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Thread: Travel Photography - My Philosophy

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    rpcrowe's Avatar
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    Travel Photography - My Philosophy

    I often read postings like: "What equipment do I need for a trip to abc?" And then there are answers like, "You definitely need xyz equipment and don't need uvw equipment!"

    This is a bit of my philosophy regarding travel photography and equipment needed to accomplish that photography.

    It seems that there are two general categories of travel pictures; and the type of photos you desire to bring home might have a direct bearing on the type of equipment you would select for your travels. I am not degrading "any" type of photography; simply noting that the equipment one person might need for coverage can greatly differ from the equipment another person might use. Therefore the blanket statements that "You don't need xyz equipment for a trip to abc; might not be useful to a wide spectrum of photographers. However a statement like, "I used uvw equipment on my trip because..." might be helpful!

    The first type of photography is "Look where I was!" This is a collection of pictures of you and your travel companions possibly with the place you visited as background. Generally, these are of the snapshot variety and can be all many people desire to come home with. In fact, I have a sister in law who will look with awe on any photo in which any family member is pictured. Even close ups of the faces or body parts with no other reference to place them in the context of the area visited interests her. If there is no one she knows in the image, she has no interest in that image. My daughter is a proponent of this type of photography and now doesn't even bring a camera to record her trips. Her smart phone is all she carries. It seems that for this type of coverage, a smartphone, a P&S, or at most a bridge camera is all one needs.

    The second genre of travel photography is to document the area and what is seen in those areas. Quite often a more sophisticated camera setup is needed for that type of photography. Especially if the end product might be a bit more than for just posting on facebook or some other social media site...

    The above photography can be split into two general groupings.

    Those whose desire it is to record the architecture and landscape of areas visited and for one reason or another, have not much interest in recording the people of the areas visited. I think that these are the photographers who maintain that longer lenses are just not needed for trips to abc or def locations. They are the folks who state, "my 10 to 20mm (or some such) lens never left my camera" or "I carried a longer lens while visiting abc but never needed it!"

    The second group wants to bring home a collection of pictures which will capture both the mood and the people of the places visited. I count myself in that group. Although I think that it is necessary to capture the standard brick and mortar images, like The Great Wall on a visit to China, I also want to come home with a collection of images that will capture (to the best of my ability - given time constraints of any trip) the essence of the people living in any area. This type of photography probably requires the greatest variety of equipment. I NEED my longer lens to capture local people without their being aware of the camera. I also want images of good enough quality to make large prints (if I so desire). This means more expensive (and usually heavier) gear. However, I am willing and still (at 73 years old) able to carry that gear. I don't know how long that ability will last but, I have lost 15 pounds and expect to lose an additional five or so pounds before my mid-June trip. That will make up for the approximately 10-pounds of equipment I will generally carry.

    Another, differential is just HOW IMPORTANT photography is to you on your trip. I personally would have no great desire to travel without the ability to photograph; while for others, photography is just a minor sideline to any trip. Obviously photography is important to me if I am willing to diet in order to carry my gear I love to eat and hate to diet

    I research the areas I plan to visit and have some idea of what types of images I want to bring home... In China, I wanted some older people in Mao suits (I found very few of these) as well as younger student types (these abounded, especially in Shanghai).

    In Greece, I want some older women dressed in black contrasted against the white and pastel buildings of the Greek Islands I also want some older men sitting together enjoying the afternoon sun. I definitely want a series of the Greek soldiers in their kilts and tassled shoes guarding the palace. As far as architecture, the Acrpolis is a must but, I also want the blue roofed white buildings of Santorini.

    In Istanbul, I want a lot of pictures or merchants in the various markets, men fishing from the Galata bridge and I want a series of contrasts of females in traditional and modern garb. The Hagia Sophia is a must as well as shots of the Istanbul skyinge across the Bosphorus.

    Of course, the equpment which one owns or can afford to own is quite often a limiting factor. In my lengthy discourse above, I have not taken equipment cost into consideration.

