Friday, October 30, 2009

A guide to taking travel photos. Don't.

I love both to travel and to talk about travelling. It interests me; the places people have been, why they went there, what they saw and what they ate and who they met and what they did. I love to ask questions and find out the best and worst bits of people’s trip. It’s fascinating.

Right up until the point where they pull out the photo album. Then my eyes glaze over and my brain goes into sleep mode as I prepare to be bored silly.

I blame digital cameras. Back in the good old days when people accepted travellers' diarrhoea as a normal part of travel (for God’s sake, just drink fluids and stop WHINING) and cameras had films and cost lots of money to develop, people took less photos. Instead of twelve pictures of the same sunset, they took one really nice one. You didn’t get endless shots from the train window and the plane window and the inside of the local police station, it cost too much to develop.

But thanks to the advents of digital bloody cameras, people feel unfettered in the amount of shots they can take and bore you to tears with on their return. A quick check of my camera reveals it can hold over 1,500 photos. That’s a few hours of your life you will never get back if I decide to bore you.

Reckon you’re not a bore or need to classify a bore? There are lots of different types, divided by intent and favoured photo type, but united in their wish to drivel at you about their pictures until your neck is sore from nodding and your eyeballs have atrophied in your skull.

There’s the scenery bore, usually a single traveller who takes endless shots of the landscape and shots of themselves standing in front of the landscape, safe in the knowledge that their precious holiday pictures are unsoiled by any sign of social interaction.

“This, this is a shot of a waterfall. It was very pretty. You can see them, um, waterfall right there. And this is a shot of the same waterfall from a different spot. This is a close up. This is the waterfall from the first spot with me standing in front of it. Oh look, me again, I always take two shots in case I have my eyes closed when the timer goes. No wait, I take three. Look, there I am. Oh, and a waterfall. And here’s that waterfall again. Will you just look at all that water? Just stunning.”

There’s the opposite, the social bore, who not only talks you through two hundred shots of people you have never and will never meet, but tells you in detail about them.

“We met this couple, Sheila and Barney, at the taxi rank in the airport. Sheila is a retired school teacher and Barney flamb├ęs squid in Ohio. She was wearing this hat, I’ll never forget it, it was red and we asked why it was so red and do you know, she said she just liked the colour red and she knit it herself. Imagine that. Red. Hilarious couple. Now, this, this was the cab-driver...”

Or the amnesiac couple who need to agree on the inconsequential details of what each shot is.

“Oh this, this is that temple – John, was this the temple with the statues? It was? – We went to this temple on the – John, was it the third or the fifth day? No, no I think it was the fifth. You had that food poisoning, remember? You were all runny bottom and had to stay near the loo. I told you not to eat the salad. – We went on the fifth day. Look, you can see a statue.”

Be especially of careful amazing facts man. It may look as though he has very few photos, but he can talk for days on each.

“Now this, this is interesting. This particular beach you are looking at is the northernmost mid-to-light grain yellow sanded beach in the South Eastern region. Some people say that that title should go to another beach down the road, but that you see has a distinctly different type of sand, mid-mid-light grain yellow, which some people get confused with the far more scenic mid-to-light grain yellow. I don’t know why, it’s very easy to tell the difference when you measure the grains.”

If you really, really feel you need to share your photos with people, pick the twenty best ones. And stick with that. Yes, I know you have forty shots of sunrise on day one alone. No, they’re not as good as you think. After the first one, they all look the same.

Those fantastic streetscape shots you love look like a blurry, badly composed mess. Mountains all look the same after the first two pictures. We’ve all seen the English policemen, funny hats and all, enough times. Ancient ruins all look similar after the first few. The sea always looks the same, always. Those shots you took of you by raising the camera over your head make you look like a sad loser without even the social skills to persuade someone else to take a photo for you. Put the fecking camera DOWN and go DO something.

I’d rather hear the story than see the picture. And if the story is good enough, you might be able to persuade someone else to take the photos while you have fun.

Just try to make sure that it’s not the police.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Is £200 enough to travel like Richard Branson for year?

Speaking as someone with travelling ambition of Richard Branson but the budget of a ham sandwich, Simonseeks.com is a really good travel resource; real people write real reviews of places and activities and then earn cash if people take them up on their suggestions.

What makes it good is that it has a more exciting and budget approach to visiting places from people who visited the cities, rather than the usual “this hotel let me sray free for a review and I liked it”. If you are planning a trip, I’d recommend researching it here. It’s particularly good for city breaks and for finding points of interest in places that are a little further off the well trodden tracks advised in the guidebooks.

My recent offering to them was a budget guide to romancing in Sydney. And they liked it so much that it won a prize. A prize of two hundred dollars sterling. Which may not allow me to fly RockStar class with Virgin Atlantic or purchase my own Virgin Island, but will allow me to take up some of my own cheap date suggestions.

Curious what they are? Have a look below...

For many couples, Sydney is the highlight of a round-the-world trip, but it can sometimes feel more arduous than amorous. Shared dorms and penny-pinching can take the shine off your shared adventure. However, the Harbour City doesn’t have to be Heartbreak City - here are a few ideas that will tug on the heartstrings instead of the wallet.

A romantic cruise for under $20
A luxury dinner and lie-down movie for under $60
A night in a mountain retreat for under $200