In good company

I returned recently from a photography tour to the Li River in China led by Ocean Capture owner, Jonathan Chritchley, but if I’d listen to the comments of another photographer, I might never have gone. With specialist photography holidays more popular than ever, it pays to choose not by destination but by photographer.

When I was considering the trip to the Li River almost 2 years ago, a professional photographer (who shall remain nameless) dismissed it as a “one-shot trip”. By this, I assume they were referring to the iconic shot of the fishermen who use cormorants to catch fish. The photographer has a very different style to me; they favour traditional landscape and travel photography whereas I seek minimalism and monochrome. Fortunately, I’d seen enough images of the Li River, including those by Michael Kenna, to dismiss the comment. I went ahead and booked the trip.

It turned out to be so much more than a one-shot trip with opportunities to photograph the stunning karst mountains that, in the local tongue, are called the Dragon’s Backbone; ancient rice terraces cut into contoured hillsides; the traditional village of Ping An, a veritable Shangri-La; water buffalo at work; limestone peaks shrouded in morning mist; and, of course, iconic cormorant fishermen. What’s more, as well as an inspiring destination for photography, it turned out to be a great adventure, with one morning shoot that will live with me forever and that was the worth the trip alone.

Not long after I took up photography as a hobby, I booked a tour to Tuscany with another well-known landscape photographer. Between making my booking and the trip departure date, my style evolved and I realised that the photographer would probably be chasing flaming sunsets while I’d be looking for scenes that translated into monochrome. That’s not to say that can’t be achieved in Tuscany – I’ve seen some wonderful minimalist and monochrome shots – but it would have been more difficult to achieve with a photographer who sees the world so very differently from me. I contacted the photographer to discuss my dilemma and he kindly refunded my deposit.

Both these instances are a salutary reminder that a location may be ‘iconic’, popular or fashionable, but that doesn’t mean it will suit your photography or deliver the results you want. This is doubly true if you’re on a photography tour where the locations and times of the shoots are, to a large extent, decided for you. It’s why ‘people’ will always beat ‘place’ when it comes to heading off with a photography buddy or group. As the Italians say, ‘meglio sola che male accompagnata’. Better to be alone than in bad company.



  1. What you say is so true. The trick is finding a photographer that is leading these trips whose style suits your own. You have found a distinctive style that you fulfill beautifully. I still am not sure if my style. I do enjoy your blogs very much, thanks Lisa

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks for your comments, Nicky. Sometimes, I think having a distinct style is a hindrance – I find it challenging to find suitable locations close to home, which means I do very little photography in the UK. It’s a great excuse to travel, but it often feels like a long stretch between trips!


  3. I agree! I don’t think there is a “one-shot trip” place. It’s how you look at things that would make it memorable to you. And definitely, it’s “better to be alone than in bad company.” Keep it up, Lisa!


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