Tag Archives: Photography

Expose Yourself.

“There are always two people in every picture: the photographer and the viewer.”
-Ansel Adams

Back in the day when Kodak ruled, you’d go on vacation and eagerly await the week or two it took for your pics to develop.  Waiting built anticipation and the hope that you had some good shots—or at least one.  Digital cameras and smartphones now give us instant gratification but telling a story through photography is about more than being able to take one good shot.   Visual storytelling is your chance to make an immediate emotional connection.   Good travel photos evoke an “I wanna go!” feeling.  Like writing, one needs to adopt a “just do it” mindset in order to build your eye and style.   Much in the same way that it’s good to read from many different genres or sources, it’s good to pick your head up every once in a while and see what other photographers are doing.  Whose photographs do you connect with and what could you learn from their work that might inspire you?

(Photo credit: Andrew S.  Gibson)

(Photo credit: Andrew S. Gibson)

An article in Outside magazine about Tim Hetherington recently caught my interest.  A war photographer and filmmaker, Hetherington was killed by a mortar attack in 2011 while covering the civil war in Libya.  The article focuses on the HBO documentary, Which Way Is Front Line From HereThe Life & Time of Tim Hetherington.  The film is a tribute to Hetherington’s life and centers on why he was such a dedicated and extraordinary photojournalist   I don’t know a lot about photography, but reading about him and seeing some of his images inspired me to want to understand what made him such an incredible photographer.  If you’re more interested in telling a story through your photographs than through your words, then the life of Tim Hetherington might interest you.

English: Tim Hetherington at a photo session i...

English: Tim Hetherington at a photo session in Huambo, Angola in 2002. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Born and raised in England, Hetherington recognized at an early age the opportunity travel offered to connect with people during family trips.  As a young man he traveled on his own and spent two years in Tibet, China and India because he wanted to experience the lives of others.  His journeys inspired his desire to capture images and upon returning home he spent a few years studying photography and photojournalism.  He was the kind of person who made friends easily which is plus for any photographer.  He developed a keen eye and style that would later earn him awards and opportunities.  While building his professional career as a war photographer, he also used his gifts for humanitarian purposes.  He explored the use of mixed multi-media and used his abilities to shine a light in places and situations that most of us would most probably never visit.  His life is confirmation that we don’t have to live in a box and be just one thing, that we can have a multi-faceted life or career.  Travel ignited a passion for him to connect people through his lens to those less fortunate.  His compassion, insight, and professionalism, combined with his ability to capture the essence of a place and its people or a situation are the reason why he’ll forever be known for his exceptional photojournalism.

(Photo credit: Tim Hetherington)

(Photo credit: Tim Hetherington)

Untitled.  (Photo credit: Tim Hetherington)

Untitled. (Photo credit: Tim Hetherington)

Hetherington was 40 when he was killed.  He wasn’t a travel photographer but his indelible images, and life, continue to inspire and teach professionals and layman.  Sebastian Junger, who directed the HBO documentary, was a close friend of Hetherington’s and said, “Tim was trying to always think outside of the box…so he sort of made a great point of saying: ‘I don’t want to call myself a photographer.  I’m an image-maker.’ But the truth is, most of his work was still photos, and they’re beautiful. They’re stunning.”

What are you connecting to in your travels these days, whether local or afar, that inspires you to capture images and tell your stories?


Get Comfortable and Take Your Hat Off.

My mom’s always told me the one thing we can always be sure of in this world is that everything changes.  It’s like a mantra I’ve lived with over the years but moms are always right.  Think about how much the travel industry has changed because of online competition and how that’s affected your role.  Being a successful travel agent or counselor will always be about providing exceptional service and unforgettable experiences but it’s also about rolling with the tides.  It’s about embracing change.  Ultimately, it’s about changing up how you view your position and the value your travel experiences bring to the community table.  Where you’ve been, what you’ve seen, people you’ve met, hotels you slept in, and the food you’ve tasted.  This is knowledge that your customers and agency needs.  This is knowledge that needs to be shared.   When you capture this information to the written word it creates the opportunity for you to increase your value beyond transactions.  It’ll take you out of the fixed role of a travel agent and position you as a travel asset.

