5Ws & H of Travel & Photography Blogging

5/14/2013 04:19:00 AM

I bought my first DSLR in the month of march 2009. I had been micro-blogging, for 2 years then, writing whatsoever came to my mind. the first generation twitter, only it wasn't limited to 140 characters. I never maintained a diary offline. it was too much of a cliche. emotional outbursts, those you write about, the ones those look incredibly stupid when you come to your senses few hours or days later. the ones you dont want anyone to read about, ever. the pieces of pages, that end up in ashes. I always wanted to write, something, that i could let others, read.

where the land ends!

In January 2011 I had my first article published in one of the travel magazines in India. It was my first piece of writing on paper. It was different. more exhilarating yet fulfilling, then what I felt when I had my first photograph published. The readers response mails that the editor sent, somehow appeared to be more precious and satisfying, then the collectives of the comments on flickr, facebook and the blog. I was excited.  This was what I always wanted to do. I went back to searching for my horoscope, I downloaded from a website long ago, and emailed myself on some hotmail or yahoo account I used to use years back. It talked briefly about me being a writer. May be this was my break, I thought. In the month of February, I had another article published in the same magazine. I sent multiple mails, I couldn't see the pdf of the published article, let alone the hard copy of the magazine. my little heart was hurt. the world doesn't understand my enthusiasm. For the next story I had to edit so much, I didn't bother to send it. I had no time to keep sending pitches and wait for editors approvals on what I had to say and how I had to say. In no time I was busy with hundreds of other things going on in my life. My writing career was soon over.

After two years of roller coasters, I returned and I wondered, why.


Keeping knowledge erodes power. Sharing is the fuel to your growth engine.

There is no question why one shouldn't share certain piece of knowledge. It is evident. It isn't just for personal growth. It is the growth engine for the society we live in. As a human, we love sharing, doesn't  matter, how big our sharing circle is. there are certain things we would share only with family, and few others with friends and perhaps some other things with strangers. It isnt entirely wrong to say that its our need to share, It is the way we express ourself, as humans.

“I know what I have given you... I do not know what you have received.” ― Antonio Porchia 

Regardless of what I have to say, and where and how I choose my audience, the important thing is that, I want to say something,  and I am in the right mindset to do so.

I vaguely remember a story from school. It was of a trader, he used to write his logbooks everyday. Every evening, he would go for a long walk to the water, carrying his logbooks along with him. he would throw away those books in the ocean, telling the ocean, its his now, everything he did today, and that he'd start his tomorrow a fresh, and he wouldn't have carry forward anything of the past.

More philosophical and less practical you would say, this story is? I know not. My objective when I started blogging was to give my mind a juicy cleanse. Whenever I'd write something, my thoughts would become clearer. I could think better and a fresh. i.e. my mind was open for new thought, imaginations.

Soon I wanted to write about my experiences, my new adventures. It was easy. it was surreal, throwing away your experiences in the sea of Internet. But I ended up getting caught in the web of comments, likes and favorites and followers. I ended up looking at what other people were doing and making out of it. I ended up wishing for the more name and fame, How many photographs I shot, and have had published. What experiences were worthy enough to be published in the magazines and newspapers, what vocabulary will make me sound like an expert in literature. I forgot what I wanted to say, and all I remembered was what others wanted me to. I had lost of my only objective which I begin writing for/with.

The only source of knowledge is experience. - Albert Einstein

There is nothing wrong in craving for acceptance, building a name. But lets have our objectives clear.


why do you want to blog? 

is it to start a career in writing or it is express yourself, share your happiness and sorrows, share your experiences, helping others while helping yourself?

Why do you want to photograph? to document your journey? to tell a story?
Why do you want a DSLR? to tell a story better? or impress your friends and colleagues with the quality of your honeymoon shot? what drives you to travel or blog or photograph?

