If I were a more professional photographer, my travels would be very different.
I don’t do much more research before, scoping out the best ends to take the shots I wanted. I’d wake up before sunrise on a regular basis (the horror !) and plan my days around the sunsets. And in matter of bad weather and bad light, I’d be completely sidelines, unless there was something inside I would want to photographer.
I’d be prepared to spend long stretches of time simply waiting for conditions to be perfect before pressing the shutter.
Making a living as a full-time travel blogger is hard enough; making a living as a travel photographer is arguably even more difficult and requires more hustle. And like I’ve said about freelance writing in the past, I hustle enough already that I don’t want to add hustling in another industry to my agenda.
That, and there is the fact that you just have a bad chance for photography.
Sometimes the light is bad. The weather is bad. You have a limited time. Or the place you intended to photographer is a lot more of a challenge than you thought it would be.
To my dismay, all four of those things happened to me in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico.
Old San Juan is beautiful-and well worth a visit. I loved exploring the old town and you should make it a priority of your own.
But I was surprised at how difficult it was to photograph. I didn’t expect that the streets would be so narrow and that virtually all of them would have street parking. The incoming bad weather made things far worse.
And our poor, sweet guide. He was so knowledgeable and enthusiastic, but I don’t think he quite got what we were doing as bloggers and not regular tourists.
“Listen,” I would tell him, ” I’m nervous that we’re about to lose the sun. We need to get pictures of the colorful houses in Old San Juan before that storm rolls in.”
“It’s not going to rain!” he replied. “It’s just raining in the rainforest. “He gestured into the distance.
“Ok,” I told him, ” but I need to get pictures with blue sky, not those dark clouds coming in. Can we go see the colorful houses now?”
“Yes!” he announced. Then he brought us into an underground fort.
Yes, it’s a good fort; yes, it’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site. But it finished me that we were inside when we could have been taking good photos in that beautiful light! By the time we emerged, the clouds were taken over.
He assured us we were going to see the colorful houses next … and then took us to a historic but largely unphotogenic area without any houses.
I think I gritted off half my teeth that day.
We did find the colorful houses eventually. But by that point, the sky was so dark that it made the colors come out much worse. I tried my best to save them; I’m not happy with the results.
Honestly, I hate most of the photos I took this day. Not only were the conditions bad, but I also felt like I was so off my game. I’m usually much better than this.
It just goes to show-not every travel experience will be a home run. No matter how well you think you’ll enjoy an activity, no matter how meticulously you plan in advance, not everything is going to line up. Make peace with that early and often.
That said, at the end of the day I got a picture of old San Juan that I really liked.
Perhaps all I needed to do was to stop action the city and just lean in and take what it gave me. This picture has cars. He’s got a gene. But it feels more like Old San Juan than any other photo I took that day.