How Photography Helps Me to Travel Slow

Walking through Le Marais in Paris

It’s been about two and a half years since I bought my camera and my love affair with it has grown into fully-fledged adoration. The more I’ve seen of the world, the more I’ve been eager to expand my knowledge about how it works so I can step up my travel photography game, but what I wasn’t expecting is how it’s made me slow down when I’m on the road.

The thing with travel is often you can be overwhelmed with how much there is to see, and the desire to capture it all perfectly sometimes takes a back seat to frantically snapping at everything and hoping for the best. I’ve been reading a lot recently about the idea of ‘slow travel’; my friend Jasmin has chosen the adjective as her word of the year, and companies like Inntravel* specifically cater holidays in Europe for you to walk and truly explore a country.

When you really slow down, whether it’s to adjust your exposure or change a lens, I guarantee you’ll see so much more:

You’ll stop being part of the crowd

Man fishing by the river in Budapest

Not just in the sense that you’ll get a photo that nobody else gets, but you’ll feel more like an individual watching the crowd and letting it move around you, rather than being swept up in it. That goes for tour groups too; lag behind a little and take a moment to see what others might have missed.

Look up

Shutters in Montmartre

And look down, for that matter. At street level, you might miss beautiful rooftops high above the dilapidated buildings of Bucharest or shutters like the ones sheltering the windows in Montmartre, Paris. Looking down, you might catch an ornate drain cover, which decorate the streets of every Japanese town, or maybe even an adorable dog, if you’re lucky!

Dog on a lead

Japanese drain cover

Appreciating people as well as buildings and scenery

Reading magazines in Chengdu

You have to be careful when it comes to taking photos of strangers, of course, but even just stopping a while to look at them is a new experience when you’re used to rushing from place to place. Some of my favourite travel moments have been centred around people: the man in a pub in Glengarriff, Ireland, who offered to take us out on his fishing boat to see a seal colony; the gathering of newspaper readers in Chengdu, China who were taking a moment out of the madness; and the three kids waiting for their mum outside Imbi Market in Kuala Lumpur.

Children outside Imbi Market in Kuala Lumpur

Spotting something I hadn’t initially seen

Rogue one taxi balloons street art in Glasgow

This is especially true when you go back to places you’ve been before, but slowing down is like letting your eyes adjust in the dark; gradually everything gets a little clearer. My obsession with street art makes me have a super sensor for small alleys and hidden corners where I can find unexpected pieces on the walls.

Flamingo street art in Paris

Really taking it all in

The Bund, Luxembourg

To explore on foot, to walk around a place and to just stop for a moment, even in a busy place allows you to soak up an atmosphere. By really acknowledging the smells and sounds of a place, I can capture the sights too. I’ll actually take the time to consider what photo I should take, re-adjust my settings and just slow down.

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