It’s funny how some topics follow ebb and flow patterns in our newsfeeds. For some reason, mine were recently flooded by doomsday perspectives on tourism. “Who killed Tulum?” “Les excès du tourisme” “Barcelona’s tourism headache”, just to name a very few. A couple of weeks ago, it was all about tick-spread diseases, go figure.
One interesting aspect of such reports is that they are statistical by nature, and the only individuals picked out for illustration are of such astonishing numbnutness (numbnutitude?) that it’s hard to feel a connection to our own personal habits. While these articles denounce very real issues, they also do it in a way that makes us – me, at least – pleade ‘not guilty’. And yet …
It’s easy to view our hobby as innocuous but, once you start to think about it, it opens up a real Pandora box of uncool side effects. Here are just a few I could think of and some ideas to mitigate the negative.
The worst component has to be travel. Planes are the worst. Greta is making us very aware of this. French politicians are now suggesting we spend 5 hours and 200 euros to travel by train where the plane would do it in 2 and cost 60. The same politicians take arms against nuclear power but I’m probably too stupid to understand their logic.
Still, like it or not, car, train, bus or plane, travel is a major source of pollution. Fact. What can you do about it? The flip side of the coin can be (depending on how you travel) money flowing to populations who need it, cultural exchange, stimulation of creativity, breaking down of numbnutish nationalism (it’s official, numbnutism will be the central theme of this Monday Post. And nationalism is numbnutism, of the most dangerous type).
My suggestion is to photo-travel with a project in mind. If you flock to the Eiffel Tower to recreate the same exact picture as hundreds of millions of others before you, that’s wasted opportunity for you and wasted life span for those who breathe your kerosene. If you’re constantly working on photographic projects and series, you’ll notice cultural differences and enrich your series whenever you are abroad. An artist friend of mine is working on series of stone walls. Those are present wherever she travels to, but in different forms and the differences reveal local stories and contexts. This nourishes her body of work, makes her more desirable to galleries (because of the narrative that comes with the prints) and creates links between people.
Whether we like it or not, whether it’s relevant or not, we’ll probably have to change the way to travel sooner than later. To me, making travel more meaningful is more nourishing and balances out the negatives with a lot more positive.
Still, air travel is far from being the only offence we togs commit. Data storage also has a big impact. Facebook now consumes as much electricity as a mid-sized country. The Internet needs 8 nuclear reactors to run. What about us?
First, what about DS? Ahem, well, the recent design update enabled me to use components that optimise the size of images on this site through size reduction and “optimally-lossy” compression. I set the slider at a point which feels like it’s not damaging image quality (it actually looks better than before) but halves the size of images. And I am investigating green hosting companies but those mostly rely on wind farms, which I positively loath. Let’s call that … ongoing.
But what can we, as photographic individuals do to mitigate our negative impact? That’s a tough one.
Lowering the resolution of our image making seems unlikely in the current dominant market ethos of more is better. Market numbnutism (yesss, thank you) has currently peaked at 240 Mp, with associated computing power and storage capacity requirements (nervous breakdowns being beside the point of this article) but I doubt not that a new Everest of waste will beat that one day. Or that it will do much better than the A7R4’s miserly 10fps. And maybe 3 card slots to maximise storage impact? Jesting aside, how much resolution do you need for a great 1Mb internet pic and an excellent A3 print? 6Mp?12Mp? At 50Mp, I’m guilty of overresing. But with Sony’s 61, Canon’s 70, Fuji’s 100, I’ll soon feel like a buddhist monk.
Culling is a more likely candidate. Although the process itself uses a lot of computing energy, it does reduce significantly on storage necessities. I personally cull a lot. By losing and not backuping, mainly 😀
Ah, backup, yes. Another big one. Ted Forbes has an excellent video titled Nobody Cares about your Photography. And, while that’s not true in a tightly nit community such as ours, I have no doubt about the veracity of Ted’s words when it comes to my pictures and the world at large. And particlarly when I’m long gone. Forget all about the idea of legacy, please. So, maybe we can relax about backuping? (perish the thought 😀 ) Fact is, I lost all (not most, all) my photographs of my children’s youth to Memorex’ exceptional quality of CDs and DVDs. I had doubled an trippled copies. All (not most, all) faded and corrupted. Not one photograph left. Two lessons:
(1) You survive. In fact, it doesn’t matter much.
