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Preparation’s are key to success!

Photo by Pedro Quintela

Ten years ago, historian Pedro Quintela discovered photography as a way to balance stress and connect with Mother Nature. In 2020, he had everything set for travelling to his bucket list destination in South America, but then the pandemic hit. Now, he is hoping to be able to go there finally.



 

Professional photographers come in many different versions. One thing they often have in common is that they are seasoned travellers, crisscrossing the globe on assignments or projects. In our series The Traveller, we interview some of them about their travel experiences and their photography.

 

When taking up photography, he never expected others to appreciate his work. Surprisingly to himself, he won some photo contests, got his work displayed in a few countries, did many jobs for some major brands, wrote for some popular photography blogs, and even started a channel called Photo Reflections.


Globetrotter or homebody? How often do you travel for photography, and how often do you travel privately? Do you have a preference?


Pedro Quintela

I'm the definition of a globetrotter. Wherever I can go, I just do it! At this point in my life, I can't dissociate travelling from photography. Both are linked, and there's always an excuse to take photo gear and explore something. I do three major trips per year, generally due to an assignment for a client. Besides that, I take at least two smaller trips monthly, depending on the season. Curiously, in summer, I almost don't go out shooting.


Are you a planning pro or a last-minute maestro? Please walk us through your typical trip planning process: research, booking, packing, etc.


Most of my trips are planned ahead of time because I want to understand what variables could interfere with my shooting expectations. Thinking in advance is the key to me.


Firstly, I do general research to find which locations will offer me better opportunities. I scout many platforms' potential places and start pinning them on a Google map. Even if I see that they seem to me in excess, I don't mind because there's always a chance that some might not be available or reachable—so the more, the merrier.





Booking will be the next step based on my budget and the hotel's location. A rule of thumb is to be guided by online opinions. Generally, people tend to express very thoroughly how bad or good the experience was.


Packing takes me a lot of time since packing is a big deal to me. I wait for the last four days before I choose clothing and shoes. If the weather is uncertain, especially the temperatures, the smart thing is to use layers. I have always had two small handbags with personal hygiene items on the go. Depending on the country, I always check how the electrical outlets are. We have too many charging devices, so it is an important deal.


Solo wanderer or a pack animal? Do you prefer to travel solo or with others?


I have made some trips by myself, but I hate travelling solo, simple as that. I need to share my experiences and thoughts with someone else and feel more secure knowing that someone is there with me. My ideal companion is, of course, my better half; there is no question about it. But when not possible, bringing a dear friend is also a big thing to me. However, it must be someone who shares similar tastes; otherwise, the experience could be unbearable.


From funny to frustrating: Share a memorable anecdote from your travels that captures the essence of adventure.


One of my all-time projects was to document life aboard a big sailboat. I arranged everything with a group of Spanish friends who were kind enough to create the perfect match for my needs—a big ship in the north of Spain, in Santander, to be more precise.


Finally, the big day arrived. We had all the gear in place and knew exactly what to do. I was having a blast and seeing my dream come true! Well, not for long... Onboard, I started feeling dizzy; then the dizziness became a huge queasiness.


I become so pale, so white, that everyone starts to be concerned about my health.

Oh boy, in a second, I start feeling that I need to be better just to die. I become so pale, so white, that everyone starts to be concerned about my health. I had to lie down, wishing so badly to put my feet back on land. I felt angry for letting down everyone and my project. I just realized that I'm not a sea creature. To this day, my friends still make fun of me!


Essentials in your suitcase: Besides photography gear, what are three things you must pack on every trip and why?


Wherever I go, no matter where or how long, I always carry a kit of hygiene essentials, painkillers for a sudden headache, and power adapters. That trio is prepackaged in three different cases.


Favorite travel destination for photography?


By far, my favorite travel destination is Italy, particularly the Tuscany area. It's unbelievably cinematic and a huge mix of history, culture, gastronomy, and people. You literally can find something amazing in each corner of a town, a village, or a path on the fields.


