by Ryan Hilton, ATI Co-Proprietor and Photographic Safari Specialist
Faces connect us to the places we visit. The faces we see in new places soon become the ways by which we remember what it once felt like to be there. Faces, whether human, animal or even façades of a building, are the vessels that hold the secrets of a destination… some of which we will never know unless we take the time to really see and understand.
Throughout the years, I have become fascinated with capturing what is outwardly presented by the people, animals, buildings who inhabit a place. No face is static; such an ever-changing subject goes unmatched. When on the road traveling, faces like these linger at the front of my mind as each day winds down. Since our travel opportunities have been limited this year, revisiting them now is like stopping by to visit with old friends.
Allow me to introduce you.
Safari in Botswana, fireside dancing with locals
This photo is the best kind of loud. This dance floor is the best kind of tired. These faces are the best kind of radiant.
Buildings have facades – much like human faces – that tell us a story and draw people in, whether to read what’s on the walls or to see what lies inside.
South Africa’s beloved Madiba, Nelson Mandela, lives on forever in the streets of Cape Town.
Somewhere on the Sand River, a group of friends, brought together by travel bonds over beach volleyball and rugby, sharing chicken skewers and crunchies.
He’s a football guy, but this setting is sure to get anyone into the local’s preferred game of rugby.
This is a face exuberant with pride in his athletic achievement. I’d bet if we could see the faces of those left in the dust, they would speak something of desperate disappointment.
In Botswana, it helps to take a dip, to cool off now and then. This guy probably felt a little weird about us watching him bathe — I mean, wouldn’t you feel a bit exposed?
We travel to foreign places to admire, to appreciate and to learn. We explore the world to explore life’s greatest questions and answers.
As humans, we read faces for information during conversations with other humans. Isn’t it interesting that we can read information on the faces of other animals as well?
These faces are warm and kind. Warm enough to make your fifth morning’s 5 am wake-up call enjoyable and exciting, and kind enough to summon tears on the tarmac on your sixth afternoon.
This face is accusing — I’ve been spotted. I thought I was being sneaky but I have been sniffed out. Our striped friend peeking around the corner seems less than chuffed about our assumption of his blissful ignorance.
Sincerest apologies. We were just leaving.
Earth’s face, inarguably the most beautiful of the lot, is looked upon by all… admired by many… abused by far too many… consciously cared for by far too few. May we tread lightly over and around even her most pronounced features.
This last scene is set by my colleague at ATI, Africa Specialist Michael Distler.
One of the most important things to remember about photographing faces is to put the camera down once in a while. Even if only for one moment, one breath, coming out from behind the lens, you’ll feel your own face let go of the determination to capture the best moment – to instead lean into the visceral feeling in your body of truly experiencing a purely organic moment. The corners of your own mouth may turn toward the sky…maybe you’ll dance and maybe you’ll spot someone trying to catch you in the act of simply being.
With all of these masks, the social distancing, travel will no doubt be different than even the most seasoned adventurer is accustomed to. Travel photography will be different for sure. It may be more difficult to connect with and learn from other humans. We will need to find new ways, to create new ways to grow in our understanding of the human experience across cultures and continents..
How exciting it is to shape this opportunity. How exciting it is to think that we have inside of us the power to do so. At Admiral Travel, we take our responsibility to help you navigate the “new” world very seriously and look forward to our next journey together.
Ryan Hilton, Co-Proprietor of Admiral Travel International, has been identified as a Condé Nast Traveler Top Travel Specialist again for 2020. With Africa in his blood and a persistent beckoning of worldly adventure in his heart, he hopes to inspire in you a love for travel photography and aims to encourage you in efforts at getting behind the lens yourself.