Dan and I were both fortunate to meet Barbara Cameron when we were spending a month in Hanoi, Vietnam. Barb is one of the most talented photographers we know, and her special niches are food, hospitality and travel.

Like other photographers, she was once a beginner, and she started her career before she took a deep dive into world travel in recent years. We enjoyed reading this interview with Barb to see how one goal in the back of her mind let her end up on a whirlwind adventure across many continents, with tens of thousands of photos on her camera roll.

Ready to learn more about Barb, from her early travel experiences to the best tips she has for photography lovers? Let’s get right into this creative travel feature.

Tell us about your travel journey. When were your first travel experiences?

As a young girl growing up in western Canada, I spent a lot of time jostling for room in the back seat of a car on family road trips to campsites. The farthest journey we took as a family was from our home in Calgary, Canada, to the Oregon coast.

I remember the first time I saw the ocean hugged by a miles-long white sand beach. It was a jaw-dropping and life-changing moment for me. I was 6 years old.

When my first child was a young teenager, I really wanted to take him out of school for a year and travel the world. I had great visions of the sights we could see and experiences we could have. This was long before the internet and Uber and Instagram. That journey never happened, but it always stayed in the back of my mind as a strong desire.

Fast forward many years to when my two children had grown up and I was living solo. I decided to join some photography colleagues of mine on an educational photo tour based in Lisbon, Portugal.

It was my first overseas travel experience, and I extended it on either side of the photo tour to make it worthwhile. I visited London, England, Portugal (of course), Spain, France and Belgium. It was yet another life-changing event for me – I was officially hooked on travel.

Sometime in the fall of 2017 as I was searching for a recipe on my iPad, the screen was taken over by a full-page ad for a company called Remote Year.

It was a landing page with basic details of the travel offering and a contact form. It made me think back to my desire to travel the world for a year.

I quickly filled out the form, honestly thinking I would never hear back from anybody. The very next day, I got a call from someone from Remote Year. And in late September of 2018, I embarked, with my adult daughter in tow, on a year-long travel adventure around the world: 17 countries visited, 17 World Unesco Sites, 21 flights, 40,044 shutter clicks on my camera, and 1 helluva year!

My travel group is known as RY Curie, and of the 34 in our group, 90% are still connected in communications and some small group travel adventures.

Plus, our very first RY Curie reunion happened in Lisbon, Portugal, in June 2024! About half of the original Curies gathered for a week of reconnecting and memory-making.

Again, because Europe is a long journey from my home in the Pacific Northwest of Canada, I sandwiched the reunion into a 5-week European adventure that included the UK, Netherlands, Bulgaria, Spain and then Portugal, for the reunion.

How did you first get into photography? Did you have any specialties?

My sister gave me a Canon Rangefinder camera for my 16th birthday. It was a bit of a surprise, because I had never really shown any interest in photography before then. (I think she got a great sale price where she worked.)

And oh, how that gift changed my life! I started to take photos and get some great feedback. I realized I had a bit of a photographic eye, and I was hooked. I considered a career as a photographer.

And then life took some turns. I fell in love, got married, had babies, went to university, got jobs, built a couple of businesses. You know how it goes. So photography became a hobby and a way to archive family history.

And then, my hobby turned into a profession. I enrolled in a Photography Certificate program at a Calgary-based college, and one of my instructors said, “You should make some money with your photography!”

So I believed him, and I hung out my shingle as a professional photographer in 2008, specializing in editorial food photography.

Why food photography?

I fell in love with food when I started cooking family dinners at 11 years old. During my teenage years and into my business career, I explored the culinary world from cooking gigs in oil rig camps to tasting fine wine and food as the web manager for a boutique wine market.

So when I needed a niche as a new-photographer-in-Vancouver, it seemed I had a natural talent for food photography. It was easy for me to apply the technical skills I had with a camera to a subject I had full instinctual knowledge of.

I was super lucky and grateful to meet the publisher and editor of Edible Vancouver magazine (now called Edible Vancouver & Wine Country magazine), and forged a years-long relationship with them to provide photos for the publication.

I am exceptionally proud that my photos grace 13 of the magazine covers from 2010-2018.

What was the motivation to travel for a year, and what were your expectations for photography opportunities?

I’ve already mentioned that I had a deep desire from so many years ago to travel the world for a year, so Remote Year really provided that amazing opportunity.

The earlier European trip I had made in 2016 generated thousands of images in just 5 weeks, so I knew that a full year of travel would increase that exponentially. And it did!

I clicked the shutter 40,044 times in that year. Not long after I returned home I created a slideshow featuring 1,000 images that I shared locally with other photography enthusiasts.

And 5 years later, I am still, slowly but surely, going through the images and finding some gems. It’s interesting to me to see what I chose to feature 5 years ago with what I see now. Time changes perspective in so many ways.

Did traveling for a year surprise you, from a photography standpoint?

Not at all during the year. I was never without my camera during that time and was constantly motivated to grab the next shot.

What really surprised me was the creative drought that descended on me after I returned home. I’ve had creative barriers before, times when I am just not motivated to pick up the camera.

But this time it lasted, and lasted, and lasted… so long that I started to worry and wonder, “Am I really a photographer?”

I had to work very hard mentally to accept the situation and try not to worry and feel guilty, or to pressure myself to show up. I had to let time allow the creative juices to flow again.

