To Photograph Or Not To Photograph, That Is The Question

Not long ago my friends Brian and Nicole Matiash were in the area. At some point during our time hanging out, Nicole and I were discussing their trip to Cambodia. She mentioned a situation that she encountered, that is also one that many photographers face when traveling.

You have limited time and a tight schedule, so should I photograph as much as possible, or take that time to learn about the history?

You see, someone who they were with during the trip, wanted to slow down and read every single thing, learn every single thing, and didn’t care about creating art, or documenting anything. Brian and Nicole were the opposite. While they do care about history, it comes down to the possibility that you will ever return to the area.

If you know that you will only be in a country once in your life, then document your trip and then when you return home, read the history online. (just a thought)

You might disagree and side with the other person, and that’s fine.

You see, In 2011 I was in Mexico getting married. During that time, I didn’t get to shoot as much as I would have liked during a trip. (for obvious reasons)

As much as I wanted to shoot, I wasn’t faced with the opportunity as often as I wanted. However, there are some gems in my archives of the trip. This is one of them. One night, my wife and I had a romantic dinner on the beach at sunset. Yup, we literally sat down seconds before the sun set.

I decided to carry my camera that night, and this is one of the shots. (one lens and no tripod)

You can see the little huts that we ate in, candles in the sand that were glowing in the moonlight, and just how close were to the water. It was a fantastic night.

By the end of our trip, I walked away with a couple of memory cards filled with photographs. Most were from family time, but some were me doing my own thing, creating art. I did learn about some of the history of the area, but not much. I was too busy getting married.


Adobe Lightroom for lens correction, shadow and highlight fine tuning. onOne Software Perfect Effects for sky and palm tree enhancement and tonal contrast on the roofs.

Thanks for reading and happy shooting,


This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. I believe in finding a balance between the two. For me, knowing the history usually helps me frame certain shots, or focus on features that have a deeper meaning than they appear to on the surface. I love to share the background of shots like that whenever possible – just like you did regarding the photo above.

    I like to take in my surroundings fully – and it’s easy for me to miss something that’s happening around me, because I’m focused on getting my shot.

    So for me, it’s not about choosing between the two, it’s about finding the balance!

    Great post, Scott!

  2. Why not combine shooting with learning history? For example every time i go back in Moldova i try to learn new things about my home country but also i try to capture as much as possible on my camera.

    In 2012 i’ve been around the monasteries and not only i found out new thing about my country but i got the chance for some exciting shoots

    1. Sometimes time does not permit both, so photographers have to choose. That’s why I tend to shoot and then learn about the history later.

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