You cannot miss them. Icons are very easy to spot in a place as they are most likely what other visitors will be taking photos of. This would be the Eiffel Tower in Paris, Angkor Wat Temple complex of Siam Reap, the Great wall of China, interesting street signs, store names, even the hump on Quasimodo’s back.
Icons can be anything that shows the place’s unique identity. Look around, can you see something that you wouldn’t normally see in your hometown? Snap a photo of it. So that when you sift your photos through, you do not only see your self-portrait sipping umbrella drinks by the pool. Every hotel serves umbrella drinks, and every hotel has a pool…unless the pool water is pink, then that’s an icon too!
What can an icon do for your pictures anyway?
For a start, it identifies your location. Close up photos of your cheek will only reveal your…well, cheek. You are traveling and would want your photos and memories to reflect the places you’ve been visiting. If you are fond of taking a photo of yourself and yourself alone, this is an opportunity to expand, travel photography is not only about you but also the places you visit and the crazy things you do while traveling. And also, no matter how we are loved by our family, friends and fellow travelers, they will most likely appreciate our photos if they can get something out of it other than our face.
But icons need not be a structure per se. Local people, traditions, unique infrastructure…we all have an inkling of what to look for but here are some examples of icons that we often overlook that will also give our travel photos their correct ambiance.
The local costumes and look.Especially if you are traveling in places like India or somewhere in the Middle East where clothing and accessories are an intricate part of their culture. Aside from snapping photos of people sporting the local trend, it would also be interesting if you dress up. Put a shawl around you, wear the burka, put khol around your eyes, wear the multiple bangles, don a sequined top, and pose with the locals. Don’t worry, your parents will be able to pick you out from the bunch, they are genetically inclined to do so.
Signs in Foreign Languages. It can be anything from the road sign to the “silence” poster in the public library. What better way to show that you are in a foreign country than by showing a sign your friends cannot read.
Menus.Travelers often embark on a food trip, so why not? I have personally noticed that each country has their own style in their menus…and what they serve on it. Imagine my surprise when I was handed one in Hanoi and read “Dog” as a part of the specials.
Transpo.We have jeepneys in the Philippines, while Cambodia has a tuk-tuk, and while Indonesia and Vietnam both sport motorcycles, it’s still worth a shot. I’m fond of remembering a motorcycle driver in indonesia transporting a queen size bed frame…and women in Vietnam ride the motorcycle in mask, long sleeves, gloves, and a hat…They really do not want dark skin. And taxis in singapore accepts credit card…coolness See? you may never know exactly what an icon may be until it slips up on you.
Find out what the locals are up to.
Engage in Activities that you normally wouldn’t do…because it’s not available in your hometown. Fiestas? Weddings? Local Concerts? What is the local beat of the place you are visiting? Find out and be a part of it. If the place is famous for its painting classes, hover over someone painting and ask if you could try it for a second for your photo…if you can shell out money for lessons, go at it. If they are open for volunteer work, extend a hand and do a good deed.
“But I wanted something unique in my travel photos!”
Just because the mentioned icons have been photographed and its photo is printed in the postcard, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t snap a photo of your own version. You may say boooring, but hey, you will stab your eye out after having been there and having no shots to show off to your grandkids when you grow old. You never know, in the years to come by, something might happen to it, making your snapshot of the icon even more memorable.
What am I talking about?...well, remember the twin towers? nobody thought someone would crash a plane into them, we thought wrong…they are not a cliche photo, they are gone.
The challenge here is how to make your version interesting. Think of ways to make your photo interesting? Let your personality seep through you snapshot.
Try to take a photo at an interesting angle. Take a close up shot of you in the foreground with your mouth open as if you are trying to gobble up a temple. Be creative. Be crazy…It’s ok to have that stupid grin in your face…nobody knows you there.
Have you picked an icon yet? Is it funny? Is it too serious? Is it contradicting…can you even understand it? If it’s confusing, take a shot of what’s confusing you. Let your friends, as they sort out your photos sort it out for you or let them join the club. We sometimes take for granted the emotion a certain place, object, or even a sign brings us. If it deeply affects you, take a shot of it and share it.
You don’t need to take the photo yourself if you are going to be in it. Well, self-timers might be of help, but harassing a stranger to take your photo will definitely add to the story behind your shot. And while you are at it, hug a temple god.
Details count. Yes, take a wide angle shot, but don’t take little details for granted. The little packets of sugar in your coffee, the unique sandals people are wearing, the intricate design in your hotel room…details, details, details always count.
Traveling is fun, so make sure you have some in taking photos and in having your photos taken.
If you have some interesting photos and other suggestions, post it in the comments section and share it with us ^.^