A Difficult Time to be a Travel Photographer: Richard James Taylor for National Geographic Traveller

Feb 15, 2021
Photographer Spotlight

In the Algarve, a region in Portugal, there is a local phenomenon in which a dense sea mist will form along the Atlantic and move in for an extended stay, trapped by the high cliffs along the Costa Vicentina coast. This cool gray fog shrouds the horizon and drapes itself over the mountains, making it especially difficult for anyone to capture the expanse of the usually gorgeous scenery. This mist didn't arrive until the very last day of London-based photographer Richard James Taylor's shoot for National Geographic Traveller.

Richard James Taylors photograph of the water from about for National Geographic Traveller

Every photographer knows what it's like to race against the clock, but travel photographers have a specific pressure to meet their deadlines. If you've only got three days to shoot a whole city and two of those days it's pouring rain, improvisation becomes your best friend, the clock your arch-nemesis. However, Richard has been a travel photographer for more than 15 years and is no stranger to the clock; they might even be buddies at this point.

Richard James Taylor photographs the beautiful city for National Geographic Traveller

I planned a week to travel through the region from Sagres in the south to Odeceixe in the far north of the park, which was just about enough, though I would've liked to have stayed longer!

Richard has been working with the team at National Geographic Traveller for around ten years. He's regularly asked to shoot for the magazine's 'In Pictures' feature. For this shoot, Richard took the lead. He worked with the team to decide a suitable location, and then he researched potential stories that he thought would fit the magazine's ethos.

Richard James Taylor photographs the sun setting over the water for National Geographic Traveller

Once we’ve all agreed on something that seems like an inspirational and authentic travel experience, I will work on the shoot logistics with NGT's support where needed. It's a great relationship with a lot of trust and creative freedom on both sides.

These stories require the photographer to deliver a broad range of imagery, from landscapes to portraits, interiors, and food.

Richard James Taylor photographs two women with mules carrying their packs

The idea of the shoot was to show a different side to the Algarve. Away from the tourist hotspots is a region of outstanding natural beauty and wild open spaces, and this is what we wanted to show, a sort of undiscovered Algarve.

Richard James Taylor photographs woman making pottery for National Geographic Traveller

They named Costa Vicentina, the massive natural park bordered by the Atlantic Coast, as the shoot's focal point. Working with the local tourist board, they explored the Algarve and all it has to offer.

This more rural stretch of the Algarve is dotted with working fishing harbors, authentic hilltop villages, and beautiful windswept beaches favored by surfers.

Richard James Taylor photographs the coast of the Algarve for National Geographic Traveller

Richard wasn't just shooting the beautiful scenery. He had also planned on doing portraits of some local characters, which he had to take at a distance due to the pandemic.

There were a lot of longer focal length portraits than I might otherwise have liked! Other than that, it was just a case of exploring the region and shooting the right spots at the right times.

Richard James Taylor photographs a fisherman for National Geographic Traveller

The shoot involved exploration, timing, and, of course, experimentation with his recently acquired drone qualifications. Earlier in the year, Richard gained the necessary qualifications to shoot commercially with a drone, which means that during this shoot, the call of the drone was too strong to resist.

Richard James Taylors photo using a drone in the Algarve

This shoot was wrought with temptations: the drone, the locals and their endlessly fascinating stories, and especially Marta and João Mealha, founders of Freeride Surf School, who, according to Richard, are the coolest siblings in Portugal.

Richard James Taylor photographs sibling surfers for National Geographic Traveller

Before the foreboding sea mist set into the region, Richard not only got a diverse range of photos but spent some time with the "local flavor."

Richard James Taylor photographs seafood from the Algarve for National Geographic Traveller

Traveling back home could have been tricky due to the restrictions put in place, but luckily Richard was able to just make the last flight out of Portugal before the next quarantine hit.

There was a travel corridor in place between Portugal and the UK at the time, which meant it was possible to travel freely between the two countries. By the end of the trip however, the situation began to worsen again. It's a difficult time to be a travel photographer.

It can be nearly impossible to balance the stress of working around the weather and time constraints, the pandemic-induced restrictions, while also needing to connect with the space and the people who live there. Still, Richard was able to make the necessary time to give the culture and the area justice.

Richard James Taylors photographs the sunset over the water and countless boat silhouettes for National Geographic Traveller

A quote from the great Ferris Bueller comes to mind, "Life moves pretty fast; if you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it."

To read more about Richard’s time in the Algarve click here.


Photo Editor: Olly Puglisi
Art Director: Becky Redman
Art Editor: Lauren Atkinson-Smith
PR Director P1 Communications: Surinder Manku

See more of Richard’s work at richardjamestaylor.com.

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