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Travel Photography


With recent advances in manufacturing high quality cameras now on the market afforadable for majority of travellers, travel photography has increasingly become popular . On the other hand, there are several websites with relatively high traffic available for the travellers to post their images and receive feedback.


With the idea of photography during a trip, one needs to think through various issues regarding the proper camera, lens, other accessories, places and subjects to photograph. In terms of tools, in general, as an amature photographer, the options are somewhat limited. The camera one already has purchased, with or without detachable lens. Those who have a body with detachable lens, probably are limited to two or three lenses with various focal lengths. The photographers who have several lenses, likely will not carry them all, as it will add substantial weight. One of the key principles in travel photography is weight. Large DSLR bodies ordinarily are not suitable for travel, as they draw attention of thieves, their weight, and at the same time making street photography more challenging, on occasion, people try to avoid being photographed. A medium size camera probably is ideal; those with rotatable viewfinders, are preferable as one does not have bring the camera to eye level. Most, if not all, the mirrorless cameras are small to medium size, have the rotatable viewfinder, and shutter release is quiet-another advantage for street photography. Any DSLR with the above features should work well.

In terms of lens, the optimal glass would be a zoom lens with a wide range, 18 mm to 200-300 mm. Both Canon and Nikon have several lenses in that range. Third party manufacturers, like Segma and Tameron, have very good lenses which may be used alternatively. Using a zoom lens with a wide range essentially eliminates the need to change lens in the middle of street which in reality is the last thing one wants to do with the risks of dropping it, and getting dirt on the sensor. It will limit the number lenses one has to carry and making hauling the camera bag more manageable. The next imporatnt gear is a tripod, particularly if one plans to do night photography. These days there are several great travel tripods made by well known manufacturers, Gitzu, Oben, Manfrotto just to name a few. Made out of carbon fiber, they are extremely light, some about two pounds, with hooks to add weight for more stabilization. There have been recommendations of using a steady surface, small-table top tripod, and so on, but reality is no steady surface, specifically in public, would provide stability of a tripod, regardless of considerable constraint it will impose on placing the camera. Tripod is an integral part of night photography.

There are very few other items a photographer has to carry. Presently, with access to number of editing softwares, the only filter is truly necessary is a polizor. Neutral density filters are particularly necessary if one for any reason-for example photographing flow of water-wants to have a slow shutter speed. Although graduated neutral density filter may be applied in postprocess, landscape photographers tend to carry a GND filter, as it provides a better sense for composition, framing and calculating exposure. Other filters may be applied while processing the image with more control. To carry the gears, a very good camera bag which can be taken inside the aircraft cabin is essential. Even if one has to travel with several pieces, there are great bags, with adequate cushion and compartments, which would go under the seat. One should be aware of limitations of newer smaller aircrafts that may not accommodate the bags in the overhead bins even when they meet FAA standards. The safest alternative is to have bags can be placed under the seat.

What to photograph,

Currently there are several websites to post images. These sites offer information about potential “hot spots” for photography within a city, a country or a region. Google images, Flickr, and Instagram,are just a few. Search engines also provide valuable information. Some photographers regularly post blogs about various aspects of photography including locations. Searching for “places to photograph in San Diego” as an example, will generate a long list of different attractive spots . One may narrow down the search even to a neighborhood, best place to photograph in San Diego harbor. In addition to location, there is information about time of the day which is equally important, places for photography in the morning, or sunrise, or best places to photograph sunset. One expects vacation is for resting, yet the best light for photography is around the sunrise and sunset. Getting up early to be ready for photography half an hour or forty five minutes before sunrise at the intended place is essential. The chosen location has to be studied before hand. One has to understand the direction of light, decide on potential spots to place the tripod, and finally frame the shot. Flashlight or better headlight often is necessary to find your way around. Needless to say, early morning light, specially before sunrise is not enough for handheld photography unless pushing the ISO up with undesirable outcome. Tripod is quite essential for low light of early morning. There are excellent apps demonstrating location of the sun, and other features, including time of sunrise or sunset, first light, moon location, depth of field and even exposure. Helios and Photo Pill are just the two offering other important pieces of information as well. One can find information about exact location of sun and the shadows at a certain time of the day in a specific spot. These days studying in detail of any relevant information is absolutely essential to photography. Not uncommonly taking advantage of such information is the distinctive feature of a better image.

In between hot spots,

Apart from inviting locations, landscapes, buildings, gardens and other locales with unmistakable photographic features there are vast number of spots to be photographed that have escaped other photographers. These don't exhibit any specific feature of the place and time, nonetheless portend a potential to turn into a great image. One has to look for them. The image “Tethered” was captured at the base of the Golden Gate Bridge. Light was not good to photograph the bridge, and I started to look for anything else to capture. Photography in a sense is an extension of one’s curiosity, exploring elements in an object appearing even trivial, something with no recognizable feature, often neglected by others.

And there are always people to photograph. This is likely the preferred way to capture the tradition and culture of an area, the way people dress, communications, and rituals. Photographing children alone or with their elders are always fascinating. To find such vibrant subjects one has to go to public places, market, main thoroughfare of the city, bus and train stations. There are always great images in a flea market, on both sides, buyers and sellers. One of the main problem with street photography is approaching a person to have permission for photography. It is important not to appear rude while asking, mostly the answer, is yes, although there are times, the person would decline. At times, they may ask for money. This is somewhat an ethical question, there are photographers adhering to the principal of street photography, tend not to pay them. One may look at the flipside of the coin, had the person was not in need, would not had asked for money. In some of the counttires with economic hardship individuals dressed in a tradional attire can be seen in busy public places, main city square, park, or even streets; their outfit is oustanduig enough to attract photographers; they can be photographed for a small change. The question is whether such an image can be claimed as street photography. These are issues one has to answer before embarking on street photography.

On the next blog, I will discuss other aspects of travel photography.

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