The Difference Between Landscape and Travel Photography

BeFunky CollageRecently on one of my podcast episodes, I told people that I’d be happy to do photography critiques for free if they wanted to throw a portfolio link my way (that offer still stands by the way). One of the critique submissions I got was from a photographer in Romania who had an impressive portfolio on 500px.

Here’s his email message to me:

Hey David,
As I’ve been listening to you podcast, I heard that you are willing to review users portfolios, and I’d really like to get a professional opinion on it. Can you please take a glance and give me some advice?
I’m Rares, I’m an amateur landscape photographer from Romania that enjoys portraits too. I’ve been listening to your podcast for several months now and I enjoy every bit of them. Congratulations for the all the work you are putting together!
Thank you in advance!
So, I started to go through Rares’ portfolio gave him some things to think about. Specifically that it might benefit the shadows of his photos to be a little bit lighter than they were which could be done in post-processing or by limiting the dynamic range between highlights and shadows by waiting until a later time in the day.
Then Rares said something in reply that made me think completely differently about landscape and travel photography. Here’s what he said…
I agree with your observation, the deep dark shadows, and I think that comes from the fact that even though I said landscape photographer, I’m mostly a travel photographer, where traveling is 90% in the mountains. It would be nice to see a more precise definition of landscape vs travel photographer, but as I interpret it the way it applies to me, is, landscape is more like hunting for the great places and wait there for the perfect light, where the travel is more like take photos on the way, whenever that happens to be.
Wow. It’s such a humbling moment when someone in my audience completely shifts the way I see photography.
You see, I used to lump travel and landscape photography together. I figured you’re going to amazing locations when you travel and often times those are great landscape locations, so naturally those two would be in the same category.
Rares taught me something different, though.
Landscape photography is hunting for great locations, studying the land, composing the shot, and then waiting for the right light. That wait might take minutes, hours, days, or even weeks to happen. Landscape can take a lot of time and effort to just sit and wait. In fact, I still have landscape locations on my  list after three years because the light has never been right when I visit.
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Travel photography is completely different. As Rares describes, travel photography is shooting the landscape “as is” on your way through. In a sense, that could invoke the thought that travel photography is much more difficult than landscape photography because you’re working in less than ideal lighting sometimes to compose a shot that will look good in the moment you’re there.
Now, I think landscape and travel photography are equally difficult, but maybe it’s time we start thinking about them in terms of timing instead of location. And then we can move onto composition and photo construction.
Food for thought.