Tips for the Traveling Photographer

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Introduction: Tips for the Traveling Photographer

As a semi-pro photographer who has flown on over 50 flights and has visited more than 15 countries and over 20states, I know that photography is difficult enough without having to manage equipment, and looking like a tourist will make you miss out on the local culture, making you miss out on even more great pictures.

Step 1: Choose a Camera

When choosing a camera consider it's main function. Will it be for professional shots that will be sold in a gallery? If so choose a film SLR (or digital if you must). Are you snapping a few shots for friends and family to look at? Buy a slim point and shoot digital. Will you be taking lots of pictures, but don't want to sacrifice quality. Use a larger point and shoot.

This short paragraph won't be enough to decide for you. Do some research before dropping $200 on a camera.

I'm doing general family pictures as well as artistic shots I'm trying to sell.

I use a Minolta XG-A film SLR with a 135mm CPC telephoto lens and a 50mm Minolta lens. I also carry a Canon Powershot A75.

Step 2: Choose a Bag

The type of camera(s) and lenses you have will determine your bag.
There are three main types I will go over. They are:
Belt clip, compact bag with strap, and full sized/ camcorder bags.

Each has it advantages and disadvantages, but no matter what you need to chose one.

Another option is to use a diaper bag. It has plenty of compartments and is less likely to be stolen.

Step 3: Belt Clip

As the name implies these clip on your belt and hold your camera and nothing else. These are great for slim cameras like Casios or Samsungs. Remember, these don't hold batteries or cards, so don't be disappointed if you run out.

Pros: Small, lightweight, cheap
Cons: Small, easily stolen, no storage

Another alternative to these is to use a foam can cooler (aka "koozie").

Step 4: Compact Bag With Strap

These are better for higher end thick cameras like my Canon. These will hold your camera, cards, batteries, and any other small accessories you might need. These are the best for most people.

Pros: Can hold larger cameras, lightweight, cheap, can hold accessories
Cons: Not big enough for SLR, easy to steal

Step 5: Full Sized/ Camcorder Bags

These are best for SLRs with multiple lenses or for carrying multiple cameras. They are durable and can hold way more accessories. They can even hold chargers and large lenses.

Pros: Large, durable, lots of carrying capacity.
Cons: Heavy, bulky, can't be concealed

Step 6: Belt Clip Holster

These are pretty obvious. Only space for the camera. They are great for protecting your camera from falls and scratches.

Step 7: What to Pack in a Small Bag

In one of these bags you can pack more, but you'll still have to leave chargers and lenses behind. I pack:
Digital camera, 3 memory cards, 2 sets of batteries, a lens cloth (or small disposable pack), and a short usb cable

Step 8: Packing a Large Bag

Right now my main bag is a Kodak camcorder bag. It is big enough for everything I'll ever need, and is very durable. I use it to carry:

-Film SLR (Minolta XG-A)
-CPC 135mm telephoto lens (I keep my 50mm on the camera)
-Digital Camera (Canon A-75)
-Flash for Minolta
-Extra film. I usually take 2 extra rolls for a week long trip or 4-5 for a month. I only end up using around 1 a month
-Extra memory cards
-Extra batteries. 2 sets for the digital, 1 set for flash, and 3 sets for film
-Cable shutter release
-Lens cleaning cloth
-If possible my leatherman
-Robot patch. Just because I can
-Battery charger and car cable for charger
-USB cable

Step 9: Carrying a Tripod

There are many different options out there for tripods. I have a Sakar Tr-2l. It is relatively light and folds down nicely. When looking for a tripod consider it's weight, folded size. You want a tripod that folds small, but comes up to at least your elbows if not your shoulder. Another thin to consider are the arms that open when you unfold it. These arms keep the tripod even. My dad has a tripod without these and it is impossible to get it level.
To carry your tripod you can strap it to your bag or use a hook to keep it on your belt. I use a Bigg Lugg cordless tool hook. I also use a fabric strap to keep it from opening. One end is tied to the head and the other end has a slipknot that goes around the bottom of the legs.
If you are hiking consider a monopod.

