, I complimented her on the color of her beautiful home, her adorable kids, and how the light was just perfect. 

When she obliged to my request to take a few photographs, I started by stepping back to document the entire scene with a wide vantage point.  Then, I moved in closer for a full-length photo of her daughter, as I sensed she was open to my camera.  Finally, as I interacted and sensed her comfort, I took a close-up portrait, which fit my original vision.  As a token of gratitude, I showered her with compliments as I showed her the images I had captured.

Know your camera, be quick, and continue to connect with a smile as you shoot.  This intentional approach not only allows your subject to ease into having their portrait taken, but it also gives you a diverse collection of images from a variety of vantage points. 

Photograph taken in Hopkins, Belize

Photograph taken in Hopkins, Belize

Portraits taken in Hopkins, Belize

Portraits taken in Hopkins, Belize

3)  Look Close and Move beyond Portraits (Capture details to tell a story.)

Environmental portraits tell a story about a person by incorporating their surroundings.  When I took these photographs of Caitlin, a local to Hopkins, Belize who is originally from Ohio, I dug deeper by documenting her quaint bakery off the beaten path and the subtle details within.

Caitlin is full of life, inspiration, and spirituality and shares it openly.  She works tirelessly to support her family with her bakery and her devotion to both is apparent through the spark in her eyes and the tiniest details of her environment.  I was intrigued by her story and found the more I photographed, the more I learned, simply by slowing down and looking closely.

Caitlin's Bakery in Hopkins, Belize

Caitlin's Bakery in Hopkins, Belize

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(Caitlin also makes a mean chocolate zucchini muffin that I absolutely think you should go out of your way for if you find yourself in Hopkins, Belize.) 

Remember, to travel is to explore what is unfamiliar, and to photograph with openness is to connect unconditionally.  Always show respect, understanding, and gratitude and I promise you’ll make some pretty amazing photographs (and connect with some fascinating people) along the way. 

Travel Photography Tips for the Minimalist Traveler | Bali Photographs

Whenever I travel to a new place, the desire to soak up every last detail with my camera is apparent. If you’re a photography enthusiast and planning an exciting trip near or far, I hope these few simple photo tips for traveling will help you prepare for an easy-going and memorable experience.

Goa Gajah Elephant Cave; Bali

Goa Gajah Elephant Cave; Bali

Kehen Temple; Bangli Regency, Bali

Kehen Temple; Bangli Regency, Bali

Gunung Kawi Temple, Bali

Gunung Kawi Temple, Bali

Basic Travel Photo Tips:  What to Pack & How to Prepare for your Trip

1) Pack Light & Keep it Simple

As a minimalist, I naturally travel light. My disclaimer is that I often pack too light. When in Bali, I underestimated the heat and… maybe wished to have had some fresh clothing options magically appear. My simple travel photo kit, however, was perfectly compact and lightweight - no regrets there!

I traveled to Bali with one full frame dSLR body and one prime lens (28mm 1.8). When traveling, I tend to shoot wide, and while this lens is not ideal for absolutely every situation; it was my best choice for a sharp, yet lightweight walk around lens. Simply put, I was going for comfort + quality and I didn't overthink the decision. I’m positive that my neck was much happier after a long day than it would have been with my much heavier 24-70mm L zoom lens.

Think about your shooting style, travel itinerary, and goals for your photos. Then, choose the best 1-2 lenses to compromise and maximize your priorities. Personally, I find that the least amount of lens choices I give myself, the easier it is to simply let go and enjoy my trip. With just one lens, the photos happen without any fret.

Bali Countryside & Rice Fields

Bali Countryside & Rice Fields

2) Be Prepared – Think “Extra”

Extra batteries are a no brainer and, of course, you’ll need your battery charger. Make a habit to charge your batteries every night. Extra memory cards are also a must. Refrain from the temptation to take one giant memory card. What happens if it gets lost or becomes corrupt? Split your travel photos between several smaller memory cards. Better to be safe… it is technology, after all.

