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Friday 19 August 2016

The essence of photography in travel

A perspective on photography, on World Photography Day

From the perspective of travel, photographs have always been a traveller's best friend. They recreate the magic of nature, places, people, and beautiful architecture that we come across travelling. They give life and vigour to our travel writings and blogs.

Photography and travel are an inseparable pair. One of the two typically leads to the other. If you begin with photography and start liking it, you will sooner or later start travelling and visiting more places to get more kinds and varieties of pictures. If you are an avid traveller, you will certainly not return without some snaps along your trips.

For me, it is difficult to say whether enthusiasm in photography began with travel or was it vice-versa. I have travelled many times just for the sake of getting some good snaps, and on many occasions got some good pictures during my trips. It is more or less the same with my pals. Apart from the places we visit, we typically take snaps of whatever we find interesting during the travel, whether it be a small lotus pond by the road, or a bird or an animal.

In case you didn't know, world photography day is celebrated on August 19th since 2010. On this day in 1839, the French government purchased the patent for Daguerreotype, a photographic processes developed by Joseph Nicèphore Nièpce and Louis Daguerre, and announced the invention as a gift "Free to the World". [1]

At present, it is very hard to imagine travel without photographs, and there may be few who don't take even a single snap on their trips. Today, we see travellers everywhere clicking photos and selfies from their handheld smartphones.

The early cameras that began capturing photographs (in the 1800's) were so bulky and cumbersome that there was a need of a cart and people to carry it around! Nowadays, people easily carry it in their handheld phones which come with an inbuilt camera.

From bulky equipment to selfie equipment, photography has come a long way.

From bulky equipment to selfie equipment, photography has come a long way. Alexander Greenlaw photographed the above view of Virupaksha temple complex in Hampi from Hemakuta Hill, in 1856, using silver gelatin print from waxed paper negatives.[2]

The camera equipment he used those days was not only very cumbersome and difficult to carry around and to set up but also required long exposures [2]. During our trip, we photographed the above colour picture from Hemakuta Hill with much ease using a handheld digital camera.

Cameras and photography have come a long way since their invention, and this progress in technology better facilitates travellers and photographers alike. Starting from metal plates, waxed papers and glass plates as the initial medium of recording the image, it has come up to CCD and CMOS detector chips that are now used in digital cameras and phones.

Photography during travel became popular ever since handheld cameras using photographic films became commercially available. If you had such a camera, you would remember buying and loading the negatives in them. You had to proceed manually to the next slot in the reel in case it didn't have an automatic option. The negative reels were then developed in a dark room, typically in a studio. And if you mistakenly exposed the reel to sunlight, your pictures and efforts would have got ruined instantly.

In contrast to this, things are much simpler today with digital photography. It is now not only more cost effective and easier to capture the images, but also to store and share them, that too in better resolutions! People sharing their tour pics on social media like Facebook and WhatsApp are common nowadays, and not to mention the selfie-crazy ones. And then there are the amateurs and professionals who take beautiful and breathtaking pictures on their travels and journeys.

There was a time when we travelled without even a camera. I remember some of those trips, and the scenes are etched in my memory. However, the trips where we did get some snaps will be remembered and cherished better, as those pictures capture and preserve that moment in time.

Here are few picks from our own travels:

“... So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee. ”
- William Shakespeare (in Sonnet 18)

I would like to quote William Shakespeare's sonnet 18 [3] here, where he describes that the beauty of his friend shall last as long as it can be read. Those days, photography did not exist and Shakespeare could immortalize his friend only through describing him in words. We all know the famous saying, "a picture is worth a thousand words". Today, you can immortalize a friend in a photograph, as long as that photograph exists.

Extrapolating Shakespeare's words to photographs : Your dear ones will age and get old in reality, but they will be forever young in that picture. Scenes, people, places, or monuments may change or cease to exist in reality, but in their photographs they will live forever as beautiful they were at the time it was snapped, as long as that photograph exists and as long as there are eyes to see it.

So, whether its your group travel picture, that favourite travel snap, your most fantastic picture, or simply just your cat's antics, they all will remain in their full glory immortalized in their photos.

Finally, from the film cameras in the nineties we have come up to the high resolution digital cameras in our mobile phones within approximately twenty years, and their resolutions and capacities just keep getting better. There will be even better panoramic and 360 degree imagery in the coming years.

At present, the major hurdle for travel photography is the battery drain. This applies to smartphones as well as digital cameras. However, this can be dealt with good power banks to charge your photographing device on the way, and by reducing your use of flash.

However, the battery life seems to have an uptrend over the years, with reducing charging time [4]. Hopefully we will get devices with better battery life, or more speedy charging in future.

Photography has truly come a long way since 177 years, from bulky equipment to selfie equipment. Whether you are a casual photographer, a professional or an amateur, you can surely look ahead for even better photos while travelling in the days to come.

External References
[1] About World Photo Day - World Photo Day
[2] Photograph: 3771-1910 - Hampi (Vijayanagar) Bellary District: Virupaksha Temple Complex - V&A Images, Victoria and Albert Museum collections
[3] Sonnet 18 (Shakespeare) - Wikisource [accessed 19 August 2016]
[4] Smartphone battery life over the years: A surprising study - Phone Arena

Cite This

"The essence of photography in travel", by Pradeep Hegde, on Trayaan ( . Published on August 19, 2016.
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