Step 10: Day Trips With a SLR

When going on short trips I usually just carry my camera by its strap. I also take it's other lens in a binocular bag. If I have space I throw in an extra roll of film.

Step 11: Tips for Taking Pictures

Sometimes taking pictures can make you stand out in a crowd, and that is the exact opposite of what you want to do. Here's what you can do to make it better:

-Avoid using a tripod. Its harder, carrying is easier and you don't stick out.
-Stand off to the side. This is also good because you don't get bumped and jostled and you don't end up with the standard "postcard picture".
-Take side routes. Don't just go to the main attractions. You end up with a better view of the local culture.
-Ask people if you can take their picture. If you don't speak the language point and most people will understand what you want.
-Try to blend in. I've found that khakis and a button down or polo shirt blend in almost anywhere, and light gray or brown t-shirts look good even after a few days. They blend in even better if they are wrinkled or already worn.
-Avoid using flash. It draws attention to you.
-Make friends. Locals can help you out, especially if you aren't fluent in their language (watch out, some will rip you off for the same reason). They also know where all the hidden attractions are.

Step 12: Thats All

Well, thats all I can think of right now. If you have any questions feel free to comment.

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    user

    We have a be nice policy.
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    66 Comments

    I realize this thread is a bit old, but it is also brimming with false statements, so I'm going to toss my 2¢ in the ring.  Take it or leave it, it's what I go by.

    There are some digital vs. film arguments.  I'd like to address a couple points.  At this point, film is still capable of producing a higher-quality image.  That said, the RESOLUTION of quality 35mm film of ISO 400 or lower is about 6-8 mp.  Sure, you can scan it at a higher res, but all you're going to get is a bigger file.  High end slide film is probably more in the 8-10 mp range.  That said, film has a much more broad dynamic range and is much more forgiving of the user choosing poor exposures.  120 print film at 6x6 cm is going to be in the 25 mp ballpark.  You get the idea.  You can always use something like Genuine Fractals (better than simply stepping the image in Photoshop or GIMP) to resample the image to a higher resolution.  The problem is the actual analog nature of film (Extra depth to the images, continuous tonal range, far superior dynamic range).  So, get something around 10mp and you'll be matching or exceeding the resolution.  Start doing HDR if you find you're not getting the dynamic range you want/need.  Point and shoot digital cameras aren't even coming close to film at this point, regardless of the resolution.  There are a few exceptions, but they are very, very few.  Most P&S cameras are crap.  I have one for when I don't care enough to carry a real camera.  The images are intelligible, but I got better tonal range out of the 110 cameras I had 20+ years ago than I do out of my little Olympus 7mp indestructible thing.  The 110 didn't shoot video though.  Or double as an alarm clock.

    Next is the durability issue.  The average consumer digital SLR goes for 25,000-50,000 frames.  Pro ones are 100,000 and higher.  50,000 frames is a LOT.  That's more 35mm film than I've ever shot in my entire life and I've done probably 200,000 out of a DSLR over the past five years.  A typical wedding 10 years ago would have been shot on 10-20 rolls of 24 exposure film - 250-500 frames.  When I shoot a wedding with a second photographer, it's not unusual with digital to hit 3,000-5,000 for the day.  A $200 Canon or Nikon film camera is roughly built the same as a $500-800 DSLR.  Apples to apples.  My Nikon D2H is built like the old F5.  It's got about 110,000 frames and counting.  Digitals cost more on the outset to get comparable quality, but when I worked at a camera store a few years ago, we still had the F5 priced at over $2,000.  It's digital counterparts are typically $3,000-6,000.  I'd say that's reasonable.

