Travel photography is a very popular area of photography and many of us dabble with it while away on holiday. Taking this area of photography further and away from just holiday snaps into something much more creative and fulfilling can be quite a challenge.
Patrick Peron seems to be one of those photographers who has taken his photography and used it not just in a creative way but also as a way of expressing a story about the places he visits. His images are colorful and energetic and are both and visually pleasing as well as being very informative.
I wanted to get to know Patrick's approach to his travel photography in the hope that it would help to inspire others while on their travels around the world.
Enjoy the interview.
First I would like to ask how you first became involved in photography and in particular travel photography?
My interest in photography started with an interest in travel. Back in 2000 I went on a trip through the Middle East on my own. In Syria I met a girl who was also traveling on her own. She had a really nice camera which she said kept her company. She explained that when bored she would look for something to photograph and that would make the time go by and give her a creative outlet. I started doing the same with my little point and shoot. It added a lot to my trip. I started looking at things in a different way. I began to notice light and color in a new way. I searched for ways to make mundane things more interesting by finding different angles and perspectives. I started to become aware of things that I would normally not pay much attention to. I soon replaced my point and shoot with a SLR then moved from negative to slide film and finally adopted digital.
Did you have any formal training in photography?
Not exactly, the closest I came to formal training was in summer camp as a child. The camp had a dark room and I learned how to develop film. When I got interested in photography many years later, I read some books on basic photography and on Travel Photography to learn more. But, there is really no substitute for getting out there and taking lots of photos. However I always thought it would be fun to take some classes.
The learning curve today is much sharper with the digital camera than it was with film. The instant feedback you get allows you to experiment much more and correct any technical errors that would normally take at least a week (to process the film) to discover. Also there is no associated cost with taking digital pictures so there is really nothing stopping you from taking a number of different angles and choosing the best. So in some sense digital photography has trained me to be a better photographer.
What does your camera equipment consist of ?
In the past I shot exclusively slide film, Velvia and Provia with a Nikon F80. I still own it but find I use it less and less. Today my primary camera is a Nikon D90. It is compact enough to travel easily with and produces images on par with the more expensive D300. I tend to stay away from the large camera bodies because they stand out too much when walking around. Also I find many people become shy when you whip out a massive camera.
As for lenses I have the Nikon 24-120 VR (rarely used), Tokina 12-24, Nikon 85 f/1.8, Nikon 60 macro and of course the Nikon 18-200 VR, the ultimate travel lens, which stays on my camera most the time. All my lenses have Hoya UV filters. I also use a B&W polarizing filter.
Even though it is a serious pain, I always travel with a tripod. It has allowed me to get some images I could have never achieved handheld. And I always carry a spare battery and a portable storage device.
Do you have a favourite destination for your travel photography and if so why?
This is a hard one. There are so many places that I loved to photograph for many different reasons. I tend to like places where people live their lives on the streets rather behind closed doors. Asia is great for this.
For portraits I would pick India. The people are colorful and friendly. I find them easy to approach and they are usually happy to have their photo taken. I was in central Mexico earlier this year and people were very camera shy. In fact there were stories of photographers getting beaten for taking photos without asking. Not a very conducive situation for getting that perfect image.
For Landscape I’d pick Southwest USA. It is simply stunning. There is an amazing diversity of land formations from canyons to lakes. The light can turn the colors in the sands from dull pastels to electric neon. The only other place that comes close is Iceland.
For the overall travel experience my favorite place was Myanmar. I really enjoyed the people and culture. The country is beautiful and relatively untouched by tourism. It is off the beaten track and therefore requires some extra hardships, such as long bus rides and careful planning. There is so much to photograph. I would love to go back there and photograph in the North of the country, but the political situation makes it difficult.
Who are your big photographic influences?
For classic photography, I love the work of Henri Cartier-Bresson. He manages to capture so much feeling in each photo. I remember reading an interview with him where he recounted the story behind one of his photographs. He arrived at the person’s house in the morning and simply observed them for hours. He didn’t even talk to them. He just waited until he saw the photo he wanted. He took 2 frames during the entire day. I would imagine any other photographer taking hundreds of photos in that time. Henri had in his mind's eye what he was after. That is a sign of a great photographer.
For Landscapes I really love Charlie Waite. Like Henri he is a perfectionist with a clear vision of what he is after. Landscape photography takes an enormous amount of patience, more than any other type of photography. You can’t rush nature. Often you need to return to a spot because of the weather or even to get a different season. Charlie is also a very nice down to earth guy.
For portraits, Steve McCurry is one of my biggest influences. No one is more dedicated and no one does it better than Steve.
How would you describe your style of photography?
My goal when I am taking photos is to convey something more than an image. I strive to invoke an emotion or tell a story. When I think of the images that have touched me, the ones that I would want on my wall at home, they are more than just pretty pictures. They are something I relate to. Travel photography tends to bring a feeling of escape to the exotic. It should capture the essence of the place whether that is a mountain range, a busy market or a family riding in a tuk tuk. I try to avoid stock type images and strive to capture a different perspective.
Finally Patrick, what advice would you give to a new photographer thinking of making travel photography their main subject matter?
There is no bad time of day, night or year to take photos. There is no such thing as a boring subject only boring photos. Unusual perspectives, bad weather and strong angles make for good photography.
Try to tell a story. Have in your mind what you are after. Avoid random snapping. It will give you direction and make you a better photographer.
To see more of Patrick's wonderful travel photography please visit his web site at www.patrickperon.com. Travel photography can be a very rewarding experience and can enhance your visits to other countries around the world.