You might even pack an extra camera - in the tiny point and shoot realm. There may be nights when you want to lock up your fancier gear and just take snapshots of dinner, nightlife, and friends with a point and shoot. Or, there may be long hikes on the agenda and you want to lighten your load and just take in your surroundings worry-free. It's also wise to have an alternative to handing someone your dSLR when you want a quick tourist photo taken.

A second camera is also a must for your clumsy counterparts to use worry-free. In our case, I watched in slow motion as my hubby slipped on a rock and our trusty little point and shoot camera took a dip in -of all things- Holy Water. Thankfully, we were able to retrieve our photos from the memory card, so we quickly moved on and devoted the rest of the trip to my dSLR. Lesson learned.. we'll always travel with a sacrificial point and shoot.

Bali Countryside and Rice Fields

3) Travel Smart & Choose the Right Camera Bag

Always bring your camera bag on the plane as a carry-on / personal item. I own a variety of Crumpler bags that I choose based on the smallest size I need for the trip. In my opinion, a camera bag is ideal if…

a) It doesn’t look like a camera bag, so you’ll be less of a target to theft. My Crumpler bag goes over my shoulder (across my body), closes with buckles, and falls to my hip, so I can keep my eyes (and a hand) on it. Avoid backpacks for this reason, as you’re making a pick-pocket’s job a lot easier. Trust me, I was pick-pocketed when I lived in Chicago while waiting for my turkey sandwich at Jimmy John’s (evidently their service is not always quite fast enough!) My purse was zipped and swung slightly to my back. The man did a shockingly fantastic job, as I didn’t feel a thing. Stay aware in all situations, especially in crowded places.

b) It doesn’t lean too far to the girly or manly spectrums, so my super nice husband can take it off my hands when I need a break - without cringing.

c) The designs are very simple and smart with adjustable inserts and inner zipped pouches to keep my camera gear + a few non-photography essentials secure in one place.

Bali Rice Fields

Bali Rice Fields

Bali Countryside & Rice Fields

Bali Countryside & Rice Fields

4) Back up your Digital Images

You might decide to bring a laptop or a portable external hard drive to back up your images throughout your trip, especially if you are embarking on a once in a lifetime experience. In Bali, I used a portable external hard drive to back up my images each night while I charged my batteries.

This gave me tremendous peace of mind during our busy days, knowing my important photographs were almost always in 2 different places. This way, in the worst case scenario of having your entire camera bag lost or stolen, AT LEAST your images are backed up in your hotel room or packed away in a separate bag, safe and sound. It’s definitely worth the little bit of extra effort.

(side note: As a minimalist, I opt for the portable external hard drive as it's a very small and inexpensive option compared to a laptop. The least amount of valuables to keep track of, the better.)

Bali Travel Photography
Tjampuhan Temple; Ubud, Bali

Tjampuhan Temple; Ubud, Bali

Travel Photography Checklist: • One dSLR camera w/ 1-2 lenses • One Point and Shoot • A Camera Bag like this Crumpler Bag (avoid backpacks and obvious camera bags) • 2+ Batteries • Battery Charger • Several Memory Cards (more than you think you need) • Water Resistant Memory Card Case • A Lens Cloth

Other suggestions: • A Small Tripod, like this Gorillapod • Rain Sleeves • A Laptop or portable External Hard Drive • A small Travel Journal (love moleskin journals) and a pen to record notes, thoughts, observations, and details along your journey

Alam Asmara Candi Dasa, Bali

Alam Asmara Candi Dasa, Bali

Alam Asmara Candi Dasa, Bali

Alam Asmara Candi Dasa, Bali

Candi Dasa East Bali

Candi Dasa East Bali

All Photographs Copyright Teri Genovese Photography

Above photographs of Balinese temples and landscapes were taken in Bali, Indonesia May 2011 Check out Bali Institute for an amazing cultural experience.

flashback to Bali..

