29 Sep 2016

Holiday snaps

I gave up taking holiday snaps years ago. But thousands have not. In my recent travels throughout Portugal I saw thousands of tourists from all corners of the globe taking thousands of photos.  Their cameras of choice were split 48/48% between smartphones and DSLRs with tablets and small point and shoot cameras making up the residual 4%. I only saw one Leica being used- an X2- - by a Japanese tourist.
The number of tourists - and particularly elderly tourists using big Nikon or Canon DSLRs was really surprising and selfie sticks are still really popular- particularly with Japanese and Chinese tourists.
Whilst it is each to his own in my book I was disheartened to see so many tourists just shooting away indiscriminately. Many do not even bother to compose the photo. I was on a boat on the River Douro east of Porto one afternoon and there was an older English tourist shooting with a big Nikon DSLR and he was pointing it at anything and clicking away like a man possessed.  I asked him -politely- how many SD cards he had - and he said he had only one 32GB card and he usually took over 100 photos a day and he "cleaned up the card" each evening. Words fail me.
Anyway I felt that words would be wasted telling him that I was shooting an average of less than 10 photos a day on the trip and some days I did not take any.
Now my objective with my travel photos is to capture that atmosphere of the places I visit and to take photos which form part of a narrative. Not a narrative of "this is a boring photo of the two of us standing in front of the Lisbon waterfront" but along the lines of "this is a typical back street in the oldest part of Lisbon where on the very hot day we were there most of the locals were out in the street talking to each other and it really reminded me of how Paris backstreets were 20 years ago."

I went to Portugal with the objective of coming back with a dozen "good" photos. In fact I have 38 photos in the Lightroom collection labelled "Portugal" from the trip. By the standards of the Nikon man on the boat my output was miniscule- just two more than a 36 exposure cassette of film. I have now disciplined myself not to even think about taking a photo which I know will be discarded. For me there are no 'just in case photos" nowadays. So I approach taking digital photos as if I am using film and I reckon that my photography has improved measurably as a result of this approach.

Here's the first batch of my Portugese photos all taken with the Leica X1. With the exceptions of the napping souvenir seller and the wine cart on the waterfront at Belem,Lisbon-what a civilised idea- all the rest were taken in the old part of Lisbon at the end of a very hot afternoon. I went on a 5 hour food tour - by foot -with a really fun local guide-that's her back to the poster below- and a great group of enthusiastic tourists-through the back alleys and side streets in the old city beneath the castle. The locals were all out on the streets -the guy with the classical guitar was not busking -he was playng beautifully for fun- and the atmosphere was just great. The group drinking on the steps bought their beers from a nearby bar which is so small that it will only accommodate 3 so they give you a little table and you go and sit on the steps outside. I ended up shooting people not places but that's my "thing"-I like people. And as always I tried to engage with them before taking the photos so they are usually smiling. The Leica X1 has one fixed lens-no zoom- so I always try and fill the frame and that means I have to get close to the subject so being friendly is important.

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