We all have places, things and events we’d like to photograph – my mind was drifting on a recent drive back from Singapore, and I thought it might be interesting to compile a list in one place both for me to share some of my ideas with readers, and for you to contribute your own in the comments. Some I’ve done/been to, and others remain aspirational. We may well become aware some things locally that we hadn’t considered exotic or interesting, and if some interesting images come out of it – why not? There is one caveat, though: the bucket list has to be feasible (i.e. ‘the moon’ is out).
In no particular order:
Both from a cultural perspective, a cigar aficionado’s perspective and the desire to see what the world was really like 50 years ago – Havana has always been the top of my personal list. It combines the best of an urban destination with an exotic one; the people are friendly, the streets are safe and pedestrian friendly, and there’s no end of material to photograph. And the quality of light is really quite magical, too. Add in surprisingly impressive food, and you’ve got a destination that has only remained this way because of the US embargo…I got to go for the first and only time in 2014 for the Havana Masterclass, including participating in the revolution day parade – I would love to go back, but times have changed (and will change even more rapidly) plus it’s a costly 30+ hour plane ride.
Landscapes and polar bears: two of my favourite things. Add a helicopter into the mix for some aerial work, and we’re all set. On top of that, if you go at the right time of year, you get to see the aurora, too – this is one location that ticks off at least four things on my list simultaneously.
Every photograph I’ve seen from this region just looks spectacular – there’s such an incredible variety of formations, layout, species and topography that I think it’ll be very difficult to run out of material. Given the latitude, the quality of light changes dramatically with the seasons, too.
The Australian Outback
I’ve flown over it several times, and been astonished by the variety of landscapes that present themselves – spending some more time working those both from the ground and lower altitudes would probably yield some very interesting images, and possibly of places that have never been photographed; that’s how vast the continent is. As a bonus, I’d also like to shoot at one of the massive open pit mines; very little work I’ve seen tends to convey scale very well, and I’d like the challenge…
Queenstown and surrounds, New Zealand
Having been before, and likely to go again, I can’t actually think of anywhere else in the world that has that density of natural beauty: within an 150km radius, you get everything from barren rocky mountains to glaciers to lakes to forests to river deltas to verdant meadows. And every season is so different that each place takes on a very strong personality of its own; I can’t help but think this is where I’d want to retire – even if I stop shooting, I really think it’s impossible to get jaded or tired of these surroundings.
Thaipusam, Kuala Lumpur
I’ve covered this event four times now; each time is a different experience for me. The conditions are extremely challenging technically and physically, but there’s just so much going on you can always find a different story to pursue on each visit. What I find interesting is the sheer intensity emotion from that many devout pilgrims in one place at the same time; the mood is something that has to be experienced – and we haven’t even said anything about the riot of color and texture in a very surreal (massive cave) setting. After a few repeats, you feel like you’re seeing the same people again (they may well be) but you know they’re really different individuals acting out age-old roles – and there’s got to be a story in that.
The pit lane at the Monaco F1 Grand Prix
A different kind of intensity and different kind of ‘religion’, I suppose; I have a feeling it would actually be quite a lot like Thaipusam in a lot of ways. The color, the focus, the energy, the physical challenge of shooting in those conditions (heat, danger etc.) – plus the cars!
Awake brain surgery
I’ve actually both shot and vidoed this for a healthcare client in the past; there is no ‘on assignment’ post for this because the images and footage are frankly extremely graphic. The surgery basically requires the patient to be conscious, awake and responsive as the surgeons remove a tumor from the brain to avoid excising any critical areas. Early on, I ruled out medicine as a career because of the blood; little did I know I’d be staring at an open brain for the better part of five hours under high magnification – and handholding a 600mm-equivalent lens whilst doing so. I found that documenting the event gave me enough detachment to not feel nauseous at the anatomy of it, but still enough understanding and appreciation of the degree to which modern medicine has progressed.
A marine heavy engineering/ construction facility
I’ve also shot for this kind of client several times in the past, and really enjoyed the experience – there is something very majestic about (relatively) small men creating massive vessels that feel as though they shouldn’t really be capable of independent motion – something reinforced when you stand next to a tanker so large you can’t see both ends easily, or a very oddly shaped drilling rig. Extending this to shoot on an offshore oil facility is even more interesting – and having been on a rig or two myself in a previous life I can attest to this, but getting access and permission to that kind of thing is nigh on impossible unless you have petroleum clients. Sadly, I don’t have any images forms that experience as a) I was there to work on operational procedures as a consultant and b) photography was very strictly forbidden.
Chittagong shipbreaking yards, Bangaladesh
This is really the opposite end of the spectrum to construction. In a way, it’s probably been done to death to the point that the yards now police out photographers and have been reported to be actively hostile; no surprise when the working conditions are inhuman and having a record of it is not exactly in their best interests. At least with greater awareness, hopefully conditions may improve; this is perhaps the most powerful ability of photography. From a purely selfish standpoint, the contrast between the human labor, suffering and the almost human dying vessels is visual gold…
The airplane graveyards, Nevada desert
I suppose we could consider this the first world equivalent to the ship breaking yards – except these aircraft are generally stored with the possibility of reuse, even though this almost never happens. It’s a testament to both colossal waste and scientific/engineering progress: today’s state of the art is tomorrow’s unrecyclable eyesore.
Japan in the snow
Specifically, Kyoto and Tokyo. The former because I suspect it gives the city a softer, more human side – rather than the stiff and formal place I’ve always found it to be; the latter because I’m really curious to see how a metropolis the size of Tokyo (and with the efficiency of Japan) functions under circumstances where a lot of other countries tend to grind to a halt.
Landscape beauty, beaches, tropical weather, supposedly good Japanese food, and the promise of the island paradise – I have no idea if it’s as good as the travel brochures make it out to be, but it’s possibly the one place that might rival New Zealand’s South Island for density of visual overload. To the best of my knowledge, there’s no flowing lava in New Zealand at the moment.
Namibia from a hot air balloon
My imagination of this is as much meditative as a photographic one: you take off at dawn, see the sun rise and create shadows over the dunes or sparse grassland, and drift through a silent landscape in near silence yourself – somehow above it, but part of it. There’s something appealing in a tranquil, peaceful way here. I suspect it may well come through in the resulting images, too.
Inside the Boeing or Airbus factories
Like a shipyard, only more precise…
A vintage Ferrari
Preferably the legendary 250 GTO SWB, but any of them will do just fine. I want to put it in a giant lightbox and light it like a watch…
The jumbo Lange Datograph demonstration/display movement
Lange made a few of these 10:1 scale movements for dealers, showrooms and some very lucky collectors. They run, they are finished just as well as the actual watches, and they’re made of the same materials. The best part though is you would be able to get angles that are otherwise impossible with a watch sized movement: something 30cm across is much ease to photograph and light than something 3cm across. On top of that, I suspect you may well be able to get a camera inside certain portions of the movement because the parts would be easy to remove. Imagine the perspectives…
A well-photographed and famous celebrity
This last one is a bit of a wildcard: most actors or celebrities are adept at putting on whatever face the role requires; I suspect few photographers really manage to capture a slice of their true personality. I don’t do portraiture much, but I am aware that it’s really a record of the relationship between the photographer and the subject; aside from the obvious challenge, I’m also curious to see how they would respond to me vs somebody else – which probably would say as much about me as them. You’d have to use somebody frequently photographed for this because I can’t otherwise see how there’d be any basis for comparison.
That’s about it for me for now – what’s on your list? MT
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