Port and I were having a conversation yesterday about how, if you could stretch any one hour time slot in your day to two hours, which one it would be and why. I knew my answer pretty much immediately: 7 to 8 am. I’ve been a morning person my entire life, but 7 o’clock and some minutes after it has always been my “sweet spot.” For whatever reason, I think I consider any work or running I do in that time “bonus productivity”, as if the hours of the day haven’t started counting yet. I also realized that my favorite days of the week are Sunday and Wednesday, and I’m not really sure why, and that I really don’t like the number 3. But for the sake of staying on topic with this post, let’s circle back to the bit where I was talking about being productive…
From Instagram or this blog, you might deduce two things: that we either spend all day every day living in the moment as we travel and just generally living it up, or, on the exact opposite end of the spectrum: that we spend every daylight hour shooting and editing because of the quantity of photos we take. Neither is the truth, which is the reason behind doing this blog post and sharing what a typical (I use that word loosely!) day on the road looks like for us. This will exclude travel days, of which there are many and of which I’m planning on doing a blog post soon enough. This is also going to be kind of an idyllic picture of what we attempt to make our days look like – we often come up short or go into overdrive. Around here, we live by the mantra that change is the only constant. So, here it goes, an attempt at the slapdash image that traveling full time as photographers creates:
Right now, I’m sitting in the lobby of a hotel we’re working with on the southern tip of Sri Lanka, in Galle, and this is how most of my mornings begin. I wake up, attempt to tip-toe my way out of our room, find the nearest pot of tea (with milk and sugar, please), and either get down to editing a batch of yesterday’s photos or start typing out a blog post or responding to emails (really, which ever is most pressing). This morning, it’s this blog post, but just a couple of days ago, during our time in Sigiriya, it was editing hotel photos for one of our clients. What you may or may not have picked up on from our Instagram is that we’re also hotel photographers, and our business in that industry kind of runs parallel. So, while you often see the work we’re doing for our own Instagram or blog, there’s a whole lot of other content creation we do that doesn’t always wind up on our own social media platforms.
I typically like to save hotel photography editing for the early morning hours because I find it so relaxing and (without tooting our own horns) Porter and I just really love the edits we’ve curated over time for hotel work. They induce this balanced, centered, wholeness feeling that I just never tire of returning to and reworking. We’re actually in the process of getting a few hotel shots from this trip printed and framed for our apartment just because of the kind of wrapped-in-a-silk-sheet feeling they give you. Maybe I’ll do a hotel highlights post in the near future and share our very favorite shots…
Back to our routine! So after those first two hours or so, Port is either awake or has been awake and working separately or next to me (his ability to sleep in fluctuates these days, even though I tend to prefer to have at least an hour alone in the early morning, especially if I’m writing). We eat breakfast and head into excursion #1 of our day. Whether it’s something we’re planning on photographing or not, Port and I try very hard to go see and do something every single day that’s out of the way. Especially in a place like Sri Lanka, three weeks may seem like a long time, but there’s a lot to see here, and neither of us want to regret having missed something. If we’re feeling antsy it will usually be a hike, but in Sigiriya it was usually a safari. The hotel we were working with, Water Gardens, was awesome because it’s so close to Minneriya National Park that your safari car just rolls up to your hotel and takes you straight to the national park, no need to go somewhere and wait for tickets. Especially if you want to do a super early morning safari, this convenience cannot be overstated! Other excursions we’ve done so far have taken us to local rivers, hanging bridges, rice paddies, Pedragala rock, and secluded beaches and waterfalls. There is nothing either of us love more than finding something not many people have been to or photographed. Usually Porter’s on Google Maps the night before trying to hunt down some sweet spots (that’s how we found that hanging bridge in our feed!).
After excursion one we’re both usually hot and tired, so we swim. Port and I are both water signs, and it shows. We are such better people when we can swim in the ocean or the pool. We sleep better, we’re happier, and it just feels more us. After a dip, we usually sit by the pool and get coffee and work for four hours. Around sunset we split once more to shoot (maybe a bit earlier if we’re heading out on excursion #2 which is always a sunset shoot). We love the soft light that time of day brings, and, particularly in Sri Lanka, that kind of haze that hangs in the air and dissipates the light so artistically. Sunset shoots typically take us all of 15 minutes because Porter is kind of a master at shooting this time of day, and I think something about the light constantly changing puts him in the zone. I usually suggest he shoot something a certain way. He ignores me. He gets the shot he wants. I end up liking it better. And voila, by bedtime (our time) it’s usually up on Instagram.
Our nights on this trip after dinner are spent editing and working because of the time difference, which is a blessing and a curse. It means we run on a lot less sleep than we did when we were in Europe, but it also means that during the day we almost never have our phones on us. Any excursion or meal we actively attempt to leave our phones in the room (or at least off) and this has been such a continual blessing.
What’s also been so great on this trip is the degree we’re able to socialize with the local people and just spend time learning from and chatting with Sri Lankans. So many shoots this time around a tuk-tuk driver or a hiking guide or just some cool people who work for a hotel we’re collaborating with have come along to help us stake out spots to shoot or just hike alongside us and it’s been so great. I am overwhelmed with how kind the people are in this country and the opportunities they’ve provided us with to learn so much more about its many cultures have been invaluable to me. It might be a beyond gorgeous place, but the positive energy here has got to be handed to the people and not the landscape. They make it all come to life.
So, there it is. We’re usually asleep by midnight and, if we happen to be in the same place the next day (which is rare) that cycle will repeat.
We get a lot of DMs these days from people (a bit naively) asking how they can “travel for free to nice hotels” or something along those lines, and I hope writing out a typical routine shows that that’s not how we define what we do or would encourage others to pursue. Do we love hotel photography, yes, I think the appreciation for design and interest in the emotional effect a hotel space is capable of evoking in guests is something that runs deep in both me and Porter (I really think this is due to both our mums, who I think unconsciously instilled it with their own deep love for design in this sector). But we do work a whole lot, and it isn’t always fun or glamorous. But that’s the way it goes for everyone, I think. No matter how beautiful social media can make life seem, it’s only the top layer of a life, and you’ve got to take everything you see online as just that: a glimpse that’s a bit out of focus. It may draw you in, but ultimately, it’s not quite sharp enough to reveal the finer details.
Anna Lisa & Porter
*Thank you to Water Gardens Sigiriya for sponsoring this post. As always, all thoughts and opinions remain our own.