It's hard to believe it's been a year since this amazing trip. In my continual efforts to print and archive my photographs in a meaningful way, I recently decided that the 500+ 4x6 prints filed in a box would not be enough. So, I'm gearing up to make a Fine Art Photo Book to commemorate our trip.

Pinhole Press is now my go-to place for turning my personal photos into simple, classy, and archival photo books. I highly recommend them and will post photos once my Bali book is finished..

In the meantime, I hope you'll join me here as I dive back into my Bali imagery - I'll be posting travel photography tips along with many more Bali photos that have yet to see the internet. If you have a question about travel photography - ask in the comments or post on my Facebook Page!

(for the sake of full disclosure, I am a professionally affiliated with Pinhole Press, but only because I 100% love their products and use them for my personal photos.)

Ubud, Bali Travel Photograph
Ubud, Bali Travel Photograph

Bali Travel Photography: Hotel Tjampuhan / Ubud, Bali / pure bliss.

as i look out from our porch, i see nothing but green upon green upon green.  our room is called Beji 2 and you enter through the squeaky, traditional Balinese carved doors, which lock from the inside with a simple piece of wood.  i feel like i am someplace at another time entirely.  someplace imaginary.  from the labrynth of stairways leading you every-which-way to the river rushing below, i certainly could never have dreamed of a place quite like this.. -excerpt from my travel journal

(the photographs below were taken during our stay at Hotel Tjampuhan, a magical place and the first hotel in Ubud - built in 1928.)

Hotel Tjampuhan; Ubud, Bali; Bali Travel Photography

Hotel Tjampuhan; Ubud, Bali; Bali Travel Photography

Hotel Tjampuhan; Ubud, Bali; Bali Travel Photography

Hotel Tjampuhan; Ubud, Bali; Bali Travel Photography

Hotel Tjampuhan; Ubud, Bali; Bali Travel Photography

Hotel Tjampuhan; Ubud, Bali; Bali Travel Photography

Hotel Tjampuhan; Ubud, Bali; Bali Travel Photography

Hotel Tjampuhan; Ubud, Bali; Bali Travel Photography

Hotel Tjampuhan; Ubud, Bali; Bali Travel Photography; Balinese Prayer Offering

Hotel Tjampuhan; Ubud, Bali; Bali Travel Photography; Balinese Prayer Offering

i recently entered a series of my documentary Bali photographs in the One Life Photography Competition.  i hope you'll take a moment to view my entry (click image below).  if you feel compelled, you may vote once a day.  thank you!! 

One Life Contest PDN Magazine - Bali Documentary Photographs by Teri Genovese

One Life Contest PDN Magazine - Bali Documentary Photographs by Teri Genovese

All Images Copyright 2011 Teri Genovese Photography. May not be used, posted, or published without consent.

Bali Travel Photography: Tea with a Prince, Holy Springs in Amed, a Ceremonial Cock Fight

quite a memorable experience. a tour of the Palace of Pelitian and coffee, tea, and delicious cakes with the Prince... amazing and beautiful in every way:

Bali Travel Photographs - Prince of Pelitian

Bali Travel Photographs - Prince of Pelitian

Bali Travel Photographs - Palace of Pelitian

Bali Travel Photographs - Palace of Pelitian

Bali Travel Photography - Tea with the Prince of Pelitian

Bali Travel Photography - Tea with the Prince of Pelitian

an incredibly peaceful walk through the Amed countryside with Roy to the Holy Springs. earlier in the day, we had tea and cakes at Roy's home and he took us snorkeling. in the evening, he cooked us dinner on the beach - fresh caught baracuda! we also learned we share the same birthday :)


Bali Travel Photography - Holy Springs in Amed

Bali Travel Photography - Holy Springs in Amed

Bali Travel Photography - Holy Springs, Amed

Bali Travel Photography - Holy Springs, Amed

Bali Travel Photographs - Holy Springs, Amed

Bali Travel Photographs - Holy Springs, Amed

Bali Travel Photographs - Holy Springs, Amed

Bali Travel Photographs - Holy Springs, Amed

this ceremonial cock fight was a very spontaneous stop en route to Amed in the village of Sidemen. i was engulfed by the complexity of it all. there was so much going on in every direction, i hardly noticed the actual 'cock fight.'


