This is not about that Lynyrd Skynyrd song. No, it's about what we often say shortly after we step outside the plane or the airport in a new place. When we landed in Arusha, Tanzania, we were barely out of the aircraft door when my nose started crinkling. Wood smoke. Pretty strong too. That seems odd, I thought. Don't know what I expected to smell when I arrived in Africa, but it wasn't the smell of Southern California during a rash of Santa Ana wind fires. Turns out everyone cooks on wood and charcoal. Real charcoal, not briquets, but partially burned wood that someone within walking distance made in their back yard.
This was much different then getting off a plane in Costa Rica. The door opened and we strolled out into the tropical air lush with the aromas of vegetation and wet things. Not sure what kind of things but they were wet.
And it is not just third-world countries. There was the smell of walking through the airport/train station at Schipol in Amsterdam. Perfume. Bright, flowery, expensive scents not wafting from the duty free shops but from expensively dressed people - mostly speaking French. This was a 180-degree turn from past experiences with French speakers in the national parks of the western US.
Then Amsterdam itself. You can probably guess the aroma. Dope - in sudden, strong, overpowering gusts of nasal stimulation. And so randomly too. Sometimes in front of a "coffee shop", sometimes just walking down the street along the canals. Who knew Amsterdam would smell similar to Puerto Vallerta? We got off a cruise ship one evening in Puerto Vallarta to take a few pictures near sunset. We walked one block and suddenly - yep, the smell of burning cannabis. Great (and yes that is a sarcastic great). I hate that particular smell.
Sometimes we smell things that are intimately related to our photography and we wish we could add them to the picture. The sweet fragrance of a grove of oranges in full bloom for instance. Or maybe the smell of sage after a summer thunderstorm in the Great Basin. Or recently in Africa, the metallic tang of fresh blood at the site of a hyena kill. All of them link back to pictures in our heads. At least for me, when I get lucky and make a really memorable image I find it often has a memory of a particular smell that goes with it. And sometimes the smell affects the photo too. So, do you smell that smell?