Some of the best photographs are happy accidents
We asked travel photographers share the stories behind them
I was on assignment in Cartagena when I spotted this street performer. I ran over and began taking as many photographs of him as I could. I managed to get several shots before he had finished, but when I checked them afterwards, I saw that my exposure had accidentally been turned way down on the last frame. Unexpectedly, it was the best of the series – the underexposure made almost everything except what was illuminated by the fire go away. What was left is this dramatic, somewhat mysterious photo.
I took this photograph while camping (actually, glamping) on the edge of the Makgadikgadi Pans, one of the biggest salt flats in the world. One of the activities at Jacks Camp, where I stayed, is to watch a clan of meerkats that have been habituated. They aren’t tamed or fed, but are accustomed to human presence. The thing about meerkats is that one of the gang will always be found bolt upright on its hind legs on lookout duty for predators, usually on the highest, firmest surface it can find. On the morning of this picture, I was photographing them scuffling about while Catherine, the camp’s owner, sat at a distance. She was wearing her sturdy felt hat instead of her usual soft one. And before either of us knew it, the enterprising little meerkat on duty that day had scampered up her back, perched himself on her head and got down to business as usual.
Kedar Ghat, Benares
I was conducting a photography workshop and about 15 of us headed out to the ghats to take pictures. Kedar ghat is one of the most crowded, and we were trying our best to take clean frames (futile, because goats and dogs are exceptionally talented at photobombing). We captured a lot of the typical stuff – temples, devotees – when suddenly, we spotted a bunch of kids jumping into the water in a receding pool and having a blast. This moment was just an accident, not out of the ordinary really, but for me, it was incredible.
North Cape, Norway
I had been location-scouting for an outdoors company in the peak of winter when my car got stuck in heavy snow on a deserted road. It was my fault – I had tried to take the shorter route. But imagine my luck; right in front of me was a snow plough! The driver was kind and immediately called for help. While we waited, he invited me to get on the truck and we went to look at this difficult-to-get-to incredible place near a small village called Skarsvåg. This photograph is the result of those detours. It’s a happy reminder of what travel means to me: not just seeing beautiful places, but the people you meet entirely by chance.
Dal Lake, Kashmir
On my first visit to the Dal Lake, I was mesmerised by its sheer size and the beauty of the surrounding Himalayas. I photographed the lake from several angles, taking care to avoid the many tourists milling about, but I felt that I wasn’t able to capture its majestic expanse. There was something missing. Just as I was thinking about how to make the frame better, this guy walked straight into it and right onto the spot that formed the ‘focus of attention’ I was looking for. He was there for only a split second and I only had one shot. This is it.