    Print longevity and quality is another factor.  Dye inks are more vibrant than pigment.  Pigment inks typically last longer.  Where does silver-halide come in?  Epson's archival inks on EPSON archival paper (it's important to match the papers and inks that are actually engineered to work with one another!) go for about 100 years on a wall, 200 years in storage on average.  Some are only good for 30-50 years on display and others go beyond 300 years in storage.  Check with the Wilhelm people and read their independent test results.  Fuji Crystal Archive color, silver, wet-process paper is rated for about 60 years, about double what the comparable Kodak is rated for (b.  Epson for the win.  Fuji and Kodak both have pro papers that last longer, but the cold truth is that all photos are temporary.  You've got to go to the really, really old print techniques if you want prints that will last lifetimes.  Stuff like platinum printing.  And, none of you are talking about that.  You can do those from digital too, by the way, if you happen to have a good process to make a negative from a digital file.  I've done it as a project, not as anything too serious - fun stuff.

    Archivability . . .  Yup.  With digi, you've got to upgrade with the times, but there are also lots of film types that aren't readable or developable anymore without going to a low-quality, one-size-fits-all solution like a flatbed scanner that does transparencies.  You can't take those disc films and do much with them.  Or, 110, etc.  A lot of pro labs don't even have a darkroom anymore.  They do digital because that's what people ask for.  So, just keep changing with the times.  Film is susceptible to damage too.

    Tripods are like little magic fairies.  They'll make nearly all your photographs better.  If you can bring one, bring one.  Use it often.  Flash sync speeds on modern cameras are usually around 1/250th of a second.  That's slow enough that a tripod makes a difference.  It also can help you pace your work better and take more care in composing your shots.  Even if I'm moving fast, I'll fold my legs in and use it as I would a monopod.  Not ideal, but it's better than hand-holding on it's own.  Carbon fiber will help you cut down on some weight and they absorb vibrations instead of magnify, which aluminum does (same design ideas as for a bicycle - long riders on a budget prefer steel frames because of the flex vs. lighter, more rigid materials like aluminum and the ones who can afford it go with something like carbon fiber because it's much lighter than steel but still has some flex to absorb more road shocks, etc.).  You can get one small enough that it will easily fit in your carry-on bag and even flying internationally, it's usually not going to be an issue.

    The best answer to any of this stuff is to do your own research, conduct your own experiments and arrive at your own conclusions.  Don't believe everything you read, especially from some old codger like me.  If you like digital because you just like it, that's fine.  Just do your homework and make informed choices about cameras, lenses, media cards (premium brands cost more for good reason), archival media, non-damaging editing programs, etc.  Talk to people and find out what's working for them - but talk to people who actually know something and aren't just forming words and spitting them out.  Most people are going to try to convince you that they've made great decisions when all they are trying to do is to validate their own decisions by convincing someone else to make the same one.  If three people buy a piece of crap but are convinced it's marvelous, it's still a piece of crap.  The crowd isn't always right.

    I'm just a guy with a little experience.  About 20 years in photography, lived all over the US and a couple times in Europe.  Been in a couple other North American countries, South America, Africa, Asia . . .  Been in something like 40 of the 50 states.  I use a Nikon D200, Nikon D2H, prime lenses, a few speedlights, Kiev (Hasselblad knockoff) 6x6 system, Graflex 4x5, pinhole, Holga, etc.  I've worked in photo labs, done darkroom work, maintain a solid digital darkroom with Apple, Adobe and Epson products, etc.  Not to get into a pissing competition with anyone, but just to validate (as much as can be done for a stranger) my claims.  I hope this helps.  I'm available for long conversations about the evolutions of photography and why Anne Geddes should be banned from ever holding a camera again :o)

    over 50 flights? lmao, I am 12 and at the 300 mark already!

    18 replies

    all over canada, ive also been to about 10 other countrys.

    Ha! I've been to about 15

    and ur 12? (I know its your but i like ur)

    well, then I guess thats impressive, but still, i was 3 weeks old on my first plane.

    that's nothing...i was -30 mins on my first helicopter ride :P lol

    -30? or 30 mins. Were you born in one, or born then flown to a hospital?

    -30 mins. I'm being cheeky -- my mom was air lifted to the hospital in a helicopter and I was born 30 mins later ;)

    Hmmm, lol. But I meant in the positives.....

    haha, I know You definitely have me beat there

    user

    ive been in 10000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000 places around the world

    yeah, but i have a girlfriend! try to beat that?

    spelling police: It's " you're "

    I was, wasn't I?