My first experience as a documentary journalist was for a non profit organization in Ecuador. The experience was breathtaking. Beautiful people. Gorgeous landscape. Diverse cities. The interest and variety seemed to take me by the hand and pull me along every single day of the assignment.
I spent three weeks all over the country; from dangerous suburbs to tourist towns. One day in particular I learned an interesting lesson about being a travel photographer.
I was hunting around the city for an authentic Ecuadorian journal to bring back home with me. One tourist and another photojournalist accompanied me. We hunted 3 hours and couldn’t find a journal. We did however, find out that there was a group of Ecuadorian men following us. A young girl had overheard them talking on a street corner. They had planned to follow us to a certain street, stop us, take our gear, and rob us.
The story sounds far more adventurous than it’s outcome. In the end, we simply went back up to the main square and met up with a few additional travelers. The tips I brought back did last me a lot longer than a journal:
Travel with insurance on your equipment: You never know when your equipment might get stolen.
Travel with a buddy: Especially in third world countries, there’s always chance of a photographer getting jumped.
Watch your surroundings: it’s important to stay alert when traveling to third world foregin countries. Watch what is happening around you. Don’t get lost in your own thoughts. Be aware.
Be confident and blend in: You can tell the difference between a well seasoned travelor and a neophite. The clothing they wear. The way they walk. Chances are, if you act like you know what’s going on and where you are headed, you’ll be left alone.
If you notice someone following you, find a shop in a commons area: Put away your equipment and call the police.
Have an emergency number: The embassy is always handy to have but even the hotel where you are staying.
Take pictures of your receipts: Need to keep tabs on your expenses? Pictures of reciepts always come in handy. Review them, file them away later, and you have records without the mess.
Have a journalists pad: Keep business cards of people you meet, important places, and other misc. items in your pad. This also is useful for when you want to send pictures back to the people you met. Simply write the date, take the picture, and viola! Your set!
Keep records: There’s nothing worse than being unable to remember where your you took your best images. Locations aren’t always the easiest to remember off the top of your head. In the back of your jouranlists pad, keep a catologue for future reference. By date, write all of the locations you went to. Be sure that your camera is set to the correct date and time when you travel.
Be smart: If you are traveling with thousands of dollars in equipment, don’t do anything stupid unless you want to replace it.