How have you grown as a photographer through the years?

Wow, that is a big question and very tough to answer.

Sometimes when I scroll through older images in my archives, I think, “Ah, I was really an amateur back then.”

And yet at other times, I can look at the same images and think, “Hey, I wasn’t so bad back then!”

I mentioned perspective earlier, and part of my growth as a photographer is really understanding that concept. Sometimes the mood I am in colours my own judgement of my work, both good and bad!

Being a creative is fraught with self-judgement, so I love the moments when I can view my work in a positive perspective. And I know now that if I am being too judgmental, all I have to do is step away and come back another day to view with different “glasses” on.

Growth has also come in the way of a deeper understanding of my style, my preferred genre(s) and photographic subjects/themes, and much more confidence in my talent and technical skill.

Having said that, I also know that I can and will continue to change and evolve: try new genres, subjects, and styles. And that is okay!

I also don’t pressure myself to do the ‘gram if I don’t want to (which I hardly ever want to.)

When you’re taking photos in a new place, what inspires you the most?

The absolute “newness” of everything I see is so inspiring!

I rarely research a new place in advance. I prefer to get settled quickly in my new digs, then grab my camera and just walk around. Alone. Just me, my eyes and my camera. That is the most fun and inspiring way for me to get introduced to a new location.

I get ideas of where to go back to, what time of day the light will be best in certain locations, which emotions arise in me so that I know which emotions I want to evoke in the viewers of my images, and so on.

I get excited just thinking about the next location as I write this!

What are some of the most memorable experiences for you, in hospitality and food photography?

My most recent memorable experience was travelling to London, England, to attend the awards ceremony as a finalist for the Pink Lady Food Photographer of the Year competition!

It’s a very prestigious international food photography competition that I have been submitting images to for several years; I had been shortlisted 3 years in a row and then one of my images was selected as a finalist in the 2024 edition! And the image was captured during my Remote Year adventure with my beloved Curies as the primary subjects.

Title: Tagine Feast in a Berber Village

Pink Lady Category: Food at the Table

Description: Imagine hiking several kilometres to a Berber village in the High Atlas Mountains in Morocco, and being treated to a full tagine feast on the roof of a humble cinder-block home. I was so taken by the generosity of our Berber hosts, by their ability to prepare such a feast in a remote location, and by the satiated guests after the meal. This image tells that story.

Here is the full story of the tagine feast in a Berber Village.

While the image didn’t place in the top 3 in its category, being one of 7 finalists in that category and having my image noted as “Highly Commended” by the esteemed panel of global judges fills me with pride!

Also while I did my Remote Year journey, I wrote and photographed several articles for Edible Vancouver & Wine Country magazine. The series was titled “Memorable Flavours” and featured a foodie in each location who had to have some connection with British Columbia, and who answered my question, “What is your first food memory?”

It was a fun adventure finding the person, conducting interviews, taking photographs, and then writing the article. And it was so satisfying to see my byline in print!

While I completed 6 articles for the series, only 5 were published, including stories in Portugal, Croatia, Morocco, Vietnam and Chile. The one left out (due to space constraints) was done in Prague, Czech Republic, where a fellow owns a highly popular S-R-O Canadian poutine restaurant! And he used to be a DJ in Whistler, BC. Those kinds of connections always delighted me as I travelled globally.

And finally, during the pandemic years when travel was limited to staycations, I was fortunate to do some hospitality photography for an incredibly beautiful hotel on Quadra Island, which is part of the Discovery Islands, located along the Inside Passage seaway between Vancouver Island and mainland British Columbia.

The Tsa-Kwa-Luten Lodge is an indigenous-operated oceanfront compound that includes regular hotel rooms, cabins and a campsite. And the fresh seafood didn’t disappoint!

Leave us with some wisdom for anyone who wants to combine world travel and photography.

First tip: choose one lens to travel with! I know that sounds impossible to most photographers.

During Remote Year, I travelled with 2 camera bodies, 3 lenses and all the other essential camera accessories needed like batteries, SD cards, extra lens caps, a travel tripod and more.

All that “stuff” was all I could carry on for each flight, so I was forever concerned that if my luggage was lost, I would be without any clothes or toothbrush.

Thank goodness it never happened during that year, but I also rarely used a lot of my gear, so it was really wasted weight.

Now I travel with 1 camera body, 1 lens and fewer accessories. And I am really glad I made the switch. In this blog post, I tell my story (and provide more tips) about how to travel with one lens as a photographer.

Secondly, try to see and capture the world with your own eyes, not what thousands of others have seen and posted on social media. You will not only avoid the throngs of people trying to get the exact same “insta-shot,” but you just might stumble upon some very unique locations when you take the road less travelled.

And finally, give yourself permission to set down your camera occasionally and enjoy the moment without trying to capture it.

Let me end with a story: While hiking in the Andes Mountains in Chile one day, I had just put my camera in its bag to avoid smashing against the rocks on our downhill descent from the summit. And then I saw a giant condor flapping its massive wings right toward us!

Immediately, I crouched down to open up my camera bag, but I knew that I would miss the flight of the condor if I continued. So, I just stood up and watched that magnificent bird fly right over our heads. It was an awesome defining moment in my travel journey, and sure, I wish I had captured it in photos, but I am more grateful that I witnessed the majesty instead of scrambling with a camera bag and camera settings.

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