20 Top Travel Tips

Make the most of your next photographic vacation

20 Top Travel TipsSummer offers many of us a prime opportunity to practice our love of photography. But along with a destination and a working camera, there are other factors involved in returning home with wonderful photographs. We asked several professional photographers whose work often takes them throughout the world for advice on making the most of those photographic opportunities, and the OP staff included a few tips of our own. Whether a short road trip or an excursion to the other side of the globe, we hope these 20 tips help make your travels the best that they
can be.

1. Photograph People With Wide-Angle Lenses
Photographing people using a wide-angle zoom lens (20-35mm) forces you to get closer to your subject, creating a greater sense of intimacy and more interesting images. To minimize distortion, compose your subject to the right or left of center while filling the rest of the frame with an interesting element from their environment. If facial features look distorted, back off slightly.
—Nevada Wier


2. Show The Camera's LCD To Your Subject
After taking a photograph, share your image with your subject using the digital camera's LCD. Despite language barriers, displaying the photograph offers one of the best ways to involve people in your photography. Once they have had the opportunity to see what you're doing, you likely can take several more photographs to achieve the best one.
—R. Ian Lloyd


3. Previsualize Your Images
Before you begin snapping away, consider how light and weather, as well as lens selection and camera position, will impact your photograph. Walk around the scene while considering all of these elements. Take your time and look through the camera's viewfinder and be open to the unusual and the unexpected.
—Carl Heilman


4. Use Zooms To Maximize Your Shooting Bag
Carry zoom lenses to reduce the weight burden while traveling. A wide-angle zoom (24-80mm) and a telephoto zoom (70-300mm) can provide all the focal length you need. Their relatively light weight and versatility allow you to focus more on creating great photographs rather than negotiating a heavy weight in your camera bag.
—B. Moose Peterson


5. Research And Reconnaissance
Find out as much as you can about your destination before you start traveling. Use the Internet, travel books, maps and the phone to find out details about potential shooting locations and weather. If your schedule allows, scout a location to determine the best camera position for the next day.
—Carl Heilman


6. Carry A Point-And-Shoot Camera
Take along a quality point-and-shoot for those unexpected photo opportunities. A small camera can be carried anytime and anywhere, providing you with the means to create an image during those moments when you weren't expecting to take a photo. Many compact cameras offer a great deal of versatility and control, so you can come away with a memorable shot.
—Daniel J. Cox


7. Get Up Early For The Best Light
Although waking up late is one of the luxuries of a vacation, it can mean missing the best light of the day. Make a plan to spend at least one morning before sunrise going to a location that you've previously scouted. You'll have the benefit of interesting light, and you may have the location all to yourself.
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8. Use Slow Flash Sync
Use a slow shutter speed when shooting with flash. Rather than letting the background go completely dark, a slower shutter speed captures the ambient light exposure while the flash freezes the subject's motion. This results in a dynamic photograph filled with movement and color.
—R. Ian Lloyd


9. Get Ideas From Postcards
When you arrive at your destination, purchase some postcards; they often provide ideas for some of the best locations. More than just an opportunity to copy, the cards offer information on special locations to get your own creative juices flowing.
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10. Shooting At Slow Shutter Speeds
For times when a tripod can't be used, learning how to properly handhold your camera can make all the difference in the world. Firmly hold the camera in both hands, with your elbows pressed against your sides. While exhaling carefully, depress the shutter-release button. If you have a motordrive, fire several shots in rapid sequence, as the latter images likely will be sharper than the first few.
—Nevada Wier


11. Create Backups While Traveling
To ensure that you come home with all your photographs, back up your digital images using a laptop or portable storage device. If you take along a laptop, burn your images to recordable CDs or DVDs. Portable storage devices include a hard drive to which you can download your digital photographs directly from your memory card.
OP


12. Keep A Written Or Audio Journal
Take a notebook or digital audio recorder with you to note your experiences and observations during the trip. In addition to providing you with valuable reference material, it also can complement your images when it comes time to produce a digital slideshow of your travels.
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13. Bring Along A Tripod
Carry a tripod even if you don't think you might need it. Although you only may use it for a single shot, it could be the one photograph that's most important to you. A lightweight carbon-fiber or tabletop tripod will provide a solid platform for your camera that will take up minimal space in your luggage.
—B. Moose Peterson


14. Clean Your Digital Cameras In The Field
While it always has been important to keep your gear clean, it's even more crucial if you're using a digital SLR, where dust and debris easily can ruin your photographs. Use a cleaning tool such as Visible Dust's Sensor Brush (www.visibledust.com) to carefully clean your camera's CCD. Utilize a blower brush and microfiber cloth to clean your camera body and lenses at the end of each night, especially when you're shooting under harsh conditions.
—Daniel J. Cox


15. Read Up On Bonus Activities
Look for local cultural events that may be coinciding with your visit. Events such as fairs, exhibitions or historic reenactments may provide ideal opportunities for photography. These can be an especially resourceful way to spend your day between those golden moments of light at dawn and dusk.
—Greg Yahr


16. Travel With Two Camera Bags
Take a smaller camera bag along with the bigger one that holds all your gear; there may be times when you don't need everything. A smaller bag reduces your load while still providing you access to the tools you need. This can be especially important if you're going to be involved in a physically demanding effort, such as a lengthy hike.
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17. Use A Reflector To Control Light
When traveling, many photo opportunities may occur during less than ideal lighting conditions. You can control the look of many of your photographs, however, by using a collapsible and portable reflector. It can be used effectively to fill in shadows on your subject's face or to brighten colors in the foreground of a landscape image.
—Connie Brainsilver


18. Utilize A Beanbag
A beanbag offers a less bulky alternative to a tripod when traveling. It can be placed virtually anywhere, and creates a stable platform for your camera when using long lenses or shooting at slow shutter speeds. Beanbags easily can be positioned in the crook of a tree or on a car hood and ensure a sharp image.
—Connie Brainsilver


19. Don't Forget Self-Portraits
Take the time to compose photographs that include yourself. Not only can you prove to your friends and family that you were actually at that exotic location, but you can use yourself as an interesting design element or to provide a sense of scale. Use your camera's self-timer to give yourself enough time to get in the frame.
—Greg Yahr


20. Have Your Gear Serviced Before You Leave
Making sure that your gear is in top working order is the best insurance against problems during that once-in-a-lifetime trip. Camera manufacturers will not only repair defects, but will make sure that your equipment is working to specifications and give it a thorough cleaning.
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