Making the most of travel photography

The RPS (Royal Photographic Society) included an article I wrote in its Travel Group Travelogue Newsletter after I chatted to some members about my photography. While I haven’t made as many overseas trips to support non-profit organisations as I would like, I do have plans for more. It is an incredibly rewarding aspect of travel photography so I’ve reproduced the article here, with some different images.

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Rewarding Travel Photography

When I retired early from a stressful career with an international energy company I decided to re-engage with my creative side, develop my photography and to travel in a way that allowed me to get to know other cultures. Although I enjoyed these photographic adventures I still felt a lack of purpose and I wondered: “why am I making these images” and more importantly, “why am I here at all”?

Life has a way of solving such dilemmas. When a friend contacted me in 2009 to talk about her charity Testigo Africa, a project to bring clean drinking water to a Masai village, I immediately said “If you need a photographer, just ask me”. She did and a month later I was in Arusha, Tanzania. Tracey wanted images to help her fundraising efforts; the area had suffered a terrible drought and water was scarce, livestock dying and food hard find. It was my first really close encounter with another culture and I was very inexperienced but the warm welcome and friendliness made it a pleasure. The warriors slaughtered and cooked a goat we had paid for and the women prepared vegetables. They sat apart to eat but we were treated as honorary men. We drank tea in mud huts, met Masai of all ages, enjoyed the Masai adumu (dance) and watched the women making beautiful beaded jewellery. Iwas able to capture it all.

Tracey started the charity to help the women who walked miles every day to collect water, leaving them little time to do anything else. I returned with Tracey in 2012 for the inauguration of the water supply and to photograph her wedding to Emanuel, a Masai who has become part of her team. They have since established a football academy and a perma-culture project in many villages. Women can now grow enough food to sell in addition to feeding their families.

One of the many rewarding aspects of my second visit was sharing prints from the first trip and noticing how much the women had blossomed with good nutrition and less stressful lives. My images were used in a variety of ways by Testigo: calendars, video presentations, exhibitions and greetings cards. It was a privilege to be involved.

My appetite whetted, I joined a volunteer trip in 2011 with a charity helping prevent human trafficking in the villages of Northern Thailand. We travelled with the director, essentially funding his journey, to isolated villages where he works with village heads to change ingrained attitudes and traditions. The hill tribes comprise immigrants from Myanmar, China and Laos who have for generations lived a frugal existence unacknowledged by Thai authorities. Life is hard and gangs offering loans to families are repaid by the children working in the fields, factories and brothels. The charity approaches the problem with re-education rather than disapproval as the practices have continued for generations. We stayed with families, often sleeping in their beds, ate with them and through our guide were able to get to know them a little. I found it a very difficult trip emotionally, but felt some satisfaction when the charity used many of my images on their website.

Later in 2012 I travelled to Cape Town with Momenta Workshops to work with non-profit organisation James House, which supports the township of Mandela Park. An introduction to photojournalism, I was put in touch with James House and had daily critiques of my plans and images from the Momenta expert. I had to develop my own resources, work independently and I learned a lot. Two hundred and fifty fully processed images, which were used in their annual report, had to be completed before I left. I also developed a personal project called the “Little Chair” involving clients and staff of James House.

Medellin in Colombia is next for me, to attend another Momenta Workshop. I hope to be paired with a non-profit supporting women, to improve my Spanish and further develop my skills. To enrich the experience I always include side trips; going on safari, attending festivals and finding additional opportunities for travel photography. I cannot recommend non-profit work highly enough. It’s humbling, rewarding, often challenging and a unique way to connect to the world through your camera lens.

Website: lauramorganphotography.co.uk

Facebook Page: facebook.com/pages/Laura-Morgan-Photography/146565008692998

Laura’s Advice:
• Find a cause you feel passionate about and be clear about your motives for volunteering.
• Research non-profit organisations carefully and either contact them directly or look for a company that supports such trips (see links below).
• Understand the organisation’s expectations, most likely they will want images that reflect their success in helping people, not heart-breaking images of illness or poverty.
• Be open, genuine and positive and really connect with the people you meet!

Momenta workshops: www.momentaworkshops.com highly recommended.

