This is going to be a post entirely about photography. I suppose it’s been a long time coming; even though the whole idea behind this blog was to write, I have always considered the photographs I include here to be a big part of the stories I tell.
I walk, a lot. I also take a lot of photos. And this blog gets all the best photographs. Well, it gets a few of the not-so-great ones as well, but I’m careful to pick my favorites to showcase here. And picking the favorites means sorting through dozens and dozens of not-so-great photos. For every one great photo, there are probably 50 mediocre ones behind it. And this is how I take photos as I travel, as I walk across Spain: dozens of okay shots, and then one that’s a cut above the rest.
But I love taking the photos, the good ones and the bad ones. Pictures are so much a part of the routine of my travels, and a lot of the time, they are such a big part of the routine of my life. I’ve been holding a camera in my hands for a steady 20 years now, and somewhere along the way, I developed a photographer’s eye. This can mean a lot of things to a lot of different people but here’s what it means to me: dozens of times a day (every single day), I will pause for a fraction of a second and say to myself- “Snap.” I take mental pictures all day long, as if I were holding a camera up to my eye. I sit in an office and talk to teenagers and sometimes I notice the way they are leaning on the arm of a couch and how a gray light is coming in through the window and touching the sleeve of their shirt and the tips of their ears and I think, “Oh, this would be a beautiful photograph.”
I do this all the time. My eyes have become trained to see photographs in the world around me, I see these photographs automatically. I notice light and shade and lines and perspective and shadow and color.
So on all these travels I’ve been doing lately, I have the freedom to whip out a camera whenever I see one of these “mental” pictures. The photos move out of my mind and onto the lens of my camera and I can capture them, just about whenever I want. And how lucky to be walking through some very beautiful places, too! If a day’s walk has taken me longer than it normally does, it is probably not because of a blister or tired legs; more than not, it is because I’ve stopped to take so many photographs.
Walking a Camino in Spain or trekking through Scotland on the West Highland Way means, of course, that I’m carrying all of my things on my back. As I was planning for my first Camino, I seriously considered lugging along my old Pentax SLR and taking dozens of rolls of black and white shots along the way. I love that camera, I’ve had it since I was 15 and it was probably the most difficult packing decision I had to make, to decide to leave it behind.
What did I bring instead? My iPhone. On the Camino Frances and the Camino del Norte, I also brought along a small digital point-and-shoot that a friend let me borrow, but I rarely used it. The iPhone was just too convenient; it sat in my pocket all day long, and I could easily pull it out, swipe the screen and snap a photo all with one hand. Sometimes I didn’t even need to break my stride!
So the majority of the photos you’ve seen on this blog have been taken with an iPhone, and so far, it’s worked really well for me. But every year as I plan a new trip, I dream about the camera equipment that could be part of my pack. What if I did bring along that old SLR? What if I bought myself a brand new DSLR? What if I researched one of the mirrorless cameras I’ve been hearing so much about? And then, there’s this: cutting-edge technology that’s creating DSLR-like images from a camera the size of a small point-and-shoot. The very best of both worlds!
The camera I’m talking about comes from a company called Light, and if you’re at all interested in photography it’s worth checking out their site. This post I’m writing now, in fact, is part of their #VantagePoint project, where bloggers talk about their favorite locations to shoot and the steps they take to create their best photographs from those locations.
I have to say, I jumped at the chance to write about how I take photographs, and more than bringing awareness to the L16 camera that Light is developing (though I’m always a fan of spreading information that I care about), I’m excited to share some tips with you guys, my readers.
I thought about my favorite places to take photographs and of course my summer treks through Spain were the first things to come to mind. And more specifically, I thought about how I’ve tried to capture shots of ‘the path’. Here is one of my very favorite photos:
I adore this photo. And I never would have captured it if I didn’t take the time to stop walking, turn around, and look behind me. So this is one of my best tips, actually, when taking photographs: don’t forget to look behind you. Don’t forget to look up or down, either, swing to your right and to your left, turn in circles and keep your eyes opened.
On this particular morning, I was walking through the mountains on the Camino Primitivo, a route that runs through the north of Spain. The morning was a little misty and foggy, a thin layer of dew coated the grass. The air was soft and cool but I could feel the rising sun warming my back and I think it was when I could feel the sun’s warmth that I decided to turn around. The sun was like a fireball in the sky, a giant orb that glowed and burned. I’m sure this was the effect of the clouds and the fog, maybe how the sun was rising over the top of a mountain in the distance. But whatever was happening seemed magical.
I didn’t know if I would be able to get a good photo of it all, however. You know how sometimes you see a beautiful moon in the sky, or a rainbow, or an incredible sunset and you know that no matter what you do, the photo won’t be as good as what you’re seeing with your eye? I worried that this was the case.
