Monday, March 15, 2010

The Essential Travel Photography Checklist

By Brendan Keenan, Penn Camera Tysons Corner

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Vacations and trips are what help us to relax, to enjoy a break from work, or school, a time to take it easy and just enjoy every day. But our journeys around the world also document where we have been, what we have seen, and serve as an important testament to our achievements. With the right equipment, the right preparation, and a little know-how, a trip can become a photographic adventure.

The first step is planning. Depending on the type of travel, some accessories could be more important than others. But some rules are universal. If you are traveling with an SLR, you need a wide angle zoom, and a telephoto lens. We will discuss why shortly. If you are a novice and only plan to use a point and shoot camera or a video camera, there are still many things you will need to know. First of all, where are you traveling? Is it somewhere tropical, or particularly scenic? Maybe your destination is more metropolitan, and cityscapes and landmarks are your subjects. Perhaps you are going somewhere especially exotic, or maybe even on safari? These situations all call for preparation, and specific equipment.

So what do you take with you? Do we plan for natural or man-made subjects? How do we capture the essence of the places we visit? With a combination of candid and well thought out photographs. We need shots that remind us where we are, and still tell a story. Let’s focus on travel photo tips, and we'll focus on equipment later.

Shoot people in shaded or indirect lighting, the effect of large pupils speaks to us, and makes us empathize and wonder at the thoughts behind the eyes. When shooting landscapes, or cityscapes, polarizing filters are crucial! Whether in the city or on the beach, a polarizing filter will add depth and contrast to any scenic shot, with the added benefit of giving glare and reflection reduction. The effects can be staggering. SLR users, be sure to pack a wide angle zoom. Nothing captures the views you see like a lens that encompasses an entire scene in one broad shot like a super wide angle lens. When traveling, sunrise and sunset can be used to create wonderful photographic memories. It is actually useful in many cases to use a telephoto lens, since a wide angle can shrink the sun down too small in the photo, making a telephoto ideal. By adjusting the f-stop, you can even create a sort of cross-screen filter effect, which can compliment a sunset perfectly. A tripod is your best friend for these shots.

Which brings us to gear. The equipment that you bring is as important as the memories you take away. I already mentioned a tripod, which is indispensable; if you don’t already have one, get one. It’s also important to consider power now. Do you have enough batteries? How often can you recharge? Can you recharge? When can you download your images? How many memory cards do you need? Does your charger work overseas? Address these issues before you go, and avoid unpleasant surprises later. Also bring cleaning supplies, for SLR users don't forget a sensor cleaner, for all others LCD protectors and lens cleaners are necessary. Trust me, you will need them, especially if you don't have them. So what kind of case do you carry? Well it depends on your equipment. Let’s say there is small, medium, and large, though there is every variation in between. A small case will work for the very casual, pocket point and shooter, even with a small camcorder. Medium will let you carry enough equipment to use different lenses, and make the most out of every photo. A large bag will give the aspiring photographer the ability to use multiple lenses, flashes, carry a tripod, a laptop, even serve a dual purpose as a day bag, carrying things like water, and lunch.

This is just a guideline. Your needs can, and will vary depending on the type of trip you are taking, the length of the trip, and other factors. But if you make sure to be prepared, and have the necessary equipment, you will get the most out of every vacation. You will return with more than just memories to last a lifetime, you will also return with a gorgeous photographic record that captures the essence and the uniqueness of the places you visit.

Have a great trip!