In addition to the tourist destinations and popular photography destinations, focus on the culture of your travel location to bring your images to life and tell a story with your photography. Culture may be difficult to capture in your photography until you really start to look for it. Photographs that capture an area's culture can range from people, their attire, behaviors, architecture, signage, and advertising. Basically, anything that captures the spirit or characteristics of the people or destination that your are visiting.
This may take you off the beaten path or it could be part of the tourist attraction that you're visiting – you just have to look for it. Here are three examples of capturing culture from my trip to India.
Cutting grass at the Taj Mahal
The Taj Mahal is one of the most beautiful tombs in the world. The Mughal Emporer Shahjahan cut off the hands of the worker who built the tomb so that no one could replicate the beauty of the Taj Mahal. I got some fantastic photos of this magnificent example of Mughal architecture. However by looking over the side at the back of the structure, I found these women cutting the grass by hand. Power equipment is forbidden at this religious site, so it is done by hand. To me, this shows the dedication of the people to their faith and the strong tradition and norms of this culture.
Inlaid Marble Artisans
The Taj Mahal and Agra Fort are the two premier attractions in Agra, India. However off the beaten path, you can often find the background and history tied to these attractions. Our local guide took us to an inlaid marble shop in Agra. These young Artisans create inlaid marble works of art using the same techniques that were used in creating the Taj Mahal. Everything is crafted by hand, taking weeks to create a single piece.
Sweeping the Temple
The Jagganath Puri Temple in Hyderabad is a beautifully architected building. What really caught my attention was the lady who was tirelessly sweeping the entrance to the temple with a small, hand crafted broom. She was bent over sweeping the entrance that seemed like an eternity. My back was hurting just watching her. Yet, she never stopped. I took the photo at a slow shutter speed to show the movement in the broom.