I took a string of photographs anyway, to see what I could do. It’s tricky, shooting into the sun, but in this case the fog and the tree were obscuring the sunlight enough that it worked. And lets talk about that tree. I moved down the path, away from the tree, until it was positioned just right in my frame. I took a few steps to the side and then I crouched down until the tree was in the distance, the lines of the fence glinted in the light and I had just enough blue sky for balance. I didn’t want the tree in the exact center of the frame although I suppose that could have worked; but instead, I used both the tree and the glowing sun as my center point.
This was my #VantagePoint. The steps to getting this photograph were, all in all, fairly simple. Keep your eyes open. Turn around and look behind you. Try out different angles and positions. Take several photographs until you get one that works.
I can’t wait to keep traveling and to keep taking photographs. On one of these trips, I may add a new camera and see if I can get even better shots (I have so much to learn) or maybe I’ll just keep using an iPhone but in either case, I know that I’ll continue to take pictures. Lots and lots of pictures.
What kind of camera do you use on your travels? Would you add the L16 to your wishlist? Do you have a favorite place to take photographs?
Elissa | Sometimes She Travels says
Beautiful photos! Have you been using the Light camera?
Sadly, no… but hopefully one day! (right now, all my extra $$ goes towards my travel fund, as I’m sure you understand…)
Jeffrey Everets says
This looks very interesting Nadine. As someone who does carry a full DSLR all over the place when travelling it would be great to try something so small but just as powerful.
I agree, I’m so curious what a small but powerful camera would be like for my travels!!
Jeffrey Everets says
Reblogged this on Oh What A Journey and commented:
A good photography post from a fellow Camino Traveller. Be sure to follow the links to the site about “Light”. It definitely something I’m going to look into.
Scott Robinette says
All iPhone for me, especially when backpacking.
Photo-intensive Camino blog: http://jsrobinette.tumblr.com/post/128791708645/into-the-pyrenees-tomorrow
Subsequent round-the-world blog: roundtheworld60.wordpress.com
Mary Thoms says
Hi Nadine. ….I have enjoyed your travel blog, your writing is wounderful.
I have walked eight Spanish Caminos, France Caminos and three Coast to Coast in England, and many more places.
I go on a three month vacation every year to Europe.
Long distance walking gets under your skin.
Like your self, I take a lot of photos.
I use a small camera, Samsung WB350F then a Samsung Tablet to put the best of that days adventure. Light and great results.
Weight, weight and weight ……keep it light, you know the drill.
There is so many nice camera’s out on the market…..have fun finding the one you like.
All ways keep mud on your boots from the last walk. Good memories come with that.
Albright Lavender Farm
Hi Mary, thank you so much for this lovely comment! 8 Caminos… wow! I have some catching up to do! 😉 I agree with you completely: long distance walking DOES get under my skin (and I just loved what you said about always keeping mud on your boots from the last walk. This is going to be some advice I try to live by). What is the next walk you’re planning?
Hi Nadine……I have sold my farm that has been in my family since 1860, progress everyone tells me, so condos are going in and I have moved to a dirt road, fields, two ponds and a woods.
I will start building in February and replant my lavender fields this spring.
The builder said “you can’t go away for three months” Decisions have to be made.
So…I am staying home for 2017.
2018 will be the walk from England to Roma.
I leave early March and get back in early June.
I have been to all these countries…this path is well marked with a good infrastructure, so it’s calling my name again.
This past year, 2016 I walked from Lisbon to Santiago and spending two weeks along the Coast Of Death at all my favorite haunts.
Lisbon to Santiago was my least favorite Camino.
Nice parts and very sad parts.
The North Camino to much road walking, Primvativo was lovely.
Try the Via De la Plata, very nice. Start that one in early March…heat.
My pack is ready to go, I just have to build a house and plant some lavender.
Hi Nadine. I’ve always admired your photos. You definitely have a very keen eye, and what you turn out with your iPhone is legendary.
What even the best cellphone camera lacks is a longer zoom, for things like storks in their nests, etc.
In answer to your questions:
1. I’ve used a variety of cameras on my hikes. My overall favourite has been the Sony WX350 – tiny with a decent long zoom. It fitted easily in a belt mounted camera pouch. It is a direct comptetitor to the Samsung WB350F, mentioned by Mary Thoms.
Sadly it got soaked through on a hike last year. The replacement is the HX90V, better in many ways but double the weight. It has been ok on local walks but has yet to prove itself on a long distance trek.
2. Yes, the L16 has joined my wish list. I’m gadget man personified.
3. I think you know the answer!
Ooh, good camera tips here! The iphone has worked so well for me, but I’m itching to start experimenting with other cameras… (and yes, there have been many times I wish I had a good zoom lens on my camera!)
Michael Gmirkin says
Some pretty interesting shots… Thanks for sharing! Always good to get some new perspectives on shooting.
For anyone interested in learning more about the Light L16, I think these are some of the best videos / interviews I’ve unearthed to date:
And for keeping up with the latest discussions / rumors / finds, or just chatting about hopes & dreams for the thing: