Always Take Pictures Abroad

January 20, 2012

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I was never much of a photographer in high school or college. Even with the rise of Facebook and tagging, I wasn’t tempted to bring a camera to social outings and catch the photons from that sunrise to preserve for eternity on my hard drive. When I first started taking pictures abroad, I was in Japan and felt motivated to do so.

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Sure, I was a rank amateur, but I suppose everyone goes through a photography phase in his life; I was lucky enough to wait on mine until I had journeyed to a country worthy of it. Japanese signs, temples, funny Engrish… all seemed laid before my camera lens, obligated to stay in place until I had captured their essence.

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It was a slow process, simply lugging around the point-and-shoot my parents had bought me before I left the US and looking for something memorable to post on Facebook. Before long, though, I discovered I had quite the portfolio of hot springs, road signs, Japanese people, waterways, and bridges. Enough photos, I reasoned, to create a Flickr account and organize them for the world to see. When that portfolio expanded to Flickr’s free limit, I still felt like I had more shots out there, more to offer Internet readers.

It’s been a journey, like everything else in my life has been. I’ve used equipment most professional photographers would consider inferior, even stupid. But I don’t care, because at the time it all came down to capturing the beauty of the moment, through any means necessary. When I did finally invest in a Canon G10, I didn’t have it for more than a few months before it was stolen in New York City. Just like any other setback, it took me a while to recover, and my photos (or lack thereof) definitely showed it.

People did start to take notice. A publisher contacted me regarding one of the pictures I had taken of the Shimanami Bridges in Japan. The architect of that bridge had died and he wanted to use my shot from an adventure weekend as part of a look back on his life in England. Of course, I agreed.

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It should be no secret to anyone who’s been reading Once A Traveler that when I came to Korea, I was pretty burnt out on life. No desire for pictures or crazy trips, just getting through the day with a little bit of money in my pocket, and a nice place to stay. Still, I couldn’t help but snap a few funny shots with a weak Canon while walking around Uljin.

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Even these, some of the most casual and unprofessional photos I’ve even taken, got the attention of a publisher at Penguin Books:

I hope you won’t mind me getting in touch but I am an editor at Penguin books and I am publishing a book of the World’s Best Restaurant & Bar Names. It will be light hearted and fun and we would love to include your photo of Pizza Thinking in our book.

You never know who’s out there. As travelers to a new land, we see things with wide eyes at first, but after weeks or months when we fall into a routine and stop looking at our world with the eyes of a child, we forget just how amazing it is to be where we are. We may forget, but those cooped up at home in their cubicles longing for escape certainly don’t.

That’s what I need to remember about living my life in San Francisco. Everything I see is unique to me, to my perspective. Everywhere I run at the time I run can’t be repeated by any runner, even Dean Karnazes. Only I can tell you what I see, what I feel, and why. I want to share my perspective. I’m sorry if I ever forgot that.

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