Author and Photographer: Mark Edward Harris (lives in Southern California)
Publisher: Routledge (Taylor & Francis Group), New York, NY (USA) and Abingdon (UK); © 2018
Paperback, 260 pages, 174 illustrations, 11 chapters
Review by J. K. Lanyi
This newly published book on travel photography by Mark Edward Harris is a must-read, and not only for travel photographers. What is travel photography, after all? As Harris emphasizes throughout his book, travel photography is not just creating a record of where you have been, what you have seen, to serve the purposes of creating a record, and entertaining your friends. It connects to all of photography. Focus not on yourself being on a trip but on the places, people, and their unique qualities that sets them apart, and an appealing visual narrative will emerge. It might even be Art, perhaps worthy of publication. The author’s generous sampling of his own work on the pages of the book illustrates (dare I say it?) how far one might go.
Harris says, know why you are doing what you are doing. That means not only mastering the technical matters (which are extensively covered), but also doing research and thinking ahead, making plans. You will land running on arrival; there is no substitute for being prepared. Spending time on location and getting to know it first might be best, but may be unrealistic. The author describes how his photo assignments of a few days, packed with short stays on each planned site, have generated prize-winning photographs. We gain rare insights into a professional photographer’s work methods and the background of his numerous admired photo assays.
An abundance of great photographs by the author, with his technical “how-to secrets” revealed: fill-in flash, correcting color temperature, lock-up of mirror in the SLR camera before exposure, choice of lens and exposure, depth of field, choice of neutral density and polarizing filters, and many more. I was surprised that that this travel photographer nearly always uses a tripod, although it is understandable as he admits to a strong preference to tack-sharp images. A very lengthy and particularly exhaustive introduction is given to flash, blitz, diffusers, color temperature, what lighting equipment to use for what purpose, the advantages and disadvantages of various products on the market. It sounds intimidating for a non-professional, but after reading the chapter it isn’t.
On the other hand, the thumbnail sketches of the lives of historical photographic greats do not contribute more than points of departure for those who wish to follow up on their work. But he gets you started, and Google makes it easy.
The author includes portrait photography, food photography, fashion photography, and the like, in the term “travel photography.” Almost nothing is left out that you can do with your camera, but this is good. There is at least an element of each of these in all photography, and the reader gets a side glance of how to handle the challenges they present. How to become a great travel photographer? Become a great photographer. This book helps.