Blogging is a full time project but Its not a CONTEST. taking photographs is even more cumbersome a project. these aren't merely hobbies, not just passion. Traveling can take a toll on you. your habit of observing and taking time shooting things on your travel , can kill the entire holiday experience of your fellow-travelers. When you express yourself out in the open, good, or bad, you invite criticism. your experience can become your opinion. which others might agree or not agree to. you might end up being a victim of self-critic. for example, "I write better, no one reads my blog. I click better picture, I dont get these many likes on my picture, He has such poor quality pictures and they are published everywhere, and so on and forth"

One needs to set her/his priority straight. You want to start a career in photography or writing, or want to make a name for yourself, or make money out of it. A blog can be a very effective tool to do all that, but only once you know what you ultimately want out of it.

Where & What:

There is a reason, the post is titled "My 5Ws & H of Travel & Photography Blogging". There is no limits to reasons why one wants to start a blog or click, and I can certainly generalize it. but I have to limit myself when I give you a "where" or I'd be in trouble.

Before you know blogging can be become a broad-brush. but once you have a solid "W" with you. the next W is easy.

You are a celebrity you want to share your moments with your fans - Go to Tumblr
You are a business and you need to promote your products - Go to Pinterest. 
You are a creative professional, just jumping on the bandwagon - Go everywhere. 
 If you want to merely rant about life - Go Anywhere. 

“Those prizes in Cracker Jacks are a joke. I once got a magnifying glass. It was so poorly made, ants were laughing at it.”

All these are a form of blogging. But we'll skip out the usual facebooks and twitters and tumblrs for now and only talk about serious platform which are more appropriate a showcase to what you want to do.

There i said it. If you are serious that is.
The above mentioned platform are only for promoting and staying connected. not that your actual content can reside there. Yes the photographs can be stored and seen on facebook or google pages but if that is all where your audience is. if you want to go to stock photography, would you think Getty will look into facebook pages and find your photographs and invite it?

You need to select a platform depending on who your audience is.

Travel blogging and Travel Photo Blogging are two different things. The former is for the travel writers. You want to focus on your stories. here photos are just the visual adds. you can post yours or borrow from others. either way, your content is whats important, you want to present it properly.

Most people or should i say writers generally make a mistake putting up the stories as "their stories". however the focus of the travel stories is not you but the place of travel. its your experience that introduce that certain place to readers. You and your reader can discover you more, via your style of presenting it, but that just limits to you cook well, what you cooked is what to be eaten right? But its your recipe remember, so dont just be a guide.

My advice, let the journey be yours but not about you, unless, you are a celebrity of course. and people are just interested in what your eating and wearing. many of I's and a reader can never put him/herself in your shoes or see things through your eyes. anyone reading should feel like they are the one virtually traveling to that place. 

Yes, You can/should share your research data, and how you're working or worked on implementing your travel plans.

Yes Zorro was here too...| Chang La | Ladakh | In Explore 2012-12-23

A Travel blog needs to have practical information about your travel. What mode you choose to travel, where did you decide to stay and what options you had for food. yes food the main necessity. most of the times, blogs turn in to dreamland, where everything is beautiful and rosy. their writers do not want to share their bad experiences, the tiny details those were important, but not fancy and extra boring. Let me tell you, not each place you go is deemed heaven. are you realistic? its not all the time, that you feel excited, you might get lonely, your travel might end up as a disaster, would it be worth publishing if you didn't come out victorious? thats the question you ask yourself and prohibit such posts  , however important. Not a good practice. 

Travel blogging needs courage and time. ask me, and I'd say No story is a work of fiction..no writing ever was. Everything is experience. imagination. something that happened to you or what you are imagining. You can choose the language and style you think is best to tell your story, that'd be perfect.

Its easy to write about experiences. You know what you want to tell. multiple stories yet connected and best you know the flow. start your blogging with a short trip experience. read the post multiple times. see if the dots are connected if not, modify it. write it again. and go on.

If you are writing about a place you have never been, thats when it becomes difficult, knowing not what to tell and what not. Plenty of articles and recommendations in magazines and newspapers are written by people that never been to the places they suggest, and yet they will sell em to you and make you book your tickets. You can research good, and  let your imaginations run wild, get a strong story cooked up in your own way and serve it hot. the difference, you are actually pulling up other people's experiences and wrapping them up in your own words. i.e. you are creative and already a professional writer and hence you dont need my advice.