If you want to write and publish your travels, or have been asked to write about them by your agency, but just haven’t gotten around to it, I feel your pain. It’s not far-fetched that you might have nagging thoughts like, “who do I think I am, I’m not a writer,” or maybe something like, “who would ever read my stuff, I’m no expert.”  It’s scary to put yourself out there and go public.  I still cringe a bit when I’m ready to publish and hit the send button.  You’re not the first person to experience those freaky feelings and you certainly won’t be the last.  It’s natural to have those anxieties—I’d actually think it’d be a bit weird if you didn’t.  On the other hand, you are an expert and you walked into your position with something that most people don’t have when they start a job.  You had a passion—a passion for travel—or you developed one pretty quickly.

Inspired By Voices.

If you want to share your stories, the first step in your journey will be to find your voice.  You might have many travels behind you and ahead of you but without a unique writing voice, you might not get too far.  If you’ve been writing then you may already have discovered it, in which case the next step is to be brave, make the leap and share it.  But, on the other hand, if you haven’t spent any time journaling your travels or just haven’t written on a regular basis, then this will be the first port of call.  This will be the beginning of your inner exploration and one you can practice anywhere.  This isn’t business writing, it’s about writing that sings from your soul.  Are you ready to take off your agent hat?

Every writer has a voice and chances are if there’s a travel column you like to read, it’s probably because you connect to the style of the writer’s voice.  It’s how they share an experience or moment around a particular destination that sparks your curiosity.   It’s what keeps you reading and coming back to learn about the next best place to go.

Do you have any favorite travel magazines?  What about travel websites or blogs, do you follow any?  These are good places to help identify the type of writing you admire and to get a sense of how these writers dive into the details.  Identifying the type of writing you admire will help you find your writing voice.  I’m a loyal follower of National Geographic Traveler.  It features topics important to me—from environmental protection, animal conservation, and sustainable travel to supporting a destination’s local food or art scene.  But it’s the voices of the writers who weave the stories behind these travel columns, and the photography, that keeps my yearly subscription coming.  If you’ve never read it, check it out

College Degree Not Necessary.

Maybe you think being able to write is something you needed to study—in which case, you can put your fears aside.  There are loads of writers and bloggers out there who don’t have a writing background.  All they had was a desire to share an idea and let their voice be heard.  Some are popular and some are unknown but they’re still writing and putting their stuff out there.  Some use a notebook, while others you use a laptop to get their motor running.  You don’t have to go out of your way to buy anything special.  Use whatever you’re comfortable with to get your ideas down.  Every bag I own has a notepad of some kind in it, which makes it easy to jot down an idea or observation.  You might be more comfortable with a phone app, maybe Evernote, if you prefer digital note taking.  There’s no right or wrong way to do this, the only point is to write.  Identifying your writing voice isn’t meant to be a chore.  Play around and have fun with it.

Are there some fundamental rules of the road when it comes to travel writing?  There are and the first and most important one to focus on is “show, don’t tell.”  This is the main directive for creative writing and if you think about it, it makes sense.  So let’s keep it simple and just focus on that one for now.   It’s about details and description—it’s about visuals.  It’s the difference between “the sun set in the ocean” and “a tangerine sun dipped into the indigo sea.”  It’s about staying away from words or phrases that don’t provide a description.  Don’t forget, beauty is the eye of the beholder so instead of saying “the Danube Valley is beautiful,” you’ll want to show the reader how it’s beautiful.  If your first impression of a town is “quaint” then show the reader what makes it so.   Chances are how it’s beautiful or quaint will be different for me then it is for you so just go for it and don’t be afraid to unleash your observational skills.  Break the habit of using overused and common words that really aren’t descriptive and focus on visuals, imagery….details.

