What is Independent Overland Travel?
Independent Overland travel is travel that is a bit off the beaten track. It’s when you don’t get back to a hotel every night, or even every week. It’s when you don’t get home for months or even years. Overland travel often involves shipping by ship or plane, but it is all “part of the adventure”. It’s Independent because it is often done alone, or as a small group. It’s NOT getting onto a bus or truck with 20 other people for “expedition travel”, and being brought around to the sights – which is fine too, but not what I am talking about here.
It’s also traveling to places where most people do not go. Travel to places that people say are dangerous, remote or generally known you your circle of friends. There are not many places left in the world where no one has gone before. It is very hard to go anywhere without seeing a footprint or tyre print in the ground before you. Many places that you might go on your expedition will already have people who live there, and for them, a trip to the local shops is not an expedition. That doesn’t mean it’s not an expedition in your terms.
What is Overland Travel Photography?
Overland travel photography is the art of taking photographs that capture the facts, the essence and the soul of an expedition or trip. From a photography standpoint it does not matter so much where the expedition is going.
It may be Europe, Africa, South America or anywhere you care to mention. In all cases the photographer wants to be able to capture images that will tell the story of the expedition with as few words as possible required to support it.
There are a number of things that need to be done before this can all happen.
To be able to take a photograph
There are 2 main types of photographers out there. The first type is the photographer who loves cameras, and knows everything about their camera, their lenses, their flashes and all the other equipment they have. They can handle all sorts of tricky situations like low light exposures, panning shots, reflections, they can adjust the depth of field to as shallow or as deep as they want. In short they can make their camera gear sing.
The other type of photographer is the lucky type, they are the ones who can see an image around every corner even if they do not have their camera to their eye. They may not be able to use every knob and button on the camera, but they make magical images as they can see the light, and know instinctively what will make a great image. I say that this type of photographer is lucky because they can learn the technical bits and pieces to do with the camera but a photographers eye is part of your DNA and is very hard to learn.
When you can see a scene that would make a stunning image, AND are able to make the camera capture that image in the way you want, then you’ve made it. Unfortunately I fall into the first group.
To have the equipment you need for travel photography
This does not mean you must have the latest and greatest offerings from Cannon or Nikon or any of the other great camera manufacturers out there.
There are many ways to decide on what the best camera FOR YOU is. Among photographers, it’s generally accepted that the best camera in the world is the one you have with you. If you have a heavy DSLR and heavy lens, and you leave it in the vehicle or hotel all the time, then it’s not much good of a camera. It cannot take many shots when it’s tucked away safe.
You need the best quality camera that you are happy and willing to bring with you everywhere you go. Your camera needs to fit your hand when gripping it. Your camera needs to be clear and easy for you to use. and most importantly, your camera needs to be with you all the time. As we travel in a large 4×4 truck camper, we have quite a lot of space for storage, so we have luxury of bringing a selection of camera equipment and then we get to select what we want to bring to any given situation.
When we went to Antarctica, we brought long and wide lenses, and 3 camera bodies so we did not have to change lenses in damp or wet conditions. When we went to Buenos Aires we were very concerned about safety of our equipment so we brought a compact camera, a Canon G9. Some of the shots on this post in Buenos Aires were shot on a G9.
To WANT to shoot while on the expedition
This may seem silly, but I think you need the spark, the glint in the eye, the passion to want to take photographs. For me, I feel like this most of the time. I don’t take pictures all the time, but I want to. I’m always looking for opportunities, wondering if we waited in a given place for sunset would it give me the image I can see in my mind. I don’t mind setting the alarm for an hour before dawn so that I can be where I need to be for sunrise. When that becomes a chore I take a break for a few days, and then the passion comes back.
I often look on google earth to see what images other photographers have taken in the areas we’re going to. I do not want to copy them, but rather I like to figure out what lenses to bring on a hike as I cannot bring everything with me all the time. Looking at images from a given area lets me pre-visualise what shots I am going after, and then I can prepare for these shots and once I’ve prepared, I WANT to go get these shots.
Ambling about with a mid range lens will give me some nice results, but the shots I love the best are often the more extreme ones, taken with very wide or very long lenses. This may be because not everyone will bring the same lenses as I will to different places.
To share and publish the photographs in some way
This one is easy. Get your images out there. depending on what your trip is for, this can be different. If you are the luckiest person on earth, and someone is paying you for your images, then they decide what’s happening to them. Other than that use a blog, use flickr, use google+. Whatever you feel comfortable with. We have put a few of our travel images on flickr, and it does show the images more clearly than FB I think. The most important thing is to share them in a way that people who are interested in what you are doing can get to see them. If they would like to buy some prints, that’s super but that’s a subject for a future post.
you can also see our blog post on how we manage our overlanding photos,