Landmark handstands and other photo traditions

By Katia Hetter, CNNUpdated 28th July 2012
We had no idea five guys with a clever photo tradition would capture so much interest.
But the overwhelming response to a recent story about high school friends who've kept in touch over three decades through summer lakeside reunions and a commemorative photo shoot made us wonder what other creative ways people document their travels, relationships and experiences.
If you're traveling with Andrew Bennett, you know he'll hand over a camera to capture him doing a handstand in front of some of the world's noted landmarks.
Bear, an aptly named stuffed animal, is likely to turn up in Sue Brady's travel shots.
Claire Warmenbol doesn't need any help or props: She simply points her camera at her feet to get the right shots.
In an era of digital photography and smartphones, it's easier than ever to create special traditions. The photo essay is no longer limited to professional photographers or people documenting the first day of school, Christmas or a college reunion.
Where the tradition starts
iReporter Bennett wanted a twist on the usual smiling-in-front-of-a-landmark shot.
"I thought to myself, 'I bet there aren't too many pictures of people doing handstands in front of the Eiffel Tower,'" wrote Bennett, an Austin, Texas, resident who started his tradition in 2007 when he was studying abroad in Spain.
"So I started doing handstands everywhere we went. I've traveled abroad several times since that trip, most recently to Israel this summer, and the tradition has continued."
Geneva-based iReporter Claire Warmenbol, who has been taking pictures of her feet around the world for about 10 years, thinks she started snapping shots in response to the question, "Why do you travel so much?"
Her answer: "Itchy feet!" Warmenbol often travels alone for the great sense of freedom it gives her.
From the stoop to social media
Steve Springer's photo project didn't start with photography or travel in mind.
On August 25, 1971, his Bronx-based trio of childhood friends were in high school when they decided to meet at the stoop where they always hung out in exactly 10 years. They didn't take a picture that day, but found a photo later taken about that time and decided to replicate it each decade.
Every 10 years, Springer, Steve Haimowitz, Errol Honig and other friends and assorted spouses and children travel from Florida, Washington, D.C., California and just around the block to meet at the stoop to take the picture (standing in the same positions), play stickball and reminisce.
Now the photos are posted on former CNN staffer Springer's blog and the group's Facebook page. The men even made a YouTube video of their photo shoot.
"That stoop was our hangout, it's where if we weren't playing ball or going to movies or playing records, that's where we hung out," said Springer. The tradition and the electronic community the men have created is "simply a continuation of a friendship built 40 years ago, and we're trying to keep it going and keep it alive. People post every day on our Facebook page. It's like we're hanging out on the stoop."
Last year's 40th anniversary celebration was delayed by 24 hours because Honig was driving his daughter to start college in upstate New York.
"That seemed an awfully good reason to delay things by 24 hours," wrote Springer on his blog.
Gratitude for many things
While the photos bring back memories, they also remind people of their families, friends and other items on their gratitude lists.
"I think about how blessed I've been to have had the opportunity to go to all these places," Bennett wrote. "Some were during study abroad, some were on family vacations, and some were for work with ISA (International Studies Abroad). I also try not to take myself too seriously, so doing handstands is my way of keeping a light heart during my travels.
Warmenbol's ritual reminds her why she travels. "It's 'me' moments on holidays, key moments of being somewhere special; capturing stillness whilst being on the move," she wrote.
It's not too late to start a tradition
A friend gave "Bear" to Sue Brady of Los Banos, California, after Brady's gentleman friend of 22 years passed away three years ago. Brady, 63, had always traveled with her companion, and now preferred to travel alone -- except for Bear, the stuffed polar bear.
He has joined Brady on her travels around the country and became the star of her travel pictures. "Some people when I take the picture will smile and think it's cute, and some people look at me like I'm nuts." Having bear along makes traveling more fun, she said.
If you don't want to take the same picture every time you travel or return to a hometown you never liked, you don't have to make the same commitment as these travelers.
"You don't have to wait 30 years to get the same sequence of pictures," says Heather Maddan, chief storyteller at and manager of the website's storytelling section. "It doesn't have to be 'Let's meet at the lake.' It could be any day. You could go out for the weekend and take the same picture every day (and see the progression of the weekend)."
For the hard-core enthusiast: a challenge
For those of you interested in a more intense challenge, turn to Charles and Rose Benoit for inspiration. The Rochester, New York, couple, who married in 1984, started taking a picture of themselves every single day about 20 years ago.
"It all started one night when we were looking for pictures after many of our friends started to have kids," said Rose Benoit. "We had pictures of all our friends' kids (and) we didn't have any pictures of us together."
Now the Benoits have pictures from all over the world.
"When we used to live overseas, we were both teachers and we went to this educational conference where Jane Goodall was a speaker, so we took a picture with Jane Goodall," she said. "Syria, Jordan, Thailand, Singapore -- we don't take a lot of pictures, but every day we have our picture."
Has social media changed the way you share your travel photos? Please share your stories in the comments below.