    As I mentioned, there is no right or wrong in any of these ways to travel. However, there is a major difference in the equipment needed on any trip.
    Last edited by rpcrowe; 18th May 2013 at 04:08 PM.

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    Re: Travel Photography - My Philosophy

    Congratulations on your weight loss!

    My travel photography style is more like yours in that I keep all of my lenses (shown at the bottom of my posts) with me almost at all times. My 300mm lens is the only one that I might not carry on a particular half day of a trip, but even that situation is rare and only occurs when I am absolutely sure that I will have no use for it.

    We differ in that making travel photographs is a lot less important to me than experiencing the travel. If I lost my physical ability to capture photographs, I would still look forward to traveling. In fact, my favorite place is the next place I'm going to that I have never visited.

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    terrib's Avatar
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    Re: Travel Photography - My Philosophy

    Richard, that's a very well thought out post.

    More people should understand the concept that when someone asks "What is required?" that the first response should be "What are you trying to accomplish?". There are rarely pat answers that fit everyone.

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    Re: Travel Photography - My Philosophy

    I am carrying the following gear to Venice, my Greek cruise and Istanbul...

    two 7D cameras (one with neck strap and one with hand strap)

    70-200mm f/4L IS + 17-55mm f/2.8 IS (these are my two go-to lenses for all photo venues)

    12-24mm f/4 Tokina (I may need a wider view in Venice)

    All lenses with caps and hoods...

    1.4x TC - increases my 70-200mm versatility at not a great amount of weight

    320EX flash
    270EX flash
    Joe demb Flash Diffuser Pro and Photojournalist FlipIt

    Camera and rechargeable flash batteries and chargers

    Filters:
    CPL, protective, ND, GND
    star filter (for some night shots mostly I just stop down)
    fog filter (who knows there might be a place I will use it. I have one and it doesn't weigh much)

    Carbon fiber monopod
    Slik tripod converted for travel use and weighing a bit over two pounds with A/C ball head

    Tiny MP3 player/voice recorder for data also for recording audio guides to various spots. I also will have several audio books for entertainment while flying...

    Domke F-2 camera bag (great rugged but, lightweight general purpose bag)
    Tamrac holster case (this fits my camera with 70-200mm f/4L IS lens for walk around shooting) I don't want to carry my cameras/lenses on my usual OPTECH Dual Harness because of theft danger.

    I will also have a large amount of CF card memory and a notebook computer + external hard drive for downloading imagery

    Italian plug adapter. My hotel says that they have Turkish adapters available at the desk.
    3 socket surge protector. That way I can charge camera + flash batteries at same time.
    Last edited by rpcrowe; 18th May 2013 at 05:06 PM.

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    Administrator Manfred M's Avatar
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    Re: Travel Photography - My Philosophy

    I think you have summed things up quite nicely Richard, as most of my travel has either been business related (limited time for photography and limited space to take the gear I want) or family related (need to do what other family members are interested in). Often travel involves an aircraft, so I take all of my valuables into the cabin with me, again a constraint.

    I generally limit myself to a single camera body and three lenses for most travel, and will usually have a Speedlight along, but no off-camera flash equipment. My wife will have her own gear along, so I don't usually pack a spare camera.

    Right now I am working on a two-week solo trip, by car, to the east coast of Canada, so no restrictions as to what I take, where I go and when I get back in the evening. I'm having a bit of trouble figuring out what gear I will be taking, as I won't be facing my usual restrictions. I'm not particularly looking to shoot wildlife, so people, places and things are likely subjects this time round. With an empty car, I have virtually no constraints on what to carry; still, video gear, all kinds of accessories up to including studio lights (run via some light weight Li-ion battery packs). I think figuring all this out is going to be the hard part...

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    rpcrowe's Avatar
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    Re: Travel Photography - My Philosophy

    Manfred wrote, "I think figuring all this out is going to be the hard part... "

    Yes, I agree but, planning is also an enjoyable part of any trip... Planning extends the front part of the trip while post processing extends the actual visit.

