Getting to know you

It’s taken a while, but it happened in Japan last year and again in Venice last week. I went out shooting and didn’t click the camera shutter once. Learning when not to take a photograph is as important, and perhaps more difficult, than learning when to take one.

I’ve just returned from my fifth trip to Venice in four years. Usually, I’m out shooting every day before sunrise and every evening at sunset. But this trip was different. With a portfolio of images under my belt and sure in the knowledge that, all being well, I’ll be returning again and again (and again), the pressure was suddenly off.

This new frame of mind meant I was much more focused on what I was shooting, when I was shooting it, and why. It also meant that for the first time in a few years, I left the hotel without my DSLR, I went sightseeing and to an exhibition, I had a lie in on a couple of mornings, and time for cocktails before dinner.

There’s a lot to be said for revisiting a place time and time again (apart from allowing time for cocktails). In many ways, places are like people. They have their own character and it takes time to understand them, to know their traits, sense their energy, discover how they make us feel, work out their foibles, their strengths and their weaknesses, discover their best angle, and at what time of day they’re at their best.

Familiarity with a place also enables us to push ourselves creatively by giving us the opportunity to explore new ideas and new ways of expressing the familiar.

I believe that it’s only by knowing and feeling a place that we can capture its essence in our images and express more than just what can be seen with the eye. It’s this ability to communicate how a place makes us feel, rather than simply what it looks like, that makes an image truly our own, and that creates the connection between photographer and viewer.

As I discovered in Japan and Venice, revisiting a place with the intention that you’ll be back is a liberating experience. It takes the pressure off, removing any urge to get a few shots ‘in the bag’ whatever the circumstances.

I will carry on visiting new locations and countries – I took up photography initially as a reason to travel – and I’m certain I’ll come away from some of those places frustrated that I didn’t have as much time as I’d have liked. But I’ll also be revisiting some old friends: I’ve penciled in dates for my next trip to Venice and Japan is on the agenda for 2019. Sometimes there’s a lot to be said for sticking with what you know.

Here are the 4 shoots that I did during my 5-night trip to Venice:

  • St Mark’s Square and the Piazzetta (sunrise)
  • San Giorgio Maggiore (sunrise)
  • Rialto Bridge (sunrise)
  • San Marco sestiere (sunset) (the featured image is from his shoot)


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