Dedicated photography trips can be handled fairly informally, with one or two people selecting a scenic location and arranging to stay somewhere nearby. This works well for somewhat familiar, safer destinations, and has the advantage of total scheduling flexibility and a more relaxed shooting schedule.
After a week shooting images across Cuba with Creve Coeur Camera, and returning with over 10,000 photos, a modest sunburn, and an unfortunate craving for Mojitos, I have to say that for photographers wanting to really up their game, the immersive experience of an organized photo trip, with managed itineraries, professional instruction, and local guidance is unparalleled.The many travel frustrations and time-wasters disappear, and you are left to concentrate solely on the art and science of photography.
Advantages to organized photo trips include, well, the organization – pre-arrangement of lodging and admissions [frequently at lower group rates], meals, transportation, and fees. In unfamiliar locations, and especially in places where language barriers can complicate negotiations, not having to be concerned about unexpected fees, closed restaurants, or cancelled busses is an enormous stress-reducer. The inclusion of local guides, usually very conversant with common legal entanglements, can minimize the potential for disastrous consequences of any tourist misadventures [and yes, that is something we gave a bit of thought to in Communist Cuba].
Advantages also include the ongoing technical instruction on techniques and equipment, the enhanced safety of traveling with a group under the guidance of knowledgeable locals, access to little-known or less-crowded sites, and the camaraderie of sharing experiences with like-minded photographers.
Participating in a photo trip with professional instructors is one of the most effective ways to enhance your capabilities as a photographer and as an artist. In a single trip, sometimes in a single day, you can gain experience in a wild variety of photographic genres: street, rural landscape, seascape, night, environmental portraits, cityscapes, or sports - any of which may boot you out of your artistic comfort zone. This opportunity to shoot sparring boxers ring side, while we were literally leaning against the ropes, was something I would never have thought to avail myself of. It was an intense and fascinating experience.
Specific, individualized instruction in using your equipment in these possibly unfamiliar conditions will help you become a more well-rounded photographer, and can introduce you to intriguing new areas of specialization.
One or two photographers traveling with conspicuously valuable equipment in unfamiliar territory will need to choose shooting times and locations more conservatively than a larger group with knowledgeable local guidance. Our photo group in no way resembled Seal Team Six as we wandered the sporadically lighted streets of Old Havana at night, but we were confidant that the areas we were shooting in were judged by our tour guides to be safe for us.This opened opportunities for shooting nighttime urban scenes that would otherwise have been prudently avoided.
Local tour guides will also be familiar with less crowded attractions, those “hidden gems” that can give photographers an opportunity to document more distinctive and unusual scenes than the common, packed-in tourist traps. Our group loaded cards full of images as we walked and boated through this small cave system, watched cigars being rolled on a tobacco farm, enjoyed an excellent band while dining at a renovated private house, and visited are mote family homestead, all due to the knowledge and preparation of our group guides.
And one of the best things about experiencing a photo trip with an organized group is the friendship and camaraderie. It is just more fun to learn and create with a group of other photographers. You share knowledge and tips, good times and craziness, and build lasting friendships.
Creve Coeur Camera will offer a trip to the American West in April 2019, and I would encourage anyone who wants to have an immersive photography experience to strongly consider joining it.