It is a good idea to stick to one category and be an expert then failing while dealing w/ multiple trades. But there is nothing wrong being an all rounders. for blogs you do need a category however. if you can  focus more on certain type of travel, its easy for readers, they know what they can expect from you.

Blogger vs. Wordpress 

You know html-xml. You like the flexibility and want all control of your page - Go blogger.
You want options of free themes, you like your blog to look like a professional website - Go Wordpress.

There are other advantages and disadvantages of choosing one from these two or host of other websites like posterous which I believe is closed now, tumblr, typepad etc. I find the widgets much better on Wordpress, not able to change the width of my main column or changing how my photo looks kills me.
having said that, Its totally up to you if can like thousand of free wordpress themes that are available. I always like only those NOT FREE. Plus, my blog being old I wouldnt' want to shift platform screwing up my google rank. weigh your options.

Flickr vs. Smugmug

SO far I have said nothing about the Travel Photo blogging. Here is my say. Individual photos, with their stories, tags, geotags, and metadata are best stored on flickr. Each photo is an individual post, has its own page ( ranking) and the interface and quality is the best out of whatever is available. flickr also provides maximum ways to share, embed your photographs while giving you option of being in a community of "photographers" and focus only on photography.

500px also provide a excellent way to showcase your gallery, but its important to understand where you want to go with your photography, if you want to ultimately sell your photographs Smugmug is the way to go. 

However if its the photo stories that you want to produce, you can always use above blogging platforms. Behance is another good platform for creating visually strong photo essays and also sharing other creative work. where its always available for creative professional in the similar industry to see.
If you are a true Travel photographer who wants to share your own stories with your photographs in it. I suggest blogger w/ flickr is the best. ( I am partial to google you can say)

A sneak peak of Karwar Sea

When & How one can start travel blogging:

Now is time for everything. isn't it? for me blogging is nothing less than a Ph.D. every article is important, and a research it itself and it needs lots of time and focus. having said that its not my bread and butter. so my objective here is different. if you want to be a professional travel blogger and want your stories to land in publications, your blog is your portfolio and you have to be extra active about keeping your blog up to date and produce regular and interesting content and interact with your readers, engage in conversation on multiple platform and perhaps market it as well. 
i.e. saying a things about it every now n then can also be mandatory but I am not sure how effective that would be though. 

DO your homework in that case. Your blog can not mint money from the first day onwards. You want to sell stories, or you want free travel in exchange of stories and photographs ( if you have that skill ) You can not just publish your work on blog and wait for google to do the rank magic, make your page appear on top and bring editors and sponsors to you.  It does not happen overnight. 

You do need to learn PR perhaps and be good at it. Its strict business right?  How loud can you speak? You want more people to hear you? Get loudspeakers, amplifiers and repeaters. those are your facebook and twitter followers, your fellow travelers and bloggers who are already in business and know the nitty-gritty. you need to build contacts and use them for your good, if you can.

Right, all that is important, but Do you need to get obsessed about the numbers? No. People have this tendency to fall for followers, number of likes, Ranking and other website scores. I couldn't post for a month, and my alexa dropped so did one other rating that I have had added in. Can you trust such ranking for the evaluation? Those are for you not for PR. You can pay 5 dollars and buy ten thousand fake facebook/twitter followers, if you need to show that off that is. Or you can actually spend some bucks and advertise your page to get more likes and attention. Forming a community, or being a part  of one, can also help in giving you initial exposure, but that can not be true reflection of what you will eventually get in return.

Saffron Colored Emotions | Naga Babas| Maha Kumbh Mela | Jan 14th, 2013 | Makar Sankranti | First Shahi Snan | Prayag | India


So who do you think you want to be? You started with fun and it began to turn in to a regular headache for you where you have to constantly keep your facebook page updated, and stay active on twitter, keep sending stories to editors and dealing with rejections?

Blogging is lot of effort. but its a great medium to learn all this and much more and It all depends on where you want to take it. just hold on to that pole that your objective is, and do your dance. I am sure you'd have fun.  

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