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    Re: Travel Photography - My Philosophy

    Outstanding, Richard. That's one of the best explanations I've ever seen for "what should I take". It's now been captured for my stuffyagottaknow subdirectory in my photography directory! Thank you.

    I found myself wishing for that exact kind of thing for a person who's asked advice on what lenses to get. The person doesn't want ANY prime lenses at all, only zooms covering 16mm to 250 or 300 mm. It was driving me nuts! So I finally used a 50mm prime lens to photograph a hibiscus then an 18-70mm zoom at about 50mm to demonstrate the issue of the differences in focus and their effect on the resulting image, variations on the hibiscus I uploaded earlier this week. I hope this helps! ;~)

    Thanks again.

    virginia

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    Re: Travel Photography - My Philosophy

    Quote Originally Posted by rpcrowe View Post
    I often read postings like:

    "What equipment do I need for a trip to abc?" And then there are answers like, "You definitely need xyz equipment and don't need uvw equipment!"

    This is a bit of my philosophy regarding travel photography and equipment needed to accomplish that photography.

    It seems that there are two general categories of travel pictures; and the type of photos you desire to bring home might have a direct bearing on the type of equipment you would select for your travels. .................................................. .................................................. .......

    Therefore the blanket statements that

    "You don't need xyz equipment for a trip to abc; might not be useful to a wide spectrum of photographers.

    However a statement like, "I used uvw equipment on my trip because..." might be helpful!

    The first type of photography is "Look where I was!"

    Another, differential is just HOW IMPORTANT photography is to you on your trip.
    ...........................................

    Of course, the equpment which one owns or can afford to own is quite often a limiting factor.

    As I mentioned, there is no right or wrong in any of these ways to travel. However, there is a major difference in the equipment needed on any trip.
    Hi Richard,

    Thanks for your post about your travel philosophy and how you tailor your equipment to your travel objectives. Very enlightening and gives ideas.

    I guess my travel photography falls within your "I was there ..." category.

    Maybe I can add, the type or mode of transportation one uses to travel may be a factor in the quantity/type of equipment one can take along on the trip.

    For instance, cruise liners allow more baggage weight on board than airlines and so on with cars, buses or trains.

    Travel via motorcycles severely limit baggage load. Like my trips thru the rough mountain roads of the Philippines are on my Honda dirt-bike. So, my equipment has to be minimal and lightweight.

    1 lightweight Nikon D3100, only 1 kit lens: 18-55mm. 2 xtra batt, lots of SD cards. 1 back-up: Canon G11 and 1 waterproof Pentax ws80. Of course, my mobile phone-cam. ( 1 charger each), blank DVDs. All in waterproof plastic boxes ( when it rains in the mountains , it pours! ) inside a travel bag tied down on my bike. Aside from clothes, tools, raincoat, water, tent, etc.

    Cheers........
    Last edited by nimitzbenedicto; 19th May 2013 at 05:17 AM.

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    dubaiphil's Avatar
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    Re: Travel Photography - My Philosophy

    Those 'what shall I take' threads do amuse me!

    I generally do a lot of research online before a trip. Google Earth is invaluable, and you can get a good idea of locations for shots (as long as they are geotagged correctly) that you have in mind during your visit. Combined with sun location and shadows, you can drill down further to best times of the day to visit certain sites for better light. Still, you are relying on light and visibility to be ideal at the time you visit and the weather rarely works in your favour, so it's good to have a plan b and alternative equipment with you to capture the location in as varied a way as possible with your camera.

    Also, a good hint is to google 'photo tours' in the areas that you are visiting. There will often be a company or two which offers photo tours and day trips. You can view their suggested itineraries and investigate locations and times to shoot which may be a little less touristy but you'll come away with shots which might be a little more unique.

    All this depends on having the spare time outside family commitments of course, and transport to be able to get to these spots.

    And if you're visiting museums and anywhere where flash light might not be allowed, do plenty of research. Some museums allow photography with a tripod but without flash at certain times, and allow photographers entry before the public. It's worth researching and contacting these places to see if you can get such access. Or just take the lazy option and ask 'what equipment shall I take'!

