Before I begin, know that today's blog is intended as an informative blog post to hopefully guide you in making the right decision for your next photography vacation... it kinda comes off preachy, or a rant... but its not intended that way...
I just want you to be informed with a few things to think about before you head out to that next bucket-list location. If my blog can help arm you with some good information, or at least questions to ask your potential company, I'm happy to have helped. :-)
There are inevitably a lot of questions people ask me before they make a decision to travel... and let me start off by saying, "these are all great questions". Personally, I like getting asked all these questions... If you weren't interested, you wouldn't be asking. :-)
The number one question I know a lot of tour and workshop leaders get is, "Is this a photo tour or workshop?"
My thoughts on this are, "This is your vacation time. You should get out of it what you expect. My trips are set up so you get what you expect, no matter your level of photography or editing aptitude.
I get all levels of photographers traveling with me. From people that sell their images, to other workshop leaders, to the person that just picked up a camera and wants to learn to take, and edit their images. Some people like a structured indoor classroom environment, some people don't, some people want you to help them, some people don't.
My philosophy is that you should ask the potential guide/trip leader straight forward questions to uncover if the trip meets your needs.
On my trips... If you want field teaching, I'm there for you, and most leaders i know feel the same way, we are there to make sure you get the photo. If you want editing help on my trips, let's open up the laptops, but if you just want someone to take you to the right place at the right time, that's exactly what you get... With some laughs and local area knowledge along the way.
When you register for one of my trips I will ask you before we get to our destination, "what you want to get out of the trip", or I will wait till we meet face to face. Once we are there on a photo location, I know who wants my help, and who doesn't.
That way, everyone's expectations are met... And hopefully exceeded.
And the schedule, it is created to accommodate everyone at the beginning of the trip as a guideline. Bus tours are timed and location stops are dictated by the schedule. A good workshop leader will have communicated the daily intended schedule, but allows for flexibility because of weather, nature, etc... so I always say to the people on my trip, "you have to be felxible and trust i will get you somewhere when the best conditions exist to get the best image".
My advice is do not get hung up on what photographers label their trips as... the definitions are all over the map. Send an email, make a call, ask the trip leader what you can expect on one of their trips... that way you eliminate any assumptions...
Another question I get asked is... "Why should I go with you?" Which leads too, "how well do you know the area?"
Well, I'm fun to be with. Laughter makes any time together that much more enjoyable. Definitely no shortage of laughs when you're on one of my trips. :-) You will also learn photography and editing tips, evened seasoned photographers pick up photo and editing tips here and there.
But you will also get information on the history of the locations you are visiting, species information of the animals you are photographing, and sometimes I bring in local area experts to talk to the groups during the trips. I think that's important, you are in an area that you do not know that much about... a little local area knowledge is great.
But it's the background work that's the real reason. I've learned from my mistakes. Yes, I've made a few, and some of you just might be agreeing with me right now by shaking your heads up and down... :-)
But I've learned from these mistakes and started creating better vacations for you because of it.
Here's what I learned...
1) know the area I'm leading my trips in better than anyone else. I have peeled back almost all my trips around the world to be run only in locations I know. I can now say that I know the areas of Yukon, Newfoundland, Ontario, BC, France, Mongolia and Northwest Territories.
In each of these locations I know the topography, I know when to be at different locations, at the right time to take the best photo. Whether it's nature, wildlife or streetscapes, I've learned this by visiting these locations numerous times. I know the wildlife patterns, I know local guides, the hotels and the restaurants, and... I have friends I can get reports from the ground, weeks before we all show up. Take my Newfoundland trips... I've got iceberg spotters in Iceberg Alley and the north shore that start texting me where the icebergs are days before I arrive with you... it saves time searching and helps me make your Newfoundland trips more enjoyable and photography rich.
You want to go with me because I know these areas extremely well and I've been there numerous times, in all kinds of weather... And if I run a trip somewhere where I haven't been before, I've hired a person just like me to make sure you get that same level of service at those locations too.
