Travel Photography Mascots

Way back in oh-eight I did a little post I like to call “How to Take Vacation Photos That Don’t Suck.” One of the tips was to bring props with you on your trip. A sub-section or example not mentioned, but that would surely fit is Travel Photography Mascots.

Just what is a travel photography mascot? Ever seen the French film Amelie? It’s one of my favorites. In it the main character steals her shut-in father’s garden gnome, gives it to a friend who is traveling the world, and has her send the father photographs of the garden gnome’s adventures in an attempt to lure him out of the house. Travelocity has apparently “borrowed” the same idea for its commercials. There is also the book This is Blythe by photographer Gina Garan and many, many more. If you travel with a photography mascot add your favorite example to the NicePhotoMag flickr group or put a link to it in the comments below.

Most recently (yesterday) I read the post Mount Quackatoa over on and it inspired me to share a photo of my travel mascot. Here he is on a visit last summer to Seattle.

Nice Travel Photography Mascot

This was taken just outside the aquarium with my G9 and a flash connected by the Canon off camera cord. Super fast set up. Super light. Super compact. Very handy for us jet setters (wink).

Let’s pretend you want to hire your own travel photography mascot, just what would you put in the want ad? How about…

Small: I don’t know about you, but when I travel I like to travel as light as possible. When I’m interviewing a travel mascot, I want one that can sit in the darkest corner of my smallest camera bag without causing a fuss, doesn’t eat much, and won’t poop on my Leica (if I had a Leica). Don’t make me choose between bringing the mascot and an extra piece of gear. If they are of equal size and weight the gear will win every time.

Good Balance: You’re probably going to be plopping your mascot in the most precarious of places: you know, hand rails, the edge of cliffs, beside geysers shooting out blistering hot steam. The easier it is to balance the little fella, the less likely you are to loose him to the Seven Wonders of the World. Of course you could always tape him down.

Anthropomorphic: It’s just fine and dandy if want to travel the world taking photos of a piece of string or a padlock or maybe your favorite pen, but if your travel mascot has eyes or – bonus – eyes and a mouth, there’s a better chance of making that image connect with your viewer/granny/pet goldfish/crying kids you left at home. So I’d say pick something with a face. Some figures are even poseable thanks to hidden wires or an armature. Though it’s not a requirement, it can help the mascot look more emotive for your shots.

Meaning: Frequent visitors of Nice will likely not be shocked to read that I think if you’re going to go to the trouble (and excitement!) of traveling the world with your mascot tagging along, that you could only benefit yourself and you’re the folks that look at your work by choosing a mascot that means something to you. It could be as simple as a teddy bear given to you by your grand dad when you were just a kid. It could be a political statement. It could even be an inside joke. There’s a good chance at some point someone is going to ask you, “Why how come?” It sure would be nice to have an answer to give them.

The most important thing is that your mascot works for you and you have fun with it. If that means you have to throw out the above suggestions, go on and throw them out!

Travel photography mascot images increase in value the more diverse your collection gets and the larger it grows. So the next time you’re heading out the door grab that mascot. While you’re showing him the world you just might get to see yourself a little bit clearer. Huh?


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