Over the boundaries of your imagination
What’s a photography expedition? How to plan and be ready for a great adventure and not to miss the great shot.
Many people are truly fascinated about photo expeditions, in particular when I speak about my experiences in the wildnerness of Africa, the union of the 2 words: “photo & safari” awakens people’s imagination. But what you really should know before planning your photo expedition?
In this article I provide a compendium, based on my personal and professional experience about photography expeditions.
LONG STORY SHORT…
Since my first solo travel to Africa I always been wondering about the wildest of the wild and its simple rural life.
I’ve landed in a small country called Malawi the first time with a very little knowledge about overland experiences and my english indeed was awful. I’ve ran a small volunteer project teaching photography to locals. In my group I had teenagers and adults as well, looking to learn new skills, able to open up possibilities for their future. In a reality where the present moment is the only way to survive. I had a lot of fun with my students while they were making fun of my english, my “the italian-english”! But I was truly impressed by their professional approach to my lessons: interested, courious, genuine.
The time goes by and I’m still in touch with some of the guys. And in particular I’m very proud of Vitu: Vitu has launched his photo and video business in his country. I had to admit that being proud of Vitu means in a way, being proud of myself and of my work.
I’ve carried on travelling in the south east of Africa, exploring other countries and getting to know different cultures, languages (do you know that in Africa are spoken more than 2000 languages?!), and what captures the most my attention: tribes and wildlife. You can call it “the real world” after you experience it. I was hungry and still I am of getting to know the unknown, so I’ve pushed myself further and further, through unbeaten paths to remote destinations.
I’ve learnt, I’ve shared and I’ve realised that my images have an impact on the “occidental viewer”. He starts questioning his own life and his own securities, as well as understanding some political, social and environmental issues that are effecting our planet. So I’ve decided to put all of myself in what I believe in, to make my small difference creating a better future.
There is a story that lies before you between the distant horizon and yourself, a story waiting for you, waiting to be captured and shared. Travelling and discovering is a complete experience. So far, so close to our daily lives.
Photography can empower local communities and inform about our world which is the first step for taking an action in order to build a better tomorrow. It’s our planet guys!
From the monumental mountain ranges that punched through the ground beneath your feet that block out the sun and cast shadows on the land before them, enticing you to come closer with their unfathomable gaze. To the people, places and faces of those that make up their communities, more than happy to live the simple life where a warm heartfelt smile is always on offer. A moment captured in these places is infinite in your hands.
WHAT’S EXACTLY A PHOTOGRAPHY EXPEDITION?
Travel photography nowadays is considered a genre of photography which involves “the documentation of an area’s landscape, people, cultures, customs and history”.
Personally I think it’s more about the attitude as it has a wide range of subjects and it can involve different genres and styles. A completely different reality can be captured by our lens in terms of wildlife, breathtaking landscape in a journey that involves indigenous contact and exchange.
The purpose of a photo expedition is going back home with great and representative pictures of the journey. Anyone can keep a different approach but the general process it’s about researching, documenting in order to share the final result. The project can keep the focus open to represent the whole country, including traditions, landscapes, wildlife or being very specific. Any photographer has his own favourite subjects and a photo expedition should enhance the personal style of each, pushing over the physical and technical limits.
A real photography expedition can bring the photographer out in the wild for entire months (at times years!) With his equipment, tent and camping life. From my personal point of view this is one of the deepest connection that a traveller can reach with a place.
Not everyone is keen or able to sustain that kind of journey, for such long time, made of sweat, training, where every daily action becomes a little mission: from showering to eating when you don’t have any water or you need to collect woods, make a fire to make your meals. This kind of photography journey requires to be flexible and adaptable to the weather, the enviroinment and the overall situation.
AlterNative offers full immersion experiences, tailor made to help the partecipants capturing exceptional images of wildlife and landscapes, where each trip is usually ran by a highly trained naturalist expedition leader plus a professional photographer.
Each tour it’s unique, by varying living conditions, accommodation and transferts; from comfortable and easy access to adventurous camping and heavy 4×4 off-road drives and hiking. The common factor is always the access to remote and unique places for unforgettable travel photographs.
