If I haven’t said it enough already, solo travel is fantastic. You’re free to do whatever you want whenever you want. You learn to be totally independent. You develop patience you never knew you had. You have time to learn what truly makes you happy. And you gain the confidence to approach strangers, sometimes speaking a broken foreign language you were once scared to try out for fear of ridicule.
But the downside to solo travel, especially if, like me, you’re into documenting your trip with as many visual images as you can muster, is the issue of getting just a few photos that actually feature yourself – a little proof that you were there and, let’s be honest, a way to ensure some of those brilliant backdrops appear in the photos people actually look at on Facebook – the ones of you.
So, other than setting your camera up on a tripod or a wonky patch of ground and risking a passing opportunistic thief swiping it from right in front of your eyes as you’re mid-pose, the only other option is to ask a stranger to take the picture.
I’ve been a good judge of character when it comes to trusting the right people not to run off with my treasured DSLR, but I seem to have failed miserably at picking the ones who know how to take a half-decent photo.
Are these simple rules really so hard to follow?
Get the whole person in the picture
Me and a friend in the top left of the shot as we enjoyed a lagoon tour near San Pedro de Atacama. The plan was to make it look like we could walk on water as we strolled over a sand bar. My favourite thing about this one is the top of the man’s head at the bottom!
The Devil’s Throat on the Argentinian side of Iguazu Falls. This girl almost got my whole head in the picture. Almost, but not quite.
Hold the camera horizontally
A visit to the Casa Rosada in Buenos Aires – ‘Everybody lean to the right!’
‘Chilling’ at Pastoruri Glacier near Huaraz in Peru. I don’t know if the guy who took this was trying to be arty by making the snow in the background a neat horizontal line. Well, if he was, he didn’t quite get that straight either.
Avoid filling half the frame with nothing
The girls I met at El Totumo mud volcano, near Cartagena in Colombia. Aside from the massive black backdrop, I look like I have antennae!
The night my bag had just been stolen, in Cali. My new friends cheer me up by cooking spag bol.
When there is a backdrop, include it!
Believe it or not, the view behind us is Perito Moreno glacier – one of the most awe-inspiring natural sights in South America. Shame this guy focused on our ugly mugs instead (no offense Bex!)
Ok, so now I’m being pernickety, but isn’t this one of the most famous views in the world, and don’t all the photos you’ve seen include all of Machu Picchu in them? ‘This is me and half of Machu Picchu’ doesn’t have the same ring to it.
Focus on the subject
I’m not sure how I fought the intense headache from the claustrophobic Potosi mines long enough to climb into this, but seeing the result of my efforts, I wish I hadn’t bothered!
It’s all about timing
What do you mean, this isn’t proof that I went ziplining?
Use common sense
Isn’t it clear what I was trying to achieve here in the Bolivian salt flats? I said ‘Get me leaning against the toilet roll’. I mean, how far back does someone need to lean before you start to wonder if you’re taking it right?
But the biggest fail of all came when I asked a girl if she’d mind filming me sandboarding in Huacachina, Peru. She missed all of my clean runs (honestly, there were loads of times I made it down without falling), and managed to accidentally change my camera settings and capture this:
Have you had similar issues? What’s the best bad photograph you own?