Mick Street is a photographer from all sorts of places, but is currently residing in the Kentish seaside town of Ramsgate. Predominantly a travel photographer, Mick has also dabbled in studio photography and web design with his current professional career being IT lead. Here he recaptures his experiences of being a travel photographer.
I started working in photography for the travel industry when digital imaging was unheard of (apart from maybe the research and development department at Eastman Kodak) and everything was film based. Wonderful times when I would get on an aircraft in what seemed like no time, without extreme checks for strange liquids or body scans or intrusive security searches in shoes.
One of the lessons you learn pretty quickly is be efficient in packing. I would always work in medium format, which meant heavier cameras, heavier lenses – even the film is twice the size and weight and of course a tripod is essential for indoor shots. Plus I always had to try and anticipate what I might need but also maintain a sensible balance so you don’t end up like a pack mule when wandering around, and then kicking yourself for missing a great shot because you had to stop and put a whole load of gear down before you could take it.
”So, with my often scant brief, I would be dispatched somewhere in the sun, sometimes to a resort I had shot before (I went to Majorca eight times in two years)”
The way it normally worked was that my client would send me a brief, pretty much only a day or two before my flight out and I seem to remember there was always a bit of a rush to work out how much film I would need and get it in time. I only ever shot Fuji Velvia. I had everything worked out around that film and the processing house I used had their chemistry just right for it and the blues were perfect. So, with my often scant brief, I would be dispatched somewhere in the sun, sometimes to a resort I had shot before (I went to Majorca eight times in two years) or somewhere completely new.
On a tight shoot, and a short haul flight, I would nearly always start work after arrival. From the airport in my hire car I headed to the first resort on my list. If it was somewhere new, I would try and drive around to the locations needed to shoot to gauge where the sun would be at any given time of day. This would help plan an efficient shooting schedule which I would do in the evening after eating so that I could ensure all would be covered in the time available. Whenever possible I would try and make some time available for some of my own personal work and this possibility was controlled very much by one uncontrollable element…weather.
You can do a certain amount in controlling what the end product is going to be like but frankly if it isn’t sunny, you can’t make it sunny and that is mostly what clients want to sell. Sun-filled-happy-days in sunny surrounding. For this you need sun.
Mostly I was lucky and I don’t think I ever had a shoot where I had bad weather the whole time.
Once I finished and shot everything possible on my list plus anything for my own portfolio, the next challenge was getting all the material to the client. Suddenly you have about two hundred rolls of exposed velvia that instantly become more valuable than all the camera gear and all the possesions in your suitcase and so you guard it with your life, never ever letting it leave your hands.
You prevent it going through the x-ray machine by pleading with the scanner operator. You never consider letting it out of your sight so you clutch it tightly in your hot hands on the flight all the way home. Then you drive it carefully to the processing lab and hand it over carefully making them swear on their mother’s lives that they will treat it with love and respect, then you leave and in a strange state of wonderment and anxiety, knowing that at this point there is nothing you can do. If you screwed up all your exposures and everything was ruined there was nothing you could do. Time and money out of the window. Lost forever. You return some ninety minutes later to inspect your two hundred rolls of film and if you got it right, great joy and happiness. Digital photography of course changed all that.