This is around the time 5 years ago that I got really serious with one my favorite hobbies: travel photography. Before then frankly I was one of the most boring people the world had ever not known. I literally hated going outdoors because it was too hot, too crowded, or the area was infested with mosquitoes or wild animals. Perhaps the only thing I used to do was study and write the occasional travel article here on my blog. I played tennis, but I was a more of a “wannabe pro tennis player” (talented but with no work ethic).
Enter social media:
And then one summer day (while I was in Italy), I decided I would get an Instagram account and check out if there were any unique, off the beaten path places nearby to take my new camera (a Sony Nex-6) out for a spin. Just a simple search with the hashtag #Rome, seemed to bring up dozens of results. I of course set out on a mission to capture some of these images for myself, after all I needed a brand new wallpaper for my computer.
On this walk I went to some of the most iconic places on Earth, some of the shadiest places (someone asked me if I liked to eat spiders), and some rather deserted places. While I didn’t get the greatest or the most unique images out of it, I did recognize that the simple stroll through social media had gotten me out the door and put me in places I would normally not be comfortable being in.
This brings me to the biggest lesson I’ve learned:
Let social media inspire you, but don’t let it dictate what you photograph or where you go.
A more cliched way of saying it: let social media get you to a destination, but don’t let it make you miss the forest for that one tree.
Fast forward to last November: my cousin and I were driving around Queenstown, New Zealand looking for interesting places to photograph. After exploring some places along the Crown Range Highway, that didn’t work in overcast skies, we decided we would try our luck with the Great Tree of Wanaka. Now if you know anything about photos of New Zealand, you know that over the past couple of years this single tree has suddenly become one of the symbols of New Zealand.
And so when we pulled up to the spot in Wanaka, we saw no less than 20 tourists trying to capture the same image of the tree. We could have waited and photographed the tree at sunset, but it just seemed like there was so much more to explore in the area. We immediately got back in the car and drove off in the direction of the mountains where we came upon a random trail heading into the Matatapu River Gorge. The trail was absolutely empty and full of these wonderful hedges. It was truly a place straight out of LOTR at certain places:
After a couple of hours on that track, I came upon this dead tree backed up against the mountains, which looked a lot like the one from Pippin’s vision of Minas Tirith.
I’ll admit that I had to cool down the colors a bit to get the mood I was looking for, but nothing serves as a better example of how I got a unique image while following a lead on social media. Obviously it helped that I kept an open mind and explored a bit, but we certainly would not have ended up where we were without having that avenue to inspire us in the first place.