WHAT YOU SHOULD NOT FORGET FOR YOUR PHOTOGRAPHY EXPEDITION:
In any circustance you have to bring and pack your own equipment. Think about the result you want to achieve and the kind of pictures you’re looking for. Choose and pack everything carefully and find the way the best fits you and your needs to carry your equipment around. When you are out there in the wild, you have to move tour backpack and pitch up your tent it’s better to carry the essential and most versatile equipment. Remember to bring extra SD cards and batteries ’cause probably where you are going to land it’s not going to be easy to buy it. One of my most common assets is to bring a 24-70mm, versatile lens, which gives to me enough range for portraits and landscapes, a 70-300 mm, which I absolutely love for disrete portaits and wildlife approachs. And/or a 35 mm or 50 mm fixed focal length lens.
PROPER LUGGAGE AND PACKING:
The kind of luggage you are going to choose and the way you’ll pack your stuff can drastically change your experience abroad. If you’ll take cautious decisions moving around will be more comfortable. Travel as lighter as you can without forgetting the essentials. Put down a list of the think you need and those you might need. Put everything on your bed. Take off all the unnecessasy, then wrap it up everything. And wrap it up everything again, if needed. Never wait the last second to pack your stuff if you’re not experienced to live this process as an automation.
PROPER CLOTHES AND SHOES:
The place you are going to requires a specific kind of clothes, minimal in some cases, technical in others. Be informed and be prepared about the new climate you’re going to face. Consider your shoes very carefully and if you are buy a new pair wear it several times before your departure. A very light pair of flip flop are one of my must: good for showering, to stay comfy and to let my feet breathing after a long day in the wild. Depending on the destination and the way of travelling you will opt for 1 or 2 pairs of pretty technical and practical shoes.
CAMPING EQUIPMENT AND SUPPLIES:
going to face a certain situation, depending mainly on your destination and time, you’ll need to be prepared. Are you going to sleep in a tent for the whole journey? Do you have to carry it (plus backpack, plus photo equipment, plus personal stuff)? Is it heavy? Is it big? Are you going for an overland journey, stopping in hotels for the night? That requires a different approach. Be practical and be consistent while packing your backpack. You’ll probably will miss something anyway!
VISA, PASSPORT AND DOCUMENTS:
This is one of the earliest stage you should get into while planning a photo expedition. Get information about the visa for your nationality passport and do all the necessary steps in time. Double check everything. Then double check it again.
While you get your papers done you also should get info about the place you’re going to. Does it require any specific vaccination? Check your medical situation and procede in the right time.
Consider to stipulate a travel medical insurance. At first it might seems a waste of money ’cause “nothing is going to happens”. Unfortunately the reality that I feel to share it’s that: It can really save your money later and eventually your life.
CONTACTS IN CASE OF EMERGENCY:
Just see above.
APPS, MAPS AND SUCH:
Before your departure consider dowloading off line maps of the area you are going to and check if some app may be helpful.
(Suggestions: money rates converter, your airline’s app and why not an offline camera setting app?)
HOW MUCH DOES A PHOTO EXPEDITION COST?
As I’m going to explain soon, a photo expedition isn’t a standard way of travelling:the destination, the kind of accomodation and transport choosen and any additional plus will considerably affect the final price.
We aren’t talking about the cheapest option for your holiday: considering a remote area to reach, a proper photo equipment, a professional photographer as a guide and usually, at least, an assistant and/or local guide. This is just the background ’cause nowadays tour operators are offering solutions based on different budgets and experiences. If you choose to plan, book and travel on your own this will bring you on different kind of decisions.
Answering briefly: how much it costs a photo expedition, it’s a matter of how you want to live your experience.
For example, in many African national parks and protected areas are now avalaible luxury options based on what’s usually called a “safari lodge” package. So you can choose between basic “camp safari” or much more expensive options.
It’s possible to find cheap and short experiences starting from less than 1000 €, while I wouldn’t talk about a maximum limit as it really depends on which kind of journey you are going to take.
At AlterNative we carefully consider our clients’s budget and requirements before making a proposal about a tailor made or group experience. I would reccomend anyone to rely on an expert and advisable travel agent or operator in order to plan and book a photo expedition.
Let’s see in detail
DIFFERENT KIND OF PHOTOGRAPHY EXPEDITIONS:
This is just a partial list and absolutely personal. An official classifications of the different typologies of photography expeditions is never been published. My intent is to clearify your ideas about the different options avalaible so you can take the best choices while planning the trip of your lifetime!
CRUISE PHOTO EXPEDITIONS:
This type of photo expedition usually refers to places that are hardly reacheble in a different way. It’s the only way to explore the Antartica, the Artic, some remote islands. This kind of experience usually has an high range of price but it’s the only option for some dream destinations. There are few tour operators working in these extreme part of the globe.
