We talk travel with professional photographer Claire Thomson

Claire Thomson is a Cape Town-based professional photographer who loves natural light and embraces every chance she gets to travel; documenting the environment, lifestyle and people of the places she visits as honestly and authentically as possible. She says that a good photo tells a story and transports its viewer to where you were standing when you took it. Whenever she travels, her boyfriend makes her a playlist on Apple Music and names it for whichever country she’s going to. “It’s exciting because I only get to listen to it when I get on the plane.”

Claire Thomson's favourite travel photograph. She took it in Bali.

Fashion – Food – Travel Faux Pas

Remind yourself that comfort trumps fashion when it comes to packing light; just pack a few clothing staples to create different outfits.

Her food philosophy is to try everything “well, most things” and advises travellers to go to the busiest restaurants and street vendors. This usually means the food is fresh and if there are lots of people buying the food, you know its good.

Avoid committing any travel faux pas by doing research about the customs and cultures of the place you’re about to visit. In some countries, gestures or words we may see as normal can be perceived as disrespectful. Approach the environment as well as locals with respect and always remember that you’re a guest in their country. You should also keep in mind that not everyone wants to be photographed and some cultures find it very offensive if you take their picture. “I usually smile, go over and say hello. I then take an interest in what they’re doing and only then do I ask if I may take a photo. Some of the best connections and conversations happen then. Who knows, you may learn something new!”

Professional photographer Claire Thomson documenting her travels
Professional photographer Claire Thomson documenting her travels

Claire’s travel photo gear

Claire has visited 11 countries that vary from Scotland and Greece to America and Singapore; she’s been lucky enough to have never had any clearance issues at the airport regarding her photographic gear. She travels with her camera body and one lens around her arm at all times with the rest of her gear in a backpack, because it’s easy to miss tiny details if you have to constantly set up.

Professional photographer Claire Thomson documenting her travels
Professional photographer Claire Thomson documenting her travels

If you’ve travelled a bit you’ve surely gathered a multitude of endearing, funny and even scary moments. Claire shares the stories behind her favourite photo and a (now) funny travel moment that had her in tears and later, overjoyed with relief.

She fell in love with the landscape of the rice paddies in Bali, especially with the sun setting in the background. After spending the day swimming at Jungle Fish they started the trek home. “The sun was setting and I remember it being remarkably quiet and sweltering hot. My friend and I both stopped and just stood in silence on the dirt road and watched the sun dropping out of the sky. It was magical.”

“Last year, I misplaced my passport the day before I was due to leave India. I had to travel by tuk-tuk across from Palolem to Goa, which is about 50km, to the house we rented the scooters from, as I was sure I left it in the bike. It was getting late and a dark storm was brewing. The tuk-tuk kept breaking down which meant that the driver had to open the back door and start it like a lawnmower repeatedly. After hours of scouring all the bikes with no luck, many tears and news that I may have to stay in India an extra 12 days, I went back to my room for a final look. I managed to find my passport stuffed under my mattress where “Past Claire” thought it would be safe in case of emergencies. I have never been more ecstatic to see my “Green Mamba”!”

The “golden rule” travellers should live by

Always be a “Yes Man”! Say yes to everything (within reason), because you never know what your experience might teach you.

Claire Thomson's favourite travel photograph. She took it in Bali.

About the Author:

Wouda Mc Micken is a self-confessed klutz and can be easily bribed with a stylish pair of jeans or good food. The privilege of doing interviews with professional photographers from all over the world is what makes her get up in the mornings, excited for a new day’s work.

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