Be Your Own Guide
I see a trend in photography: more photographers seem be making their money as what I'll broadly call "Photographic Tour Guides." Some of them lead photographic safaris in Africa, and many others lead trips to other exotic locations through the world, such as Iceland, South America, the Arctic and Antarctic, and Alaska. Since it can be challenging to make a living snapping the shutter, I fully understand why leading tours is an attractive business model.
I find some things troubling about the tour guide business. The first is that the tours tend to be priced beyond the budget of most enthusiast photographers. For example, an African photography safari can easily cost US$10,000 to $12,000 for the safari alone. And that doesn't include the cost of airfare to the safari site.
A second issue that I have with this business is that they tend to turn local residents into attractions. I often see images from photo tours that include shots of indigenous peoples performing for tour groups. While going to see locals perform, and supporting the local economy is admirable, I find it a little demeaning to see local folks paraded around in traditional attire as exhibits.
And, with guided tours, the participants lose the spirit of exploration that comes with travel. While I enjoy bus tours of other countries, my favorite part of those tours is the unstructured time to explore and go off-leash into a town to really experience the culture. As an example, when I was just out of high school, a very long time ago, I went on a bus tour of a few European countries. My sense of exploration compelled me, as an 18 year old, to drag some of my tour companions through the Paris Metro subway to the Louvre and Paris shopping districts, even though don't speak any French. If our trip hadn't included some unstructured time, I'd never have gotten that opportunity.
Another issue for me is that tours make it seem like the only way to get good images is to go on trips and see exotic locations. I believe that we can make good images where we live.
Rather than going on expensive trips, I prefer to find good images locally. I do most of my photography within 100 miles of my house, and only sometimes do I even venture into another state. Granted, I'm fortunate enough to live in Colorado, where there are abundant wildlife refuges and state parks to find good subjects, But we can all find local gardens, events, parks, and other places to create great images. Go out and explore. You can find a lot of fun images to make by guiding yourself in the wilderness that surrounds you.
Thoughts on photography