Photographers Without Borders: www.photographerswithoutborders.org - No personal experience but has been recommended to me.

Kaya Volunteer: www.kayavolunteer.com – helpful for a first time volunteer but doesn’t specialise in photography.

Project Exposure: www.projectexposure.org – I do not have personal experience of this organisation.

Photovoice: www.photovoice.org – participatory photo projects.

 

Project South Africa 2013 Rural Life, Oltepesi, Longido (8)

Northern Thailand

Northern Thailand

Project South Africa 2013 Grid for blog _MG_3330 tarnished iron mod V2

Villagers in Oltepesi look at photos from 2009

Villagers in Oltepesi look at photos from 2009

Tam and Giles pre-wedding photoshoot

Tam & Giles Pre-wedding Shoot, June 2015

Tam and Giles are getting married in August and we got togther last weekend for a pre-wedding shoot. We explored the area near the church where the wedding will be held in Lindfield, Sussex. It’s a relaxing and fun way to get to know the bride and groom better and to scout for locations for the wedding photos. Late afternoon light was lovely as they wandered in the fields and through the village. Lindfield is very pretty with All Saints Church grandly dominating one end of the High Street, it’s a stunning venue for a wedding ceremony. Tam and Giles are fun to spend time with; full of love, humour and a sense of adventure. I’m looking forward to the wedding!

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Steaming ahead in the Brecon Beacons

Wales, Brecon Beacons, Brecon Beacons, steam railway, steam train, WalesA short trip to the Brecon Beacons in Wales allowed me to experience every kind on weather in only two days; I enjoyed stunning scenery and climbed a hill on a steam train. The area is lush, with abundant waterfalls and resevoirs, forests and moors. It reminds me of Scotland in many ways. The Brecon Mountain Railway is run by loving enthusiasts who maintain the trains and museum with passion. The local towns are much diminished with the loss of jobs in the area but the warmth and welcome of the Welsh people remain as strong as ever.

Wales, Brecon Beacons, Brecon Beacons, steam railway, steam train, Wales Wales, Brecon Beacons, Brecon Beacons, steam railway, steam train, Wales Wales, Brecon Beacons, Brecon Beacons, steam railway, steam train, Wales

Wales, Brecon BeaconsWales, Brecon Beacons London Wales, Brecon Beacons

Print your images!

After my photography trips and projects I print photobooks to have something more tangible than  hundreds of digital images on my hard drive. It’s a pleasure to remind myself of the experiences and to see how my skills have developed over the years. I use Albelli to print the books, not a top end product but affordable and perfect for my purposes. It’s a way to share my work with friends and family as well, although the screen version of the book isn’t as quite as good as the printed version.

At the recent RPS Travel Group Spring Weekend I gave a short talk about my non-profit work and it was helpful to share books of the projects with the travel group members as my slide show was necessarily short.

Today I realised I had a prepaid photobook with an imminent expiry date and in the absence of a new project to print I went back to 2011. I hadn’t created a book of my photo adventures with Steve McDonald in Tuscany when I was the “gofer” helping him get around the region to photograph for a new Insight Guides Travel book.  Here is the link to the book – you may want to try Albelli yourself!

Travels in Tuscany

Noname

 

We all went on a summer holiday …..

The idea of a week relaxing in North Myrtle Beach while my partner played golf was worrying – what would I do – especially as the weather was unseasonably cool and wet?! I knew I needed more practice at approaching people in the street to ask if I might create a portrait of them, so as we wandered around Barefoot Landing I approached some visitors and vendors to do just that. It was a lot of fun and I had some really interesting conversations.

Often they were curious to know why I wanted to photograph them and everyone has a story to tell about themselves. I managed to persuade some who weren’t particularly willing and that’s very satisfying. But to be honest, I shirked the task! It takes more time and greater intimacy to find the magic, to bring out the best in a person and make them look as good in the image as they are on the inside. I also should have been more confident to move my subjects to avoid reflections and glare … more practice coming up!

Lisa on the information booth at Barefoot Landing

Lisa on the information booth at Barefoot Landing

Leah, multilingual, well travelled lady from Miami.

Leah, multilingual, well travelled lady from Miami.