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    Re: Travel Photography - My Philosophy

    Interesting post, Richard. Unfortunately my wife and I don't share the same interest in photography. To be more clear, we do share an interest in good photos, just not in capturing them. From her perspective they just magically spring forth from the camera and should never take more than five minutes to take. The golden hour of mornings is meant to be spent jogging before streets get crowded and evening sunsets are for walking on the beach.

    But after 30 years of marriage we've learned to plan ahead for photography centric and non-photography vacations. Last year as a compromise I purchased a simple, light weight mirrorless settup for the non-photography trips. I try to not even tempt myself by carrying any "serious gear" on non-photography vacations but can't abide a point and shoot type camera. Unfortunately some of the new high rez sensors with their insame crop factor are making it easier to carry a light weight rig that is still capable of high magnification and decent quality which leads to temptation with the birds.... Last December on a non-photo trip to Hawaii she busted me stalking birds around poolside when I was supposed to be fetching us some refreshment

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    Re: Travel Photography - My Philosophy

    Phil... IMO research is not only valuable but, can be fun. Your comments about times of the day and places from which to shoot is spot-on! BTW: There are sometimes travel books which are aimed at photographers and photography.

    I don't need books which are primarily rehashes of general photo instructions such as the rule of thirds but, often books will help me plan my itinerary so I will be in the best place at the best time.

    Among these books are the Photo Secrets Travel Guides by Andrew Hudson http://photosecrets.com/photosecrets-travel-guide-books

    These small books help a photographer find vantage points for many photos and also be there at the right time of day. His book on Yosemite can prevent some heartaches caused by being in the wrong spot at the wrong time. This is especially true for the photographer who has only one day or a portion of a day to visit Yosemite National Park...

    Travel Photography - My Philosophy

    I have lived in the San Diego, California area for many-many years and had never been able to find the vantage point for a view that I wanted to shoot. I drove all over the streets in the area from which I assumed the shot could be captured and never found the right place. I just assumed that it might have been shot from someones backyard. Hudson's "Photo Secrets, San Diego" book told of a public access stairway from one street to another which provided the vantage point I was seeking. I had driven by that stairway many times but, never noticed it.

    Sometimes research will point me to some unusual places to shoot. Three things come to mind:

    1. I can rent a quad vehicle on the Greek Island of Santorini which will allow me to stop at many places along the road for great views. This is my way of shooting rather that being shuttled around in a bus full of tourists. I already have a quad reserved.

    2. Istanbul has two museums which are not often on tourist's agendas. There is a Military Museum and a Naval Museum. I am retired from the U.S. Navy and am an amateur military historian. These two museums are on my list of "must-see" spots. In fact, I increased my stay in Istanbul to be able to visit these two museums. The Military Museum also has performances of an "Ottoman Military Band" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mK11n6nh2q0

    3. Apparently, there is a boatyard in Venice in which gondolas are manufactured and repaired and which is open to tourists . I have to do some more research on that. It seems that this would enable me to get some Venice oriented images which are not run of the mill.

    I am very lucky in that my wife really has no specific itinerary locked in for our Venice, Greece and Istanbul trip. Her desires are centered around the cruise ship's activities. I am also very fortunate that my bringing home good images is quite important to her. I have even talked her into carrying my small Panasonic TM-900 video camera.

    BTW: I make a list of equipment that I plan to take. I would need a truck to haul all of my gear so selecting gear to take on a trip is always a series of decisions and compromises and is (as Victor pointed out) also dependant on your mode of transportation.

    Some research which helped me on my China Trip is that, although the international flight had only a size restriction for carry on bags; the internal Chinese airlines (I took 4 different flights within China and one to Hong Kong) had a 5-kilogram limit on carry on bags. My roll along Lowepro camera case weighed almost that empty. So I carried my gear in a Lowepro Mini Trekked backpack instead...