(2) Cleverer people than me had taken snapshots and had them printed 6×4. I still have some of those. You want real backup? Print.
“Oh, but Pascal, isn’t that numbnutishly contradictory?”
Yes, printing is bad. Super bad for the environment. Power consumption, paper (paper has horrible impact) and assorted chemicals.
Yeah, true. But when I say print, I don’t mean print, I mean PRINT. GO all out. Not necessarily big, but good. Print one photograph every 300 you make if you want. But make it count. And dump the others. Your legacy will be a set of beautiful fine art objects, rather than disk drives and inaccessible-when-you-are-gone cloud storage. Sign the prints, sigil them, title them, stamp them, make them your own.
Photography used to be deep and narrow. Complex to set up, expensive, focus intensive. Today it has become broad and more shallow than populist argumentation. We photograph anything and everything in a fraction of a second with very little thought to the purpose of the shot.
There’s an interesting middle path of personal photography. And that will be my conclusion and suggestion to fight climate change and flygskam. Make every photograph count. Make every photograph personal. If all you want from your photographs is you in front of an endangered location, the entirety of this website will prove a huge disappointment. If you want to lower your output, create connection, increase creativity, keeper rates and ultimate quality, ask yourself, at every photograph: “how is that relevant to me”? I will now be writing my Nobel acceptance speech. Unless I Dylan the poop out of it to save on travel impact.
Come on people. Do not expect me to believe you are not hot. Or getting some heat for doing/saying/writing something numbnutish like me. Or hiding from the heat. Or having a heated debate about something. Or drooling at some hot actor. Or dancing in the heat of the night. Or eating hotdog or hot curry.
I’m heating my heart out here 😀
So, the challenge’s name/topic is “Heat!” And we’ve had great answers but not nearly as many as we usually do. Is it the holidays? Is it the heat? Is it the subject? I’m giving it another week and that’s it. After that, we’ll probably wait until September before we start a new challenge. You seem too happy to care in your hammocks 😉
Some achievement, right? 😉 A website with a homepage. I mention it only to highlight the change of focus from purely a blog to a more traditional website.
Our previous homepage was a categorised list of recent posts. The intermediate one was just a list of recent posts. Today, the homepage gives you direct access to information that used to be hidden in the archives. It features 3 categories of information that are relevant to creative travel photography (it’s in the name): locations, in particular un-destinations, gear, and personal expression (art & creativity). The first two are pretty self explanatory. The third is where you’ll find links to stuff such as composition, post processing, printing …
A resources top menu is also new. There you can find the link to un-destination maps and to Infrequently asked questions. Those correspond to questions some of you ask and others answer. The page is meant to archive and structure hard to find information. Both pages are currently embryonic. By the way, thank you to all who answered my initial question 🙂
Next to my first question was also the first photo sent for critique. Above is a rework of that same photo based on various comments it received (thanks guys!) that fits my personal idea. Here’s a second photo for review. Comments / suggestions / ideas / critique very welcome. Help me make it better. And please send your own for review if you have doubts on any of them.
Before that, here’s a second question I’d like to add to the infrequently asked questions: how do you set white balance (on location or in PP) in an environment that mixes several light sources / quality, such as churches, for example?
Finally, some things to come:
On the homepage, I’ll add a big slider with a selection of any photos you send me. If you made a photo you like and would like to share it, send it to me, it will be placed there.
I’ve added a subscription form that pops-up when you appear to engage with content. It felt like the least intrusive option. Feedback welcome if you feel differently.
We’re still missing a contact form, shame on me. Looking at several options for file upload.
Still working on the best personal gallery format for pwintshop and for selling prints. Several of you have confirmed interest in displaying photographs/selling prints here. If you’d like that too, drop me a line (pascal dot jappy at gmail dot com).
More types of resources are on their way. But all of this is collaborative. You don’t volunteer info, nothing goes up on those pages 😉 Let’s consider the website as a humble version of Noah’s ark in a rising tide of meaningless content. Please send your pet subjects/expertise, even if not by pairs.
More on all this very soon.
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