What are some of the cities, beaches, towns, meals, or cruises you’ve enjoyed?  Get comfortable with your knowledge and share those observations and experiences. The more you write the easier descriptions will flow.  If you specialize in a destination or a type of travel then you might find it easier to capitalize on the details of that knowledge.  Ultimately, your travel writing will open up greater opportunities to engage your customers and create value for yourself.

So for now, concentrate on getting into a daily groove of writing stuff down.   Eventually it’ll become a habit—and a good one.   There doesn’t have to be any rhyme or reason to what you jot down, the point is to just get those recollections and details out of your head and to get you writing.  Take a reading safari and investigate all the great travel writing out there.  Bop around the web and check out some travel blogs or visit your local bookstore to browse or buy some travel mags and see what writers appeal to you.  Focus on how they tell their story.  If you find yourself lost in any of them then it’s because you connect to the writer’s voice and style.

But here’s the bottom line to all this…you don’t have to read anyone’s writing.   All you need to do is write.  You have a voice.  It’s in there.  It just takes one step to make a change and let it out.

I know you can do it.

Travel Agents Leave Valuable Gem Behind.

The idea for this blog came from travel journals I’ve kept over the years.  As a kid I kept journals and as a traveler I keep them.  One day I figured, why not do something with them?  Which got me thinking that I wish I’d had this idea earlier.   Creating and managing conferences and incentive programs for the largest travel agency on the planet took me to some incredible and inspirational places.  But as the saying goes—hindsight is twenty-twenty, and I can see clearly now that I left the best opportunity behind when I come home and didn’t write about my travels. If you’re in this business, it’s because you’ve got a thing for travel so why not share it?

When did the travel bug bite you?  Were you 6, 16 or 60?  It doesn’t matter, there’s no cure and if even if there were, you wouldn’t want it.   What does matter is that you’ve got stories to tell.  Whatever type of travel you specialize in, you hold a post that gives you the opportunity to do more than whatever your job description says you do.  Sure, your job is to sell travel. It’s to keep customers who are happy with the service you give them coming back and it’s to attract new ones.   But the reach of your talents isn’t limited to that narrow scope.  Are you following me?

Ever heard this saying? “When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.”  If not, think about it for a moment and give it a chance to settle in, get comfortable with it. In fact, maybe cut and paste that quote into bigger font and then print it and put it some place prominent where you’ll see it every day.  This is about changing the way you view your role. It’s about discovering that the biggest perk of your job isn’t the free or discounted travel you get—although that’s a great bonus– it’s about the knowledge and experiences you gain. You’re a travel ambassador and if you’re not capturing your trip experiences–through writing or photography or video–then you’re cheating yourself, your customers and your organization.  If you don’t take advantage of the travel you could be doing, then get yourself out there and start connecting to the places that’ll inspire you and make you an expert and an advocate.

If right about now you’re thinking—I’m not a writer”–I’m going to challenge you.  It’s not about creating something along the lines of The Sun Also Rises (although you might have that in you), just a suggestion that you get comfortable with the idea that this is something you can do.   If you already like to write but you’re afraid of putting yourself out there, then I hope this gives you the push you need.  In either case it may take some time but that’s okay.   The more you pack along this idea when you travel, the more you’ll see how much sense it makes.

Capturing your travel in writing will help your professional and personal development.  It will make you a better communicator because it’ll enhance your ability to share what a destination feels like, smells like and tastes like and that will inspire your customers to want to experience it.

Writing is an exploration that’ll take you places you didn’t know existed.  It’s a lifetime journey–if you want it to be– that’ll make you a better observer of every place you visit.  Whether you’re at home or abroad.

This blog is my own journey into communicating my travel experiences.  Am I skittish to put myself out there in unchartered territory?  Sure, but it’s an expedition I’m eager to take.

I know you have stories too.  Let’s find your voice and share it.