Monday, January 20, 2014

Trekking around the globe, camera at the ready.

Many people take photographs on holiday. For that there are hundreds if not thousands of camera options available. For this article,  I want to concentrate on some of the pitfalls and some of the things you really need to consider when going on holiday and taking photographs

The photograph below was taken in Vilnius, Lithuania with a pretty mundane digital compact camera. At the time, theft and mugging was rampant so a camera had to be low value in order that it didn't hurt too much if it got stolen and easily concealable as well as quick into action. This brings me neatly to my first point which is practicality.
The ideal for wandering around in safe places is a camera that will allow you to take the images you want without problems. There's a tendency toward wanting something to cater for every eventuality. There is a penalty for that and that's a cost and a weight penalty. It's no fun wandering around a hot country with a 30lb weight over your shoulder. That's the kind of thing the army does in warfare. It's not what you want to do in peacetime. Of course it's possible to take all the camera gear you can dream of with you as luggage and just to leave it in an hotel room. The problem is that 90% of it will just get left in the hotel room. What you need to do is to carry what you will actually use without compromising on optical or image quality.

Zoom compacts are usually the best choice for most tourists as a handy all-in one photo solution. Some suggest buying bulk storage devices and uploading what's on your memory cards to the bulk storage unit on a nightly basis. I regard that as very bad advice. Much better to spend the money instead on more memory cards. Unless you plan to shoot video with your camera then there should be no problem with this as a storage option. I would not personally trust the wifi-memory cards too much. I had one and it kinda-sorta worked (mine was by Eye-Fi) but it didn't work well with video. The cost of one of the bulk storage devices is quite high compared to the cost of several memory cards. The biggest downside of the bulk storage devices is that if it gets broken or damaged or lost, that's all your photos gone and since most use a magnetic disk which is inherently fragile, it's almost pure suicide.

For those wishing to travel to take photos with a digital SLR, I recommend just taking one lens. If I were to take a Canon camera then the Canon 17-85IS seems a pretty decent choice. It has a good wide end and a fairly good telephoto end. Add a polarizing filter and a lens hood and you're away. Personally, I wouldn't bother carrying a flash. I'd just use the built-in flash for that extra illumination. I wouldn't take a tripod either. 

The ideal camera for travel has to be the Olympus digital SLR. It's a lot smaller, lighter and more portable than most digital SLRs. Even the new thing of Interchangeable Lens Compacts could be helpful. In a way these are very much the replacement for the Leica M series of cameras so beloved of travel photographers for their compact size. No modern camera is quite as robust as a Leica M but on the other hand, they're a lot lighter. In the travel game, weight and size count for a lot. The other thing with the ILCs is they look much more like a compact and much less like a professional camera. That counts for a lot.

Taking photos. Usually when traveling, it's best to avoid sensitive subjects. The police, armed forces, government buildings etc are all considered off limits for photography in most countries around the world. Taking a photo in such a place could well land you in jail for a few years or accused of espionage or worse. In the Middle East, it's usually frowned upon to photograph people or more particularly women. In some countries, people photography is banned outright on religious grounds. Know the country before you go and ask before there's a doubt about what you can photograph.

Security - as I mentioned about the photograph of the church in Vilnius, you have to have your wits about you. A small, easily concealable camera or not carrying one at all could be your best option in some areas, particularly where there are plenty human predators.

Shots and visas. Just make sure you have all the right shots and visas - it makes life so much better when you're not fined or turned away at the border for not having a visa or come back suffering from some nasty disease.

GPS loggers for your photos? I wouldn't bother. I'd just carry a notepad and write down where you were when you took the photo. GPS isn't very accurate. at the best of times. I've seen my car GPS give me some very strange locations. There have been reports of GPSs being up to 500 miles out for no clearly discernible reason. In fact, my current phone has GPS on it and quite often I look at the track of where I am supposed to have been and wonder how I managed to do the journeys suggested. One of the more amazing things was a trip to the store. It's about 2 miles from my house and my phone GPS reckoned I had driven over 1,200 miles to get there. Get a notepad - much cheaper, more reliable, lighter, more durable, more practical and much less attractive to villains.

Just go and have fun. Post your best photos somewhere!

No comments:

Post a Comment