#128. Abstract Tourism

By pascaljappy | News

Nov 08

Burning Rock simulation in Vulcania. Olympus OM-D EM-5

One of the greatest perils in amateur photography is the click as you go syndrome. Whether every angle of a scene fascinates you or whether you are simply compulsive about getting the shot, you often end up taking way too many pictures of average quality rather than fewer better ones.

Stomping feet. Olympus OM-D EM-5

Manufacturers aren’t helping. And it’s easy to see their plot is working by reading comments on the rumor mills and other photo gear blogs : everyone and his dog wants the latest 20 frames per second, 1 zillion pixels, 100 autofocus points, 102000 ISO worthy offering for 300 bucks. In other words, it’s the guaranty that you’ll get the shot that sells cameras.

Inside a volcano cone in Vulcania. Olympus OM-D EM-5

Well you know what ? Don’t get the shot. It doesn’t matter. In fact, the fewer you get, the better they are likely to be and the more likely you will be to still look at them 10 years later.

Fight the temptation to shoot everything and anything simply because some aspect of it has triggered that part of your brain that wants to click. Ken Rockwell recommends you FART before you click. Others say “make every picture count”. Same thing. The important lesson is that the more you like your pictures the less obsessed with technical aspects you become.

Ultra modern room looks like star treck in Vulcania. Olumpus OM-D EM-5

So how do you fight this syndrome?

There are many therapies, all of them focusing on goals. Set yourself goals. Series of photographs with a common theme, for instance. 20 red pictures. Only pictures of feet. Or whatever you fancy. When you’re roaming the next tourist trap and forbid yourself to take any shots of the castle because you’ve committed to making only pictures of cigarette butts, you’ll easily go past the initial frustration to actually enjoy your new project. Soon, you not even take your camera to the next tourist attraction and actually enjoy visiting it with your family.

Sky through the roof of a building looks like a toucan. Vulcania, Olympus OM-D EM-5

Uta Barth, recent recipient of the Mc Arthur Foundation fellowship sums it up beautifully in this video : as soon as the object in the picture ceases to be its subject, you are on the way !

Red lava flow in Vulcania, Olympus OM-D EM-5

One possible way of combining tourism with this approach is to create abstract pictures of the location / attraction. I recently posted a set of blurs shot in ordinary places such as the underground. Abstracts are another approach. The object may or may not be recognisable, but the picture is not about it. It’s not illustrative of this object in any way. The object merely provides subject matter for a creation totally unrelated to it.

Hot in steamy in a vulcania volcano. Olympus OM-D E-M5

Whether through the use of negative space, empty space, motion, colours … you are trying to create a picture that conveys a feeling, an emotion or simply visual entertainment without really explaining what it is you are seeing.

The Hong-Kong underground. Olympus OM-D EM-5

  • philberphoto says:

    Wow! The problem is that the collection of pictures is so captivating that whatever you are going on about has no chance of making a difference…:-)
    Still, while I agree with what you are trying to get across, a couple of caveats.
    Doing what you suggest only works once a photographer gets past a certain level ot technical proficiency, and masters composition, exposure etc to his/her satisfaction. This is not for beginners IMHO.
    Also, nothing says you can’t actually get “unlikely” shots out of very well-known monuments. It doesn’t have to be cigarette butts and trash only. Otherwise, trying to convince the significant other that one needs a new (fit whatever your gear lust has given you a hankering for) just to shoot cigarette butts could be tricky….
    And unlikely shots can come from subjects that are not, in themselves, unlikely. It can be fragments of flowers, tree stumps or whatever. It is the eye that makes the unlikely shot, not the subject. And much less than anything the camera. Ha, so much for fat pixels….:-)

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