Whether you are a snapshooter, professional, or somewhere in between you will undoubtedly participate in the most common activity in traveling, photography. Regardless of your skill level there is always room for improvement, learning from others experiences and suggestions. Others are constantly discovering clever ways to solve photographic situations using new techniques and equipment. The most important thing however, is that you develop your own style and allow others to influence your photos but not define them. After all you want your photos to be the best they can be, so you have something to make your coworkers, friends, and family jealous about when you get back.
The one thing you can be certain of when traveling the No Direction Travel way, is that you will never know what situations you might find yourself in. For those who want to take photographs and record their adventure there are a few things which might help you take your photographs to the next level.
When traveling everyone wants to take pictures of people, places, and things they find along the way. This can be done with a point and shoot just as well as it can be done with a SLR, which stands for single lens reflex. The decision which must be made takes a number of different aspects of camera design and use into account. The most important ones are: image quality, camera weight, setting control, and the situations you will be photographing.
If quality is your main concern your best bet is an SLR. These types of cameras fall into what are called camera systems because they have many interchangeable lenses and accessories which can be attached. An SLR is very versatile allowing you to set the controls to your preferences, in both automatic and manual modes. The downside to these cameras is they are heavy and bulky, and after a while you won’t want to deal with them. They also can be inconvenient when in a social atmosphere because they require a fair amount of effort.
A common problem of photography is that it is time consuming and you return from a trip with nice pictures but with a feeling that you didn’t truly appreciate the destination. When traveling the best plan for your camera settings is program mode. It gives you the quality of manual with the ease of automatic. The best part is that it eliminates changing settings and ensuring everything is right before every shot allowing you to experience your destination in addition to photographing it.
It is unpractical to take an entire camera system when traveling around, unless the only purpose of your trip is photography. Typically it takes a lot of lenses to complete a camera system so that every possible situation you encounter can be photographed. The best bet is that you find a versatile lens such as a wide range zoom which does not expend on optical quality. You might not having the ideal lens for a specific subject but have only one or two lenses can cut down on the weight you have to carry. A lot can be done with a bit of improvisation and creativity.
There are two schools of thought when it comes to filters, the purist approach which uses filters on the lens or the post processing approach which alters the image color. Weight is not a concern in this case because filters do not weigh that much and the pictures are typically better when taken using filters. For the best photographs you should try to take the picture right the first time, so well that you do not need to use image editing software. If you do decide to go the post processing approach you should buy one filter, a UV 0 or a Skylight 1B, these are essentially clear filters which serve as protection for your lens. They are insurance from causing damage to the actual lens glass, if you damage a lens the cost is several hundred whereas a replacement filter is under fifty dollars.
Almost all cameras on the market today, point and shoot and SLR alike have built in flashes. In most cases these flashes are sufficient to supply artificial light necessary to take good photographs. If you find yourself taking event photographs you might consider a larger flash which gives you the versatility to light the scene as you see fit. However, more times than not this will be extra weight which you don’t end up using.
If you are taking photographs at night or taking High Dynamic Range pictures you will need a tripod for the best results possible. This is not entirely necessary if you are resourceful but certainly makes taking pictures which require stability a whole lot easier. You can get away with using rocks, railings, trees, if it doesn’t move give it a go but again the tripod is so much easier. Choosing a tripod for travel should involve only two criteria, size and weight. There are a few tripods on the market which are perfect for traveling, they are made using carbon fiber and come in various sizes. The main decision you must make is whether or not the use you will get out of it is enough to justify carrying it.
Today memory cards are large enough that you could have an entire trip of photos stored on just one. Currently these large cards can hold around two thousand of the highest quality images from the newest cameras and unfortunately are fairly expensive. Having only one card is a bad idea though, because if the card gets lost, stolen, or damaged you will lose everything you photographed during your trip. Something like that will ruin your day and your trip, thankfully there is a strategy to minimize this. The best thing you can do is have several memory cards which have enough memory to store around five hundred pictures from your camera, even less if you want to be extra precautious at the expense of frequent card change. The weight is not an issue and if one card is lost for whatever reason, your overall trip album wont be affected.
On a side note make sure that you put your name and address on your memory cards. If you lose one and the right person finds it you might find it back in your hands after your trip. In the event your camera is stolen the thief might mail it to you. I have heard of this occurring but can’t attest to its validity, but it never hurts to hope.
It is nice to have a camera bag when traveling, specifically a backpack you can carry what you need for a day of exploring. When choosing one it should hold all of the equipment you are taking and be comfortable. LowePro makes a backpack with security in mind, it has only one opening which is against your back when wearing it. This is especially nice when you are in less than safe locations where theft is a serious concern.
Either during your trip or afterwards you will want to edit your photographs and put them on the internet or print them. A nice software package published by Google called Picassa allows for editing and uploading at the best price, free! While it is not as good as professional software like Adobe Photoshop, it is perfect for easy and quick image editing while traveling. It is quite powerful for what it is and is even capable of opening and editing RAW image file. For those who are not familiar with RAW images, they are uncompressed straight from the sensor, which result in the highest quality photographs which the digital camera can take. There is no reason to not download this and use it for your pictures.
An important accessory you can have is batteries because you need power to use the camera. It is a good idea to have two or three batteries in total so that you never run out of charged batteries even if you are in a situation where you can’t charge them. Be sure you remember to pack your charger and an adapter if you are going to a foreign country. One other thing you want to do is check to see if your battery charger can work with 220V, allowing it to work everywhere in the world with only an adapter.
Another accessory which is nice to have is a lens cleaning cloth, you will need to wipe your lens and filters to remove dust and dirt. Depending on the environment you are photographing you may need to do it daily or more frequently.