My advice to you... your spending your money to go to a location... do your research, look at photos from the tour company, are they theirs, are they using stock images, or using images from somewhere else?
The third question I know a lot of tour and workshop leaders get is, "Do you take your own photos on your trips while clients are there?"
Ohhhhhh boy, has this been a contentious topic on social media in the past. :-)
On one side there are those that believe the leader should not be there to take their own photos. On the other side, there are the people that don't really care.
So where do I fall, and why? Well, I do take photos during my trips.
If you want to understand the why I take photos, please continue reading. If I've now alienated you, I'll just say, "thanks for reading my blog today" :-)
If you're still with me, THANK YOU... You can now hit pause, pop the popcorn to eat while you read my "why I take photos" and resume reading when ready. :-)
I take photos for a few reasons...
1) it's a teaching tool. If I take photos with you, I have my own images to work on with you while we are editing later. Plus, if there has to be In-camera adjustments for a specific scene to either make shadows come out, or to capture the cloud motion just right, or, I need to know if that Aurora needs ISO1600 or ISO800, or even length of exposure time, I'd be guessing if I was just standing there beside you without my camera.
The perfect scene doesn't last forever. Would you rather I guess the right setting and risk you missing the shot, or have me give you exact settings to take it perfectly because I just produced it right beside you? If i am taking a photo, I will know the advice to give you if I have attempted to capture it myself... then what i do is call out the right settings and come around and explain why i chose those settings later... that way, you get the best shot while the action is occurring, and the explanation later during our teaching moment.
2) have you ever been to a chocolate factory that was giving away free samples as a kid, and turned them down? I didn't think you did... :-) We are all excitable, enthusiastic photographers. We're standing in front of breathtaking nature. We all want to capture it. The big kid comes out in me.
But let me throw the caveat out there now... Before you assume I believe my photos are more important than yours. I don't believe that.
If you're standing there with me and you're asking me how to take a photo... My first priority is YOU, not my own images. I know many other leaders think like i do... and I know that some dont... But generally, as a workshop leader, we want you to take the breathtaking image. Its why you came, and personally its good for our business if you are sharing your great photo later on social media. :-)
We have the luxury of coming back each year, or numerous times in different seasons to scout and run other trips... we can take our time to get great shots later. This is your holiday, not ours. :-)
The last question I hear most often is, "you're more expensive than a regular group tour. Why should I spend more to be with you?"
Please allow me to answer that question this way... Here are your holiday choices...
Get up at 8, breakfast at 9, hop in the bus and do the tour with 29 other people with a camera strapped around their neck, or pulling out their iPhones to do selfies in front of the mountain you want to photograph when its under harsh light. Then back at the hotel for 5, have dinner and no transportation to go out for sunset, or out at night.
Or would you rather...
Wake up while it's dark, get to that mountain range before the sun paints it gold and the skies light up as if they were on fire... Then photograph the wildlife in a natural setting because the diesel fumes of the bus tour and talking tourists haven't scared them away yet.
Return for breakfast after the crowds have left for their bus tour. Relax, edit, get some one on one teaching time, visit the souvenir shop, regroup... Then eat dinner and head back out for another golden hour photo shoot after the crowds disperse in some remote location the bus tours don't go to... Why... because no ones willing to go there cause they don't see the value in waiting for a sun to set and light up the landscapes, or a grizzly bear to chase a fish through a river.
People choose to come on my photo trips because they get to the locations you won't get to on a bus tour. If a permit or an approval by a land owner needs to be approved, i've received the approval... if a commercial photography permit needs to be secured, you can trust I've investigated it, and i have it.
My photo trips, whether you want to call it a tour or workshop, take you to remote locations, sometimes by exotic means, at ungodly hours, to produce images you're proud to share, print and want to show off. There is always an incremental cost for smaller trips that demand customization... so you will pay more... but you will take better images and get more one on one time with me and my fellow instructors. :-)
Remember, this is your holiday, you're a photographer, most photo tour and workshop leaders strive to get you to locations we hope everyone appreciates.
Thank you for reading my blog today.
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