Summer is officially around the bend! Hopefully for you this means a vacation – perhaps leaving the city for the the cabin, canoeing or wilderness camping. Maybe you will get on a plane and travel a great distance. Personally, I’d be heading for the South of France.
Regardless of where you plan your adventure, we know you will be planning on taking some amazing shots. The following are some ways to think about planning and organizing the possibly daunting (but seriously necessary) task of travel photography!
Brandon photographer Colin Corneau gave me a few great tips about preparation. If you are flying, spend a few minutes researching the airline regulations on carry-on baggage. Some airlines will let you take two, while some only one. If you are flying different airlines throughout your journey, be sure to check each airline for regulations to avoid any assumptions! On a recent trip to Nepal, Colin needed an Indian Visa on route but found out before hand and had no issues getting over borders.
If you are getting in a boat or anywhere near the water with your gear, head to Mountain Equipment Co-op for a Pelican Case. They come in all sizes, are waterproof, and float. There are also special dry bags available but be sure to do your homework before submerging your gear.
1. Plan your gear. Consider the weight of camera and lenses. Are you heading somewhere that needs a variety of lenses with an SLR/DSLR or can you get away with bringing a light point and shoot? Are you prepared to “babysit” your gear? Maybe you would rather a discreet camera that tucks away so you don’t become a thief magnet ( have you seen my posts on smart cameras?). Consider bringing only one lens or one format. Don’t let gear get in the way of your work! However, if you have to bring something like a tripod, do consider a carbon fibre model that is made for traveling. Get a model that will pack small – including the head. A ball head is likely your best bet!
On that note, In the wise and experienced travel world of Mr. Corneau, don’t bring a back pack. Carrying gear on your back and shoulders, as most of us can attest to, makes for stress and fatigue on the body. Instead, pack your gear around your waist – closer to your centre of gravity. Various models of camera belts have modular additions to be placed where you like them best. You will no doubt be able to carry your gear longer before noticing it. Other advantages include keeping an eye on your camera and away from pesky thieves, quicker access to the gear, and look! Both hands!
2. If you shoot film, a few things to consider. If traveling in a potentially hot car, bring film in a cooler bag. Pack it with an ice pack if you can. If traveling by air and going through x-ray, ask to have your film hand checked. High speed film will fog with x-ray more so than lower speed film types. To save space, bring only colour film and convert it to black and white by having the roll scanned. Colour film tends to pick up less static and dust so your scanned rolls will come back cleaner. **Be prepared that not all security guards will hand check film. Some won’t know what you are talking about and quite frankly, probably don’t care.
3. If you shoot digital, consider how you will be using the images. If you plan to make large prints for display, set your camera settings to a higher DPI in the capture – shoot raw if you can. I like shooting RAW+JPEG. That gives me a lot of flexibility to send off quick images by email or to post them to social media sites. Having the full file means more in-depth corrections and the ability make larger prints. These factors will determine your memory card capacity and how many images you will fit on to one card. Are you traveling to remote areas? If you plan to bring a computer to save those files to, consider the availability of electricity and the kinds of power available. Make sure the place you are staying has a secure area to store your hardware.
4. Consider shooting with available light. Leave heavy flashes at home. Colin advises: “Work what is in front of you. Light is what photographers work with, so pay attention to what the light is doing where you are”.
5. Shoot now, edit later! Some of us around here feel like a missed opportunity to shoot is a sad thing. If you are shooting digitally and you are worried about card space, you can always edit to make room when you get back to the hotel, hostel, cafe, etc….If you are shooting film, the cost of processing may be a small price to pay over the cost of a missed shot opportunity. Carpe Diem!
6.If you want the “beauty” shot- consult the local post-card shop. First off, you might want to just get a post card of the popular locals however, a postcard will show you the best angles to shoot those special sights from. If you don’t want to shoot “the famous monument”……try turning around. Literally. The ocean, forest/mountains/lake in front of you may be beautiful, but there might be something worth shooting that isn’t quite as obvious.
Try shooting at night, the break of day, or at some other “unconventional” time. Sitting in a monsoon? Pull out the rain gear, and your camera.
Shoot the mundane. While it might not result in a wall worthy piece, it will remind you of where you were. Depending on how novel or exotic the location, I think shooting every-day life makes the most precious souvenir. Once you get home, you might want to remember the corner store, or the interesting street-fronts of business or houses. They will seem exotic once you get back to your daily grind. Trust me!
7. Plan a shoot route. This will simply help guide some of your image taking and the sights you will see. If you have always fancied taking pictures of the English countryside (whilst in London), don’t forgo a trip by train if only because it seems inconvenient. Much more so when you get home.
8. Joel Ross of Joel Ross Photography gave me this great tip – approach people to get in to the frame! It’s always a good idea to get permission to capture a person’s image. People may surprise you with their willingness! Take a shot of that great bakery/delicatessen/fish shop with the shop owner standing out front. Tell a story with your images and you will have more to talk about when you show them off. Even if it’s a local haunt, maybe some photographic record keeping is in order.
I always forget to get myself in a few shots too so that’s something you might want to consider. You know you were “there”, but there is no evidence to prove it! It’s nice for other people to see you, their favourite photographer in a shot or two.
9. What would you never shoot? Ok – shoot that! Breaking out of old shooting patterns might be what your images need to be fresh again. And it will exercise your brain to see the environment around you in a new way. Win, win.
10. Staying close to home? View your surroundings as though you were a tourist. Walk around your city and become a part of the moving landscape. You’ll be amazed at your change in perspective. As spring turns to summer, it would be fun to document your favourite tree as it blossoms in to full foliage (I’m actually doing that with my indoor garden. From seed, to sprout, to flower, to food, to table!)
11. Depth of Field. I know it seems like an old trick – but seriously – don’t be shy. Always shooting at 2.8? Go totally nuts and shoot at 22! Always shooting at 22? Go mad and shoot at 2.8!
12. If you are shooting people it’s nice to get them close enough as so you can see who they are. Two words of wisdom were imparted to me by Winnipeg commercial photographer Ian McCausland: “Get Closer”. Take a landscape image of the landscape. Then take an image of your beloved. Sometimes you can do both, but often you get images back and you can’t see the faces of the person/people you were with. That’s sad.
13. Challenge yourself and have fun. It’s ok if you don’t get a “National Geographic” worthy shot. Remember that some simple editing (like cropping) in post-production can make a big difference to an image. If you have any doubt, come talk to us. We can help you take your images to the most of their potential whether you are shooting 35mm film or digital, 120 black and white or 4×5 transparency!
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