The thing I love the most about traveling to new places as a photographer is meeting locals and seeing how they live their lives. When ever I am visiting a new place, the first thing I do is grab a map and just start to wonder looking for interesting places and see what the locals are up to. I generally find that to find the hidden gems in a new destination that the street vendors selling food, taxi cab drivers, and waiters/bartenders in the local restaurants are the best people to get advice on where to go and what to do. Tourist boards, hotel staff, and guide books are useful if you want to see the stock standard tourism attractions, but to truly get a sense of what a place is like I try to get away from those destinations and find out what the locals like to do.
I also find that if I am wondering around with my camera, a lot of times locals will come up to me and ask questions, especially once I start to drift out of the tourist areas. Usually they are quite friendly and harmless, but if I am traveling in a poorer country, I do still try to keep a low profile by not carrying an obvious camera bag and usually just have one camera and lens with me so that I don’t appear to be an good target for a theif. One of my favorite things when traveling is to find local artists/craftsmen and visit their studios.
I also love the fact that in most “Third World” countries, people live their lives much more out in the open. It is partly because their homes are smaller and they have less space but I think that it is more than that. Neighbors share the latest developments in their lives with each other over a game of cards on the street corner or over a shared cup of coffee while sitting on the steps outside their buildings.
The other great thing about traveling to new destinations is seeing how different places celebrate holidays. I always try to plan my trips to a new destination to coincide with a holiday or big celebration. It is a good way to see locals having fun and what they do during their free time as well as guaranteeing that there will be large gatherings of people to photograph. Just remember that if the celebration is part of the local religion, be sure to talk to a local to find out what you can and cannot photograph.
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