How to Make the Most of Your Work Trips According to Pro Photographers

As a frequent flyer, you know how hard it is to make room for personal time and inspiration during work trips. We asked three of Canada’s top photographers – who are also Air Canada enRoute contributors – to share their best tips on how to make more time for yourself when working on the road.

Meet the photographers

Dominique Lafond’s food-loving travel photography has taken her around the world, from Provence to Japan. She photographed the cover story for Air Canada enRoute’s July issue about the Canadian-Syrian chef who is giving spice-route flavours a new home in Montreal. Read the feature here.

Brendan George Ko has made his name with rich, moody images of the Pacific region, from Hawaii to Vancouver. He recently spoke to Air Canada enRoute about uncovering traces of Hawaii’s ancient ancestors. Read it here.

Alexi Hobbs has a particular yen for the Great North, but his work has taken him around the globe. He recently sat down with Air Canada enRoute to chat about brightness, darkness and changing our perception of Nunavik in Northern Quebec and the Inuit community. Read his interview here.

Kuujjuaq, 2018 (Alexi Hobbs, all rights reserved)

1. Extend your trip

“Any time I get hired to photograph a location, I ask if I can fly in early or stay a little longer,” says Dominique Lafond. Brendan George Ko agrees: “It’s a really important part of the process. When you’re responsible for representing a place visually, it’s crucial to try to understand the vibe. It’s also an opportunity to explore your curiosity about a destination.”

2. Get up with the sun

Both Ko and Alexi Hobbs love to hit the streets early. “That’s when the light is best for photography,” says Hobbs, “but it’s also a great way to get your bearings. You get to see part of the world that a lot of travellers don’t.” Ko expands on that idea: “It’s quiet. Those are the moments when you really can get a sense of the place without the usual traffic.”

Kaupo Sunset, 2019 (Brendan George Ko, all rights reserved)

3. Protect your downtime

Because of tight deadlines, it’s tempting for travel photographers to start editing images at the end of a long day of shooting. Not for Lafond. “I may take a quick peek at that day’s images, but I won’t start working on them until I get home. I prefer to use the few hours of downtime to relax so I can have the energy to do it all again the next day.”

4. Use social media

All three photographers value social-media recommendations over any official source of tourist information. As Ko puts it, “There are dining guides that cater to tourists, and then there’s where the locals eat. I’m more interested in that.” Hobbs takes it one step further by supplying a list of spots recommended by friends to the trip organizer, so that they can be integrated into the official schedule ahead of time.

Cassis, 2017 (Dominique Lafond, all rights reserved)

5. Talk to people

“While shooting in Kelowna, B.C., I went out with the local production team after work, and it was such a nice, authentic experience,” says Ko. Hobbs agrees that talking to locals is the key to getting insider knowledge on local customs, places to eat, cool bars or secret beaches. “When I travel alone, I always sit at the bar, because people are much more open to speak to you there. Sometimes just chatting with the bartender will make for a great night.”

6. Be open to adventure

“Some of the best advice I ever got was from photographer Grant Harder,” says Hobbs. “He said, ‘Never hesitate.’ We were speaking about travel photography, but I think it goes for all travel. If someone offers you something, say yes. Obviously be careful, but as a general rule, go for it. That’s where the adventure begins.”