Mentor Series: Barbara Banks' Thai Tour

A trek that became “a fantasia in Asia”

For the photographer, this shot of two novice monks near the old gate in Chiang Mai, Thailand, “was an exercise in patience and watching for patterns.”Barbara Banks

“My mentor series adventure in Thailand worked on so many levels,” says the IT specialist from Huntsville, AL, Barbara Banks. “The most profound level was experiencing a much different culture than I’ve ever encountered before. It was my first time in Asia, and my first time traveling where Buddhism is the primary faith,” she recalls. That probably explains why the scene above intrigued her so much.

Photographically, she learned one important lesson in Thailand: “For street scenes like this one, when you’re not in control of your subjects, having patience and a vision are both key,” she says. Imagine how and where the elements of a picture might come together, then position yourself and set your camera to be ready. “After that, all you need is a little luck,” says Banks.

The best travel photography tells a story, and Banks is always on the look out for one. She makes sure to take wide shots to provide context, then moves in closer to visually explore the nuances of the narrative. “Afterwards, I don’t like to over-edit, so I work diligently to capture the image in-camera and do as little post processing as possible,” she says.

She also likes to work the angles. “Change your perspective,” she advises. “Get high, get low, and walk around. So many folks take the ‘postcard’ shot, but I look for something different and deeper.” For her, traveling with guides has made all the difference. Even after she’s back home, unpacked, and dreaming of the next excursion, the learning continues. “When I’ve needed advice after a trek, I’ve emailed the instructors and they’ve been great. They’re not only photographers, but are indeed mentors in every sense of the word.”

Barbara Banks has set her sights on future trips to Africa, New Zealand, India, Russia, and Galapagos Islands.Reed Hoffman