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Sunday, August 10, 2008

Point and shoot: is a spoiled photo opportunity a spoiled vacation?

By Terry Carter*
When we were last in Beijing a few summers ago and were visiting the star sights, including the Great Wall of China, the air was filled with a thick grey-brown smog, making decent photos impossible. But we still had a great time. In Italy recently, it also seemed like every significant sight in every city was covered in scaffolding, again making good photos impossible. It became a running joke between Lara and I that to find the
duomo (a town's central cathedral, usually situated in the main square) we just had to look for a crane, scaffolding, or men-at-work signs. When you’ve been commissioned to shoot photographs of these sights it becomes more than a little frustrating. Instead of sending the book editors beautifully framed images of important attractions, we’re going to be sending way too many small detailed shots, to get around the scaffolding. Or sending snapshots from Lara's point-and-shoot camera to show the construction carnage with a suggestion that the editors procure a stock image for the sight if they want a wide-shot. As travellers (rather than travel writers), while we love doing the sights, we’re much more interested in exploring fascinating local neighbourhoods, seeking out bespoke shops and local artisans, and visiting restaurants that serve authentic regional foods and wines. But how does it affect your trip? What if you went to Paris and the Eiffel Tower was covered in scaffolding? Or Big Ben was having its clocks repaired? Or the Leaning Tower of Pisa was being propped up by engineering teams? How much does seeing - and photographing - the key sights matter to your travel experience? Do these things simply spoil your photo opportunity or can they spoil your trip? While holding the Olympics in Beijing during its smoggy summer period didn't seem to bother the International Olympic Committee, would you change your schedule if you knew a city's star attraction was invisible or out of order? We'd love to hear your thoughts.

*Terry is my husband, co-writer and a professional travel photographer.


Heather said...

If the attraction WAS the reason for my travels, I would change my ininerary. I suppose the Terracotta Soldiers would be an example of attraction being reason for travels.Even if you find out that an attraction is scaffolding free, there is always the random 'industrial action' that closes some sights. I have been to Athens 4 times and each time the Acropolis was closed by striking workers....Someday.....

Lara Dunston said...

Hi Heather - thanks for commenting! Yes, I agree the Terracotta Soldiers would be a schedule-changer for me too. I've had the same experience in Athens, but it's affected my flights only. I got to visit the Acropolis on three occasions - but, alas, each time it too was covered in scaffolding!