Tourism research has recently been informed by non-representational theories to highlight the socio-material, embodied and heterogeneous composition of tourist experiences. These advances have contributed to further reflexivity and called for novel ways to animate representations. On this background, this paper develops the notion ‘distorted representation’ to illustrate that blurred and obscure photos can in fact be intelligible and sensible in understanding tourism. Through an exploration of the overwhelmed and unintended practices of visual fieldwork, distorted representation illustrates how photographic materialities, performativities and sensations contribute to new tourism knowledges. While highlighting the potential of distorted representation, the paper posits a cautionary note in regards to the influential role of academic journals in determining the qualities of visual data. The paper exemplifies distorted representation through three impressionistic tales derived from ethnographic research on the European rail travel phenomenon: interrail.