Last week I was asked again whether it is not "difficult" to realise nature photography goals on journeys together with your partner – „don't you lose the photographic focus“? The answer is always easy for me. But this time I thought this is actually a topic about which I could share a few thoughts on the blog.
I think that the final article has definitely got a "message" - but it is not aimed at "normal" hobby or holiday photographers, but rather at very ambitious photographers who invest a lot of time in landscape or nature photography trips. My experiences are personal and, if at all, only partly transferable to other life situations. Nevertheless, especially for younger people, there may be one or two interesting impulses.
Where I come from
To begin with, I would like to write briefly about what has shaped me in this context: I myself have pursued two passions very excessively at times in my life: windsurfing for twenty years and now nature photography for 16 years, with a few years of overlap. At the same time, I had a handful of partnerships myself, and of course in my circle of friends I always witnessed how relationships were lived out in the context of a journey. Over the years, my view has changed a lot.
In both surfing and nature photography, adventurous projects can't be done by the hour, like in football or tennis training or in the gym, where you can train at a high level for another 1-2 hours after work if you have the urge. No, many fascinating surf and photo spots are many hours away by car or even by plane and require at least whole days or even a week.
More than twenty years ago, I often observed that the partners of "Surfers" often stayed on the beach for hours in fierce wind conditions and the fun was more on one side of the relationship. The picture is similar in nature photography: since the destination there, in contrast to surfing, is usually not warm white sandy beaches, partners and or children are often left at home altogether.
If you question this, the statement is actually always the same: "that's perfectly fine for my partner, my partner also takes her freedom in return, practically a win-win situation".
I still know windsurfers, kitesurfers and nature photographers today, especially the very ambitious ones, who spend a considerable part of their annual holiday not with their partner/family but with mates or other travellers. I'm explicitly not talking about people who travel once a year for 7-10 days away from their partner, which I still think is fine today. But I am talking about a range of at least 20-60 whole days. People like to spend more than half their annual holiday on such trips.
First of all, it's important that everyone should do it the way they want. I have been doing it myself for many years. For years, only one thing was relevant for me: after an extensive discussion, is this really OK for my partner?
How I look at it now
When I look at this today, I think about it differently. However, what I'm writing now of course only applies to relationships that are, let's say, characterised by the fact that you want to see your partner happy. And less for those where you only live together out of comfort, habit, finances or children.
Today I think that I used to have a rather self-centred attitude. I became aware of 2 things about this a few years ago:
1. If I am constantly away on weekends or longer trips without my partner, I am not there. Not there when tears flow, not there when misfortune happens and not there when fortune happens. That doesn't matter 99 times in a row because nothing spectacular ever happens in my absence, but at some point it does. It makes NO difference at all if it was "OK" for the partner and the partner is even happy for you.
2. I realised at some point that if I continue to travel without my partner, I will not share the most beautiful and adventurous moments of my life with my love at all. With the person who is most important to me. Sure, I can tell about it and the sparkle in my eyes always provided amusement - stories about metre-high waves or spectacular weather phenomena are always welcome, after all. But in the end, there is simply a difference between experiencing, smelling, tasting and feeling these moments together. The thought of having experienced the most fascinating travel moments without my partner at the end of a lifetime has turned me off.
The first thing that followed was that I was prepared to make compromises. I will probably no longer invest 4 weeks on a longer trip to ambush and photograph a Mongolian snow leopard (I would seriously like to do that and know how), to give a concrete example.
But are there a thousand fascinating destinations that my partner finds as interesting as I do? Definitely!
To take up the question from the beginning, whether it is not "difficult to do nature photography trips with my partner": No, it's not at all, it's just a huge benefit.
Yes, I have to make compromises, but with good planning I can reduce them. Of course, this presupposes one "little thing": that I have a partner with an affinity for travel and nature who shares my fascination for nature.
Now I once heard that the choice of partner can supposedly even be influenced by oneself 😅 but I'm not seriously going into that now.
What helps us to realise our travel plans
There are a few concrete things that I now pay attention to when travelling or planning trips so that a trip together doesn't turn into a photographic ego trip and the relationship has space:
First of all, I no longer go anywhere at all where I have to "persuade" someone - if my partner really wants to go, it's our destination. But since
fascinating spots for nature photography are usually also wonderful places, it's not particularly difficult to find a common denominator.
- I now make sure that we live close to the main photo spots. This means that when planning new travel locations, such as in the coming weeks, I look very carefully at where one should ideally stay and also let it cost me quite a bit. This is advantageous in both cases:
- If the partner takes photos with you, as Christina does, for example, on all our longer trips with a focus on landscape photography, you don't sit in the car for hours on end in addition to the photo time and you also have time for other topics than photography
- If the partner does not take photos with me, as is the case for the morning session now and then on Mallorca or Texel, I do not have to plan with additional driving time - I had that
a few times, which meant that I started the day punctually at breakfast together, but by the afternoon at the latest I was totally exhausted.
Good accommodation is important to me. Especially if you travel a lot together and it's not just a one-off annual highlight where you can do without
comfort for a short time. For years I liked to sleep in a tent or in the car, and Christina would do that again any time. Until I was in my late 30s, I liked to tell myself that we didn't
need comfort. In the meantime, however, my focus is no longer on what is "perfectly OK", but on what is really good for togetherness. A dry living space, a made-up, big, good bed, a cleaned,
warm bathroom and a prepared, delicious breakfast buffet are simply a huge advantage if you want to spend some quality time together. Yes, this combination is quite expensive, especially in
the Nordic countries, but even that is worth it to me. From my point of view, the only reason to do without it today would be a week-long road trip with many different locations, in which
case a camper would make sense.
We consistently avoid certain times of the year or holiday regions where a relaxed time to end the day overlaps with photography times. It simply limits
my sense of freedom if I can't do other things besides photography in the evening because of the sunrise and sunset times. For example, going out for a nice dinner. We prefer to photograph
the sunset beforehand and then go to a restaurant around 9 p.m. at the latest, which is not an issue on the upcoming trip to Norway.
For photo sessions where the motifs are exceptionally less interesting for my partner, I discuss this clearly in advance and reduce the time needed to the
ideal conditions quite consistently. For sunset scenes, for example, 60-75 minutes are always enough for the really good lighting scenes, and I don't have to take all the moderately good
lighting scenes with me.
- I go along with my partner's preferences, even if in individual cases I think other spots are better; without Christina's impulse, I wouldn't have many great pictures in my portfolio. Looking back, I'm glad that Christina convinced me to visit the Picos de Europa on our tour of Spain, for example, otherwise I would never have explored this amazing rocky landscape:
My personal conclusion
Do you have to accept compromises when travelling and photographing with your partner? I think so. Are these big? I think not! Does it also open up new photographic possibilities? I think so 😉
I've been doing very well with this for a few years now; it's a great feeling to share these beautiful moments with my partner while travelling. I don't make it a dogma, but handle it this way for 90% of my trips.
On long journeys we have intense conversations, we enjoy the cultural/culinary highlights after a photo session and are happy about the broad grin we share when the moose crosses our path again on the way home to the hotel 😃
The adventure of a photo trip is not the picture anyway, but the way there; the smell on the hike, the unexpected encounters, the beautiful view at the spot, the joy of a change in the weather. There is much that is worth sharing.
I would also like to repeat this sentence from my introduction: Certainly it is a very personal topic and only to a small extent, if at all, transferable to other life situations. Nevertheless, the next time I'm asked this question again, I'll just send this link 😅
These are my thoughts on the matter. Have a nice day!
Many greetings, Thomas