    I forgot to mention a small item I always take. I won't be without my gight angle finder. Since my 7D camers don't have an articulating LCD viewer, the right angle finder helps me get shots from awkward positions. I am thinking about using the right angle inder to get shots or the various artwork on the ceilings of the various churches in Venice and the various buildings, such as the Hagia Sofia in Istanbul.

    Additionally, my very-very light-weight travel tripod is fairly low. I don't extend the center column because it is not steady with the center column raised. In fact, I replaced the OEM center column with a short one to reduce the total weight of the tripod and head to a bit over one kilogram. The right-angle finder reduces the need for me to bend like I am doing in this image...

    Travel Photography - My Philosophy

    We had a saying when I was in the Navy: "Prior planning prevents poor performance"

    I have seen people in the Hoh Rainforest of Washington's Olympic Peninsula wearing plastic garbage bags to protect them from rain. Visiting a rain forest without rain gear, IMO, is pretty dumb. Here is my friend in Alaska, I wore similar gear and was quite comfortable. I also used a Kata rain cover for my camera. We were prepared and the trip, sespite the constant rain was very enjoyable.

    Travel Photography - My Philosophy

    I also look into my medications. Every since I wandered around Vietnam as a combat cameraman, I have carried some anti diarreal medications on trips... Suffering from "Montezuma's Revenge" or whatever the local version is called, is certainly no fun and can ruin a vacation. Sea sick meds for those persons prone to that malady is another thought if a person plans on small boat excursions (like visiting the glaciers in Alaska). I have seen too many folks have portions of their trip ruined by not being able to venture away from the boats rail.
    Last edited by rpcrowe; 19th May 2013 at 03:38 PM.

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    Moderator Donald's Avatar
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    Re: Travel Photography - My Philosophy

    Quote Originally Posted by dubaiphil View Post
    I generally do a lot of research online before a trip. Google Earth is invaluable, ...
    As is now, for me, The Photographers Ephemeris. I am going to one of Scotland's small islands (Gigha) off the west coast for a week in a couple of weeks from now. A week is not a lot of time to do the location scouting and then work out timings for shots. Google Earth and the TPE allow you to do so much of that before you get on site.

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    Re: Travel Photography - My Philosophy

    I read a post once (could have been here) that promoted the need to take in new experiences of the world with our own senses rather than the camera. Traveling makes it even more important to really see what's there and absorb the culture. Other than a couple of notable exceptions I find it's usually the people that make a holiday great. Being too concerned with getting a picture of one thing may mean you miss another. I take a zillion photos on every vacation and do realize I can get preoccupied with it. Taking lots of equipment to a new foreign country when I'm on a timetable would only compound that problem. I find it very different when traveling in Canada, the US or Mexico where I've been before, know what I want to photography. The big distinction between the two is in North America, I am traveling on my own timetable and can take all time I want to properly plan for the light, set up and take the shot. Cruise ship plans or other factors such as weather may not allow you to get that involved.

    I've done the Greek cruise twice and never did get enough time to spend in most of the places. I spent many hours in the Plaka in Athens on my first trip. Ephesus is astounding and your tour speed doesn't give much time for the great travelog shots. The main cities on the islands of Mykonos and Santorini present so many opportunities your very limited time ashore is gone and you're still wanting more. I spent two weeks on Rhodes and only touched the surface of what's there.

    I liked Greece so much we had planned on a 3 or 4 month extended island hoping visit so I could take the 4 or 5 days on a bunch of the islands and get the experience and photos I wanted. Unfortunately, life got in the way and that didn't happen.

    Two things I will mention for you. As with any tourist location, security is a concern. It's been a few years since I've been there and understand the recent problems there and the increase in unemployment haven't helped. Particularly Athens. Second, no matter where you go, to and from, everything is up hill. Both times we ate like there was no tomorrow and still lost weight.

    If you haven't been to old Europe before I'm sure you'll have a great time. Take lots of photos and share your best upon your return.
    Last edited by Andrew1; 19th May 2013 at 11:59 PM.

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