Safari in swahili means “travel”, “journey” but the term is usually associated to african adventures with wildlife spotting. It’s possible to plan and travel on your own but indeed requires a lot of research, knowledge, adaptability and problem solving attitude. Consider to rent a 4×4 vehicle to move inside of the national parks and some other off the beaten paths areas. If you aren’t an experienced traveller I’d suggest to opt for a tour operator option. AlterNative works with very professional and prepared people in location and abroad to
garantee the safest and most pleasant experience. A good, knowledgeable guide can determine your experience: when someone is able to spot, talk and respect the enviroinment and wildlife this will make your day.
It can be an organized group, there are tour operators working in these field. Or you can travel with your own (or rented) vehicle. The first option is far less wild but it will give you the chance to socialise, sit back and relax without thinking about any form of organization. Running an overland jouney on the other hand means planning, researching, documenting pre-departure and considering all the factors, very well.
That’s for you men! The little wonderer who lives inside of you, looking for the real adventure out there in the world. You know how to
travel and you know how to look for
information so just scratch your hitchy body and go to feel the outside. Go and live the present moment!
WILD PHOTO EXPEDITIONS:
I wanted to generalise. I want to include in this category all the wild experiences that will bring you out in the wild. Whatever your inspiration is, wildlife in a polar region or tribes in
a tropical island. They can be both organised by a travel agent or tour operator or by yourself. If the first explain well what you want to do, what’s your level of photography and
general physical training, put out there your dreams but don’t forget to talk about your needs. Your consultant should be able to put you in the right direction with an experience
that fits you. In case you’ll travel on your own: Plan, reseach, open your mind and train yourself. Anyway you’ll never be enough prepared and that what’s going to teach you something new.
FOLLOWING YOUR FAVOURITE PRO-PHOTOGRAPHER:
This is in case you like a certain pro photographer style or you just like his/her approach to the genre. You can check if they have any photography workshop in calendar or they run photography expedition or any other kind of photo experience. Get info, book! It will be a great experience for you to work on a daily basis with a professional that you admire. You’ll go back home full of inspiration, information and knowledge plus the story of your travel experience in bautiful photographs!
Another important variable it’s given by your genre of photography and/or your interests. The genres that better fit with the photography expedition intention are:
Documentary photography and reportages
If you can be flexible enough to base your itinerary, times, transports, accomodations and overall organization, on the photography you want to take you’ll not miss the capture you are looking for.
Personally I like keeping my possibilities open even though, I’m mainly seeking for wildlife and documentary photography.
You never know what you are going to see next and what’s going to happens right in front of your eyes. My suggestion is to keep your camera ready at any time. Doing this consider that in some places with high poor rates a camera and a white person are attractions themselves. Be prepared to have many eyes on you, children following you and, yes, asking for some cash. Be kind, be courteous and not afraid of communicating: this is one of the best part of living a journey!
ALTERNATIVE PHOTO EXPEDITIONS
AlterNative takes you to the places that far and wide explore the unlit shadows, where moments unfold before you.
Working with our network of professionals worldwide is an experience itself. Every day are coming straight to my laptop stories, ideas and background from very different corners of the world. Each of them brings life to our ambitious project, showing the beauty of his own country. Local culture can be seen from the local point of view, getting as far as you could never reach by yourself.
professional photography guide is there for you every step of the way. We welcome all photographers from beginners to advanced. You come into this tour with a small group of people so that everyone is given the individual attention that they desire. It’s the place to learn the camera techniques, how to watch and shoot nature, people and wildlife and how to relate and differentiate between the theory and practic ewhilst embracing the travel life, giving you the opportunity to mix, to exchange and share knowledge, to teach and to learn with those that share the same passion.
Everything, after all is felt in a very strong and deep way. I swear, you should try that. Once in life, if you have that feeling of wonderer, who wants to sit back and breath a strong peace of life.
Our expeditions are not a single moment in time but a way to put yourself in the right state of mind and to acquire invaluable knowledge to continue these amazing experiences. Photography captures moments in life. In particular, travel photography, expressing the feeling of a time and place, involves documentation of an area’s landscape, people, culture and history. For this reason it embodies our values of responsible tourism based on learning, teaching and sharing.
Last but not the least you could also participate in our contests to see your shots posted on our media and participate to our photography exhibitions!