This article was written for Terrascape, a travel magazine where I write a monthly column on photography.
For most travellers, it is a natural tendency to look for popular and well-known subjects when it comes to photography. So, when we travel to a beach-side holiday destination, we aim our cameras at the colourful sunset over the sea. In a town known for its rich heritage, we are likely to come back with photographs of famous monuments. The list can go on to subjects like waterfalls, mountain peaks, etc. But have you ever thought about photographing that small tea-shop next to your viewpoint? Or did you ever try exploring traditional occupations of people at a destination with your camera? Such digressions can often help you discover an unseen beauty that is not mobbed by every person with a camera.
The best way to explore such less-known options is to allow yourself ample time and take a walk with your camera in a new place. It helps, if you have already done some research on the place and have some idea on what to expect. Some of the best sources of such information can be other photographers or travel journalists who may have visited the location in the past.
Personally, one major subject that fascinates me is crafts and workmanship from a region. The more complicated these are, the more appealing they are likely to be for the camera. For instance, I was spending a few days travelling around Thiruvananthapuram and photographing its locales for a story. In my first visit to the city, I went around Kovalam Beach and Padmanabhaswamy Temple– the well-known places to see. The next time, I spent some more time researching for interesting locales, and found a fishing town and a colony of traditional handloom weavers just south of town. These places not only showed me interesting faces of the city, it helped me make images that not every photographer will come back with.
Another instance I recollect is from Nandi Hills, a picnic place near Bangalore. Most photographers go to Nandi to capture the landscape or birds in the area. But not far from this favourite picnic destination of Bangaloreans is a village that offers many unusual photography opportunities. One such place was a cottage industry, where half-a-dozen women worked extracting yarn from silkworm cocoons. It was an unusual place where rusted wheels were turned by a sooty motor, which accumulated shiny fiber of silk extracted from the cocoons.
Very often, such crafts are limited and specific to a locale that you may not find everywhere. And you will always find something interesting no matter you go. For example, you may find people making kites in the lanes behind Taj Mahal in Agra. Just outside Jaipur city is a well-established business of making hand made paper. Seek such occupations that make excellent digressions from the main scenes that attract everyone’s attention.