Photo by Pedro Quintela


Beyond the postcard: Share your insider tips on capturing unique and authentic photos in this destination. Where are the hidden gems and lesser-known spots?


First, you must research online. Nowadays, the array of information on the web can save you dilemmas, misconceptions, and turnoffs before you get to the locations. My tip is to research iconic locations and extend your radius around them. Also, get in touch with the locals. Generally, people are friendly and helpful.


For me, the hidden gems are in the Val d'Orcia.

For me, the hidden gems are in the Val d'Orcia. Rent a car, park it safely somewhere, and start scouting around. I'm positive that, like me, you'll find gorgeous landscapes. And the great thing is that you aren't only able to shoot good images at sunrise and sunset. During many hours of the day, you have the perfect light to enhance the hills, the shadows, the cypress, the houses… it's endless.


 That said, I truly believe that, as T. S. Eliot once wrote, what matters is the journey, not the arrival. So, during that journey, be aware of the wonders that could be waiting for you!





Beyond the lens: What makes this destination unique beyond the visuals? Tell us about your favourite experiences, interactions, and cultural discoveries.


For a historian like me, the towns and villages have a vast meaning. The depth of Italy's history and the profound roots of many of us are simply unmatched. You can spend hours in museums and on the streets and don't get tired of inhaling such culture. I don't know why, but since the first trip there, I feel at home. Somehow, I think I belong there. I never felt such a connection from all the countries I've been to.


Sometimes, it seems that we are on a movie set due to how expressive Italians can be. They have a proper way of seeing life as if there's always something more important ahead waiting for them. Once in Bologna, I went to a central street and waited just for the sun to come down, shooting people on their bicycles. In my head, I was in Cinecittà, with Federico Fellini directing it just to me.


Challenges and triumphs: What were your biggest photography challenges in this location, and how did you overcome them?


The first time I went to Italy, despite all the info collected from research and local peers, it baffled me. After three days, we left Florence and took the most scenic routes toward Val d'Orcia. When the first landscapes appeared I felt there was no way I could capture all it. I clearly remember that I started to feel stressed, feeling so tiny against such enormous beauty. I only spent a week visiting all the locations on my maps. We stopped in San Gimignano for lunch, and I understood why people say it was the Medieval New York with such impressive towers.





Your favourite photo: Share your favourite image from your favourite destination. Why this image, and what is the story behind the image?


Choosing my favourite image is challenging because, luckily, there are too many over the years. One that has had some awards is A Dream Within a Dream. It was shot at the Palazzo Comunale, Siena.


After an entire week in the Tuscan fields, Siena was the last city we visited. We arrived in the morning at the hotel in the historic area, and I immediately felt connected to it.


We checked the sunset hour and where it would be and scouted the surrounding area. It was great because I found a great street leading towards the sun, not very far from the tower, and I would have the time to shoot both locations.


I got a say that it was glorious. The light and mood it created invading the walls of the century-old buildings on these streets were pure magic. I guess the images tell it all!


Photo by Pedro Quintela

What advice would you give to aspiring travel photographers?


Thinking ahead of the trip is a must. It would help if you did your homework first. Back in the days when we had no internet, guides and paper maps were the only way. But nowadays, we have all the essential information on the web. Spend time wisely trying to understand what content you can make when arriving at the destination, the needed resources, and what gear is the most convenient.




 

Are there any travel photography myths you'd like to debunk?


The best camera is the one you have at hand; still, don't rely on smartphones to capture great moments. If you want amazing images, use a proper camera. You don't need the most expensive. A humble camera with the right settings will help you get moments to remember and share on social media.


What's next on your travel photography bucket list?

My next trip on the agenda is Patagonia. I had it all sorted out 3 years ago, but pandemics came and had to cancel it. I want to visit Torres del Paine and the Glaciars.



To see more of Pedro Quintela´s work please log on to his Instagram account or Facebook page. To learn more about photography you can follow his YouTube channel



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