Jean, who hates having her photo taken!

Jean, who hates having her photo taken!

Aram, selling pearl necklaces. Born in Armenia

Aram, selling pearl necklaces. Born in Armenia

Barry, golfer from Canada

Barry, golfer from Canada

Kevin, golfer from Canada

Kevin, golfer from Canada

Amber serving us a decent coffee!

Amber serving us a decent coffee!

Kari & Jesse of a wonderful shop called Bud 'n Belle Bath & Body Care. They make their own sugar scrubs and they are fantastic!

Kari & Jesse of a wonderful shop called Bud ‘n Belle Bath & Body Care. They make their own sugar scrubs and they are fantastic!

A lovely chap who wanted to take our picture with my camera ... I prefer to be on the other side of the lens!

A lovely chap who wanted to take our picture with my camera … I prefer to be on the other side of the lens!

Ashely with her one-year old bulldog called Louis and admirer Tess.

Ashely with her one-year old bulldog called Louis and admirer Tess.

Robert Arthur Blank, on his 40th Anniversary!

Robert Arthur Blank, on his 40th Anniversary!

Shannon & Joe, shopping at Bud 'n Belle

Shannon & Joe, shopping at Bud ‘n Belle

South Carolinas, Cuba and Coloumbia …

I’ve had a break from photography which is making me all the more excited about my upcoming opportunities. I’m heading to South Carolina for a holiday break but have decided a photo project is required to keep me going. Lying in the sun and shopping doesn’t do it for me anymore (although a little shopping won’t go amiss!) so I’m going to find a way to photograph holidaymakers in Myrtle Beach. Being Scottish is a great icebreaker as it puts people at ease … “Ah just lurve your accent” is a common response and I’m hoping I’ll have enthusiastic subjects!

My first visit to an American style resort many years ago was an eye-opener when I discovered “Resort Wear” was recomemend (by my colleagues), a whole new concept to me.  I stayed true to myself and really stuck in my (scruffy) shorts and teeshirts …  So this has got to be my theme: “A Retort to Resort”, “Loving Leisurewear” or maybe “Let’s Dig ‘em Out Again” (as I do).

But what’s really thrilling me is SOUTH AMERICA is coming up!!!!!! A month of travelling with my camera in June and July. Planning the trip is making my mouth water as I firm up details that include time in Cuba and Colombia; visiting Havana and Trinidad with travel photographer Ralph Valesco, independent travelling in Colombia and then (fingers crossed) another Momenta Non-Proft Workshop in Medellin. I’ll try to blog in Spanish at some point – not quite yet though!

Meantime I’m continuing to process neglected images from previous trips. Good to keep my hand in …

Ubud, Bali, May 2014

Market Wall, Bali

Project South Africa 2013

Monkey Temple, Kathmandu

 

Luang Prabang, Laos

Luang Prabang, Laos

Shell Village, Laos

Shell Village, Laos

Passengers, Tatipani, Nepal

Passengers, Tatipani, Nepal

Pashupati Funeral Pyre, Kathmandu

Pashupati Funeral Pyre, Kathmandu

Vang Vieng, Laos

Vang Vieng, Laos

Vang Vieng, Laos

Vang Vieng, Laos

Tonle Sap Lake, Cambodia

Tonle Sap Lake, Cambodia

Earth, Water, Fire and Air …

No, not the 70’s soul/funk band (!) but the four elements that are said to make up our world. I’ve been revisiting my travel photography recently, to immerse myself again in the trips I’ve taken and to rethink what I’ve captured and why. I head to South America later this year and hope to implement more of what I’ve learned on my recent trips with amazing photographers like Ewen Bell, Jamie Rose and Steve Davey.

                 fire-icon       earth-icon       water-icon       air-icon

Yesterday, a perfectly timed “Thomas Cook Explore the Elements Photoblogger Competition” dropped into my inbox; a vehicle to explore what I’ve already seen but looking for new stories in the images. Perfect!

Or so I thought … the reality of choosing from a variety of images, thinking carefully of the remit (which requires the images to  creatively illustrate the themes) and selecting my favourites is extremely difficult. My main discoveries were that almost every image captured more than one of the elements, that the four are inextricably linked and deciding which represents the element most powerfully is very difficult. Not only that, I couldn’t decide whether to be literal (my default approach unfortunately) or more oblique in my choices … representing the fluidity of water can be done is more ways than showing a fast flowing river.

