Kevin White has been a member of the Mississauga Camera Club since 2006 and is currently the Team Lead for workshops.KevinWhite

Planning for your next Photo-Vacation.

In this article I’m going to provide a quick checklist of things to think about when you are planning for your next trip.

Research, research, research!

First of all, research your destination(s) from a photography perspective.  Use the web to check the expected weather, openings and closings of events and attractions, upcoming festivals and photographer guides to your destination.   Determine what the golden hours are for the destination.  Does the seaside face west or east for sunsets and sunrises?  What is the timing for the tides if you are shooting an ocean view?

Don’t forget to check local customs – who or what are you allowed to take pictures of and when?  Is paying for pictures customary?   Are permits are required for commercial photography (such as in Banff, Alberta or Uluru, Australia).

Think about what types of shots you may wish to take (or avoid taking!) by performing searches using Flickr, Google Images, etc. to see what other photographers have already captured for your destination.   Don’t feel that you have to repeat what others are taking, but these shots may inspire you and suggest things to see/do while you’re visiting a new locale.

If you’re thinking of taking pictures for stock photography, check for professional travel photographer shots of location(s), (eg. Shutterstock.com, Corbis.com, Dreamstime.com, iStockphoto.com).  Make sure you are aware of known image restrictions for places and landmarks (eg. “The Gherkin” building, and royal residences {Buckingham Palace, Windsor Castle} and National Trust properties in England, CN Tower in Toronto, Eiffel Tower in Paris and many landmark properties in the U.S.)

Once you’ve done your research, prepare your itinerary by creating a shooting list which includes a list of attractions, events, locations (including times of day) that help you organize your trip.

Keep researching when you arrive at your destination (for example, get brochures, talk to locals, etc.).  Take a tourist bus around the local on the first day to see what you`d like to explore in more detail later.

What to take?

  • Camera Bodies:

Some photographers swear by having a primary camera body and a backup body.  Personally, I prefer to travel light and keep to a single camera body and use my cell phone camera as the backup.  It all depends if you’re shooting commercially or for pleasure.

 

  • Power:

Don’t forget to bring extra batteries and your charger.  If you’re going overseas, find out what AC power plugs/sockets are in use and if you need an adaptor.  My wife and I buy a single AC adaptor and a power bar and plug all our rechargeable appliances (cell phone, camera batteries, my shaver, etc.) into the power bar.

 

  • Memory Cards:

Think about how many pictures you expect to take and translate that into the number of memory cards you’ll need to bring.   How many pictures did you take on your last vacation?

 

As an example, a 32 GB memory card for my Nikon 7100 holds about 596 24MP RAW images.  For some people that’s only a day’s worth of shooting!  Are you planning to shoot video as well?   The same 32 GB card holds only 4 minutes of HD1880p (5 Mbps) video.

 

A good idea is to spread your images over a number of cards and not to put all your images on a single card, in case it’s lost or damaged.

 

What about disk backup?  If you’re on a long vacation you may want to backup your files to an external disk drive.  Bob Fowler posted a good article back in January on backing up photos while on vacation see http://www.gtccc.ca/backup-images-while-travelling/.

 

  • Lenses:

If you’re bringing a DSLR then you have to decide which interchangeable lenses you’ll need.

Lenses present a trade-off between weight and the quality of the shots you’ll get.  After you’ve done your trip planning and created your shooting list, then you can decide on the lenses you need to bring.

 

For convenience there is the “travel lens” approach – one lens for everything.  These are normally the 18-300 mm (DX) or 18-200 (DX) lenses which do not provide the sharpest quality at any one focal length, but are very convenient to use since you don’t have to change the lens, you have less to carry and you’re always ready for the shot.

 

On the other hand, for the best quality photos you may wish to take a variety of specialized lenses.  For example, 10 – 28mm for landscapes, 50 – 100mm for portraits and 200 – 500mm lenses for animal safaris.  The tradeoff for better quality photos is the bulk and weight of additional lenses and the need to change lenses to suit the subject matter.

 

  • Tripod:

Do you need to take a tripod?   Look at your itinerary – are you going to be walking a lot, taking public transit or driving?  If the first two, then you may find the tripod a nuisance.  When flying, a tripod cannot be brought onboard as carry-on luggage, but will have to be checked luggage.

 

Review your shooting list.  Are you taking a lot of night shots or other pictures where stabilization is required?  If so then you can also look at some compromise solutions such as a “table top” tripod (I keep the Manfrotto 709 in my bag) or “the pod” beanbag from http://www.thepod.ca/.  Note that even table top tripods will not pass through the airport security checks and have to be treated as checked baggage (I also had to check mine for the NY Empire State building observation deck).   Another hint for museum photographers is that while most museums have banned tripods, many will allow you to use a monopod!  This will help you stabilize your shot and reduce your ISO and shutter speed.

 

  • ND, Polarizer or graduated filters?

Do you intend to take pictures of moving water (tides or waterfalls) for which you’ll need an ND filter, or sunrises and sunsets and aren’t going to use Lightroom/Photoshop to correct via graduated filter?   If you plan on taking multiple lenses, then you can save on the number of filters by just getting ND or graduated filters for your landscape lens, since that is the lens you’ll probably use for these types of shots.

 

  • Shoulder bag or Knapsack?

A shoulder bag provides easier access to your camera in a hurry, but can be a pain in the neck if you’re carrying it around constantly for 2 hours or more.  On the other hand a knapsack is better ergonomically and often has room for jacket, maps, souvenirs, but is usually slower for you to get camera out and is less secure than a shoulder bag.  The speed with which you can get your camera into action (and back in the bag) and be important not only for you to get the shot as it is unfolding – but also helps you if your spouse or significant other is not a photographer and is losing patience with frequent requests for “just one more shot honey”!   Personally I switched from a knapsack to a shoulder bag that holds a DX body and two additional lenses.

 

By the way, don’t get a camera bag with your camera brand on it.  You might as well stick a label on it that says “Steal Me”.

 

A good idea is to also bring Ziplock baggies for rainy days / wet weather, as well as a waterproof cover for your camera, lens(es) and camera bag if you plan on visiting a rainy environment.

 

Lastly:

It’s wise to practice every shooting situation before you leave.  You should know every button and feature on your camera – if you don’t, bring your camera manual with you.  The time to find out that you accidentally changed a setting and can’t remember how to reset it is at home, not when you’re 2,000 km away from your manual.

 

Oh yeah, don’t forget your clothes, passport, etc.

 

Have a great vacation!