Bali Documentary Travel Photography - A Balinese Ceremonial Cock Fight, in the village of Sideman

Bali Documentary Travel Photography - A Balinese Ceremonial Cock Fight, in the village of Sideman

Bali Documentary Travel Photography - A Balinese Ceremonial Cock Fight, in the village of Sideman

Bali Documentary Travel Photography - A Balinese Ceremonial Cock Fight, in the village of Sideman

Bali Documentary Travel Photography - A Balinese Ceremonial Cock Fight, in the village of Sideman

Bali Documentary Travel Photography - A Balinese Ceremonial Cock Fight, in the village of Sideman

Bali Documentary Travel Photography - Women and Girls at a Balinese Ceremonial Cock Fight, in the village of Sideman

Bali Documentary Travel Photography - Women and Girls at a Balinese Ceremonial Cock Fight, in the village of Sideman

without a doubt, the best decision we made was planning this trip through the Bali Institute. a huge thanks to Marcia and her organization that helps to honor and preserve this incredible culture through "conscious" tourism and in too many other ways to list here. the photos of the experiences shared above are just 3 of the highlights of this cultural immersion experience that we found particularly fascinating!

All Images Copyright 2011 Teri Genovese Photography. May not be used, posted, or published without consent.

Bali Travel Photography: A Traditional Balinese Market / in Ubud at Sunrise

we awoke at 5:45am on our 5th day in Bali to walk to the Ubud Market. we were worn out from the day before when we had celebrated my 30th birthday among 11th century temples, millions of stairs, and 99% humidity. for my birthday dinner, i had a belgian waffle drizzled in dark chocolate.. a banana slice placed in each square. it is an adorable little place in Ubud on Hanoman Street called Lola Chocolate. the tiny interior is painted a bright sunny yellow and there is nothing more than a counter and a fridge. simplicity at its finest. besides delightful chocolate things, she also serves "pasta in a cup." like i said.. adorable! [sorry for the tangent.. i am often distracted by chocolate :) ] . . .

so, on the morning of Friday, May 13, we woke early as it was our last day in Ubud before heading to East Bali. we were told to visit the traditional market which takes place every day between 3am-7am.. and i couldn't miss it! local Balinese people visit the markets every morning to shop for that day's fresh foods and goods. everything from food to feed their families to goods they will sell in their restaurants and shops. can you imagine shopping fresh every day?

i was completely immersed and fascinated as i observed this daily ritual. as i became lost with my camera, i often worried that i was in the way. the market is very crowded and busy; and here i am, standing in people's way?! apologizing left and right, the response i received was always the same and with a smile: "no worries" and "sama sama" (meaning "it's alright.") this experience was just a sample of our entire time in Bali, in which i never once observed a Balinese person seem frustrated, annoyed, rushed, judgemental, or anything less than content and completely kind-hearted.

it seems so simple, they just 'do.' we have a lot to learn.

Traditional Balinese Market, the Ubud Market
Traditional Balinese Market, the Ubud Market
Traditional Balinese Market, the Ubud Market
Traditional Balinese Market, the Ubud Market
Traditional Balinese Market, the Ubud Market
Traditional Balinese Market, the Ubud Market
Traditional Balinese Market, the Ubud Market
Traditional Balinese Ubud Market
Traditional Balinese Market, the Ubud Market

All Images Copyright 2011 Teri Genovese Photography. May not be used, posted, or published without consent.