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Photography tales of a solo traveller -- Anjaly Thomas

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Anjaly Thomas, a well-published travel author, shares her photography secrets...

There are many things a photographer would want to do the right way. From the camera equipment to suitable weather care to on-field photography accessories -- one needs to be well prepared. After all, photographers swear by their equipment.

How different is it when one uses photography as a tool to tell tales? For Anjaly Thomas, pictures are a way to narrate her travel experiences. 

You are a well-published writer. Are you a photographer too?

As I always say - “I am a bad photographer, but I tell interesting stories.” In all fairness, I am not at all that bad, and at time (more out of luck) something brilliant shines through. But as a traveler, my focus is more on observing and feeling things around me. After a point, life through the lens becomes a drag – I like the wide angles naked eyes can see!

There is a saying which sums this up nicely - the mind remembers the most important things – what it doesn’t, isn’t important. Of course, I don’t always go by that philosophy, because I am guilty of having thousands of pictures from so many of my trips, but even that amount of practice hasn’t made me a better photographer! Some pictures make me cringe even today – and one particular (and rather brilliant picture of a fort I’d taken) makes me want to cry – because in all the eagerness of getting the best shot, I didn’t notice the smear on the lens, which only became visible as a blur on the picture!

What equipment do you use for photography? 

I have different types of equipment and often, I end up not using half of those! My favourite is of course my Canon (complete with lens and all), I have a digital waterproof camera, GoPro, iPhone and an old Sony handycam – which of late hasn’t been used. I swear by Canon – I am very comfortable with it but I think it’s time for me to upgrade!

On a scale of 1-10, how would you rate yourself as a photographer?

FIVE! I might sound ambitious giving myself that score, but I think I qualify for a 5. I will admit that till date I haven’t managed to shoot a decent picture in manual mode (except for the times when I really got lucky and had time on hand), but I think I do okay with the auto setting.

When you travel solo, how do you manage to get clicked? 

I always walk up to any random person and ask them to take a pic! It is also a great conversation-opener and it turns out that everyone I meet does know something about shooting. Sometimes I end up losing a part of myself in the picture or being out of focus, but that is the price I pay. Yeah, the solution to this would ideally be learning to shoot in self mode – but I have never fancied that – also, I detest selfie sticks. There are trips I have made where I do not have a single picture of mine – but again, that’s okay really. I am happy to get what I get, if not, it doesn’t matter! But yes, when all else fails, strangers to the rescue!

Any photography hack you would like to share with our readers? 

No. Not really. The best option, in my opinion is to ask someone around to take a photo. I know not many will agree to this – but hey, not every person in the world is waiting to run away with your camera! I have never had any unpleasant confrontations with anyone trying to run off with my camera! So, I still stand by this – and trust me, I have been in places where people believe there will be someone waiting to snatch my camera and run! Show them you trust them with your precious camera, they will keep up that trust!

What things does one keep in mind while travelling to write a book?

The most important thing is to keep an open mind. Do not have a plan or the structure of the book in mind. Once you have traveled, sit down, go over everything you have seen, witnessed, liked, hated, the important things and the not-so important things and then make a plan. Often you will see that what you thought was absolutely important, aren’t so anymore.  

It is also very important to remove “yourself” from the main frame – the story should be told through you, but you shouldn’t become the story. Writing a story is like taking a brilliant picture – after a point, it gets tiring to see “you” in the frame – it is best to step aside for the views to unfold.

Also, travel writing is different to fiction or autobiography – it is research based and yet cannot be “dry” or uninteresting. The trick to realize what makes your travel different from the last person who visited the same spot – travel to me not always about a destination, it is about people and food and their everyday lives, their culture and their stories told through me.


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