Updated: Jul 24, 2018
Travel Photography is big business and has helped fuel the growth of the tour and activity industry. US travel and tourism spending exceeded one trillion dollars in 2017 for the first time and is expected to be even more in 2018.
All this travel has led to even larger crowds at popular tourist destinations. The mayor of Venice, Italy announced that his city had recently installed gates to limit the number of tourists during peak times. The streets of the famed lagoon city are so clogged in the summer that many residents are leaving.
Nearer to my home, Yosemite National Park began issuing Parking Permits for photographers wanting to park near some of the better locations to shoot the Fire Falls this past February. I can understand why. There are thousands of photographers in the area in mid-February hoping to get a shot of those fickle falls.
Yogi Berra, that famous 20th century baseball player-philosopher, once famously quipped “No one goes there nowadays, it’s too crowded.”
I agree Yogi. More and more photographers are looking for out of the way places where you don’t have to contest a space for your tripod - that is if the regulations allow you to set one up!
Personally, I can relate to the urge to get away from the crowds. One of the allures of photography for this soul is that it takes me to quiet places and allows me to connect with something bigger than myself.
To avoid the crowds, conventional advice says to go early or late in the day and visit during the off season. That is getting more difficult to do these days. I traveled to Yosemite National Park in April, two months before the start of the ‘tourist season’, with my good friend Felix Martin del Campo. Our destination was ‘Valley View’, one of the iconic places along the Merced River that allows you to capture nice reflections of the famous monolith El Capitan. We arrived before sunrise and were surprised to find the parking lot full and the bank of the river lined with photographers. That was a first for me, but times are a changing.
That experience, and others like it, have caused me to reevaluate my personal photographic muse.
I have reached three conclusions:
1) I no longer have any desire to try and avoid the crowds to photograph a famous landmark. I simply won’t shoot it. Why bother? So what if I have a picture of the Eiffel tower? There are literally millions of photos of it. After searching my soul for a reason to photograph the world’s tourist attractions I discovered it wasn’t because of a passion I have for taking the picture. It was more about, well, about me. It was proof I was there and instead of name-dropping at my next social gathering I could image-drop.
2) My real passion for photography is to tell a story from my point of view. These stories can be anywhere. One of my favorite pictures this year was taken at sunrise through the living room window of our friend’s home in Pennsylvania. It had snowed overnight and the rising sun painted the mist stunning shades of red and pink. The best part there was plenty of parking on the sofa in front of their big picture window.
3) If my story takes me to other places, then I'll go to places that are overlooked by the crowds and tell the story from there. I look for the story in the detail as well as the grand.
So, I am off to Guatemala’s mountainous highlands. Nobody goes there to vacation. Which is exactly how I like it.
About the author: JS Engelbrecht began his photography career in a High School dark room for the school's Year Book. Later he entered the fashion industry and product photography before turning his attention to Nature. "I moved from shooting pictures of beautiful jewelry to shooting pictures of natural beauty."
Now JS Engelbrecht enjoys capturing beautiful scenes during his travels. He is also a gifted teacher and guide for local photographers.
Click here to see his fine art gallery.