My dilemma however was a pleasure. I’m looking more deeply into my images, sensing new and alternative messages in them and it is extremely rewarding. Irrespective of the competition I feel enriched. (That’s not to say that a prize wouldn’t be lovely …)

Here are the four I’ve chosen to represent each element, see what you think.

Nepal - October-November 2013.

Earth: Represents the hard, solid objects of the earth. Associated with stubbornness, collectiveness , physicality and gravity. (Or could it be Air, the freedom of movement and compassion of the prayer flags?) Muktinath, Nepal

Water: Represents the fluid, flowing, formless things in the world. Associated with emotion, defensiveness, adaptability, flexibility, suppleness, and magnetism. Children reach their six-month birthday and are initiated into the holy waters at Tirta Empul, Bali.

Water: Represents the fluid, flowing, formless things in the world. Associated with emotion, defensiveness, adaptability, flexibility, suppleness, and magnetism. When children reach their six-month birthday, they are initiated into the holy waters at the Buddhist Tirta Empul, Bali.

Fire: Represents the energetic, forceful, moving things in the world. Associated with security, motivation, desire, intention, and an outgoing spirit. Funeral Pyre at Pashupatinath Temple, Khatmandu, Nepal.

Fire: Represents the energetic, forceful, moving things in the world. Associated with security, motivation, desire, intention, and an outgoing spirit. Funeral Pyre at Pashupatinath Temple, Kathmandu, Nepal.

Air: Represents things that grow, expand, and enjoy freedom of movement. Associated with will, elusiveness, evasiveness, benevolence, compassion, and wisdom. (The release of tens of thousands of lanterns could just as easily represent, Earth and Air. It is an astonishing sight as wishes are tranported into the sky by the flames of the lanterns.) Yi Peng, Chiang Mai, Thailand.

Air: Represents things that grow, expand, and enjoy freedom of movement. Associated with will, elusiveness, evasiveness, benevolence, compassion, and wisdom. (The release of tens of thousands of lanterns could just as easily represent, Earth and Fire. It is an astonishing sight as wishes are transported into the sky by the flames of the lanterns.) Yi Peng Festival, Chiang Mai, Thailand.

The competition ends on 16th March so my fellow photobloggers have time to enter, why not have a go:

Natalie: nataliebanton.wordpress.com

Stephen: stephencotterell.com

Cat: cateasterbrook.com

Noor: touchofinsanity.wordpress.com

Steve: stevemcdonaldphotography.wordpress.com

Trains, textures and talent …

Graham, Robin, Linda, Matt and the other re-enactors at Didcot really made the day come alive.

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Train spotting …

This weekend I joined a “Train to Print” workshop at Didcot Railway Centre run by Permajet Print Academy partnering with Timeline Events. Steam engines, “forties re-enactors” and rail and photo enthusiasts made for an interesting couple of days. The guys and gals who enjoy bringing us the past were mainly passionate volunteers who created an authentic experience … despite the many orange hi-vis jackets around! A working steam line can be extremely dangerous and our safety briefing was to the point yet we had a lot of freedom to roam. Even the oily workshops and cracked paint on old engines were photogenic.

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The Little Chair is back!

A quiet few weeks photography-wise has led me into the backlog of images in my Lightroom Catalog. Images I’ve either previously processed and want to change or the many neglected images I didn’t have time to deal with. There are rather a lot of those, mainly because I am very bad at editing my images. (I’m trying to improve, really!)

I revisited my Little Chair Project, developed on my Cape Town trip with Momenta Workshops and created a selection of the images in B&W. The gist of the work involved having staff and local children pose for me with a small chair … a fun concept but for me it came to embody the mission of James House. It’s a nonprofit organisation providing a variety of community services to nearby Imizamo Yutha and Hangberg where poverty and unemployment can result in the breakdown of families and problems with drink, drugs and gang violence.

I am delighted that many of the images I offered to James House appear on their website and in the 2013 annual report.

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