The Camera that Makes You Forget

“…people who take pictures lose their capacity for close observation. Without a camera, you study a thing more carefully and remember it better. Taking a picture is a way of forgetting.”

Paul Theroux, an American travel writer and novelist, wrote this in a Wall Street Journal Article in September of 2015. My initial reaction was that my camera was better than Mr. Theroux’s, because it has exactly the opposite effect. When I take a picture with my camera, a Canon 5D Mark III, and years later I want to remember something about the subject I captured, I look at the picture and it helps me remember. That’s right! The name of that town was not Chalupa, but Chichicastenango! What a great trip!

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Three Favorite New Mexico Photographs

During my 12-plus years as a professional travel photographer I have seen many wonderful things: the moon setting over Patagonia’s Bariloche Peak as the mountain turned pink with the sun’s first rays; the Alhambra in Granada beautifully lit as twilight turned into darkness; the Jemaa-el-Fnaa, Marrakech’s famous square, coming alive with locals and tourist in late afternoon; the imposing, 6-minaret Blue Mosque in Istanbul; and many more wondrous spectacles, both natural and man-made.

All of these shoots have produced unforgettable memories, nice pictures and sales, yet some of my best selling images are the ones I have taken near where I lived.

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Why I Like Assignments

Over the past 12 years I have worked on quite a number of photo assignments, ranging from a simple shot of a cup of hot cocoa, to a rodeo clown, to a 6-week assignment for a Frommer’s travel guide about Puerto Rico. Some photographers are a little intimidated by assignments because they come with the pressure of having to get the shots (as opposed to just shooting for yourself and see what you can get), but I like the challenge and enjoy working on assignment.

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The Photographer's Guide to New Mexico

From spectacular desert landscapes to colorful fiestas, this easy-to-use guide features the best spots to photograph the natural sites, events, and historic places in the Land of Enchantment.

Professional photographer Efraín M. Padró steers beginner and expert photographers to the most stunning and worthwhile places to photograph in his beautiful state. Each location is accompanied by thorough directions and maps to get there, what you'll see when you arrive, and insightful, expert advice to ensure that every photo is perfect. Padró lends his local knowledge for the best times to visit and local diversions to make the most of your trip, along with a list of his favorite places to photograph.

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Beginner's Guide to Magazine Photography

Magazine editors typically pay $50 to $500 for photos that illustrate their stories. Some pay even more for cover shots. But you don’t need to be a professional photographer to see your images on glossy magazine covers.

If you can learn to take unique photos of your hometown or the places you travel, you can sell them to magazine editors on the side for spare income. You don’t need an expensive camera. You don’t need a lot of training, you only need to know where to look, who to contact, what to say, and how to take the right kinds of photos. And, you’ll find all these instructions in this guide.

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Leading the Eye at the Very Large Array

Some years ago I visited the National Radio Astronomy Observatory’s Karl G. Janske Very Large Array (thankfully also known as the VLA), located on the San Agustin Plains in the middle of nowhere, New Mexico. The VLA is a collection of 28 radio telescopes strewn about the desert and arranged close to or far from each other depending on what the scientists wish to study. The telescopes are moved along rails a number of times a year.

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Scale, Dettifoss and a Man Wearing a Red Jacket

According to Wikipedia (so it must be true), Iceland’s Dettifoss (pictured here) is reputed to be the most powerful waterfall in Europe. The numbers are impressive: 330 ft. wide with a 150 ft. vertical drop. Subjectively speaking, these waterfalls are big. But all these numbers and words don’t mean much without an element of scale in the picture, a known unit that can be compared to the waterfalls. This is where I come in, wearing a red jacket for effect and to add color, and raising my hands in a sort of victory pose while trying not to get blown into the drink.

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Access (or How to Get Inside Places to Take Pictures)

When I started photographing seriously about 15 years ago, I joined the North American Nature Photography Association. NANPA had (and still has) an annual convention where attendees could learn about the latest technique and equipment, sign up for photo reviews, attend field workshops and rub elbows with some of the country’s best nature photographers. It was fun!

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On Assignment—Muffler Men

One of the most rewarding aspects of being a freelance travel photographer is shooting an assignment. Yes, it can be scary because you have to get the shot, but it is also an opportunity to photograph subjects that, in many cases, you did not even know existed. That was the case when I was asked by New Mexico Journey Magazine to photograph two “muffler men” to illustrate a feature article. Muffler men were turning 50 and the magazine wanted to mark the event with a nice article and pictures.

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To Tip or Not to Tip, That is the Question

Every travel photographer has confronted a situation where they had to decide whether to tip a subject or not. During a recent workshop in Peru, our group experienced that situation on a daily basis. Quechua women wearing traditional garb and carrying cute babies patrol the area near the Cathedral in Cusco (and every other major attraction); others attract photographers’ attention with llamas and baby lambs; there’s even a man who dresses as Pachacutec (a famous Inca king) and stands next to a donation box. All these potential subjects have two things in common: they are almost impossible to resist photographing, and they expect to get paid for the privilege.

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From the Road — La Compañía de Jesús Church, Cusco, Perú

I love mornings because everything is fresh and new and full of hope. Anything can happen. And because I am not a coffee drinker, I do not start the day stressed over where I can find the closest Starbucks (in Cusco, by the way, it is right on the Plaza de Armas; it opens at 7am).

Early mornings also feature one of my favorite times to photograph: twilight, when the skies change from deep black to cobalt blue, and when roosters begin announcing that the night is over. If you are not an early riser, blue skies also happen at the end of the day, but you will hear no roosters.

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“You Should Have Been Here Yesterday"

I cannot begin to count the times when, arriving at a location to take some pictures, I was met with a “you should have been here yesterday,” meaning my intended subject looked better the day before. In the Lake District in Central Chile, a lady commented that the day before there was a beautiful rainbow over the volcano I was about to photograph. In Old San Juan, a hotel attendant mentioned that the day before there was a parade of reenactors dressed in 17th Century military uniforms. In Scotland, a convenience store clerk lamented that I had just missed the beautiful weather they had been experiencing (it rained almost the entire time I was in Scotland).

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Making the Effort for Better Pictures

When I first started photographing seriously in the late 90s, I attended a workshop by nature photographer John Shaw. Of the many tips he shared with the audience, the one that stuck with me was the importance of being at a particular location when the light was best, which for nature photographers means early and late in the day. Mr. Shaw did not mince words about this, stating this would take effort, and half-jokingly adding that the two most common enemies of good photography were sleep and dinner.

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When Deciding What to Photograph, Look for a Sign

I’m often asked how, as a travel photographer, I decide what to photograph. The short answer is “everything”. The long answer is that I photograph two kinds of subjects: those that I would love to photograph anyway, like the Eiffel Tower, and those that I believe are necessary to have a rounded collection of a particular subject, like a sign pointing to the Eiffel Tower. Because I enjoy the process of taking pictures—finding a subject, choosing a lens, studying different compositions, and so on—I have fun photographing even the “required” subjects. The perfect image, though, is one that incorporates both of my guidelines.

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The Pleasure of Serving

Almost 10 years ago I was in the village of San Pedro de Atacama in northern Chile photographing the spectacular (and varied) landscapes of the Atacama Desert, the driest place on Earth. During my visit, I was able to capture the geysers in El Tatio, highest in the world at about 14,000 ft.; the lunar formations and sculpted sand dunes in the aptly-named Valley of the Moon; and shallow lagoons populated by flamingos.

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