Travel Photography handy checklists and techniques

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#1 Jul 23rd, 2014, 17:59
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#1
A photography club has asked me to write something. I thought about sharing with you all for your feedbacks and thoughts. Please share your experience and tell me what to include to or exclude from the draft.


Hello friends, I am also fond of travelling like you. With the advent of digital photography It has become quite convenient to capture the beautiful sights that we see during our travels. A little bit of preparation comes a long way in getting that beautiful image. I share my thoughts with you and await your feedback.


1. Know the place : It is extremely important to have a bit of prior knowledge regarding the place that you are about to travel. The following checklist may come handy :
a. Is photography allowed ? There are many places where photography is not allowed. Carrying your photo gear to such places is obviously useless. Often they don’t have any safekeeping facility and you are stranded with your bag full of gear outside a museum. Believe me , that’s not so funny. Also check whether they allow use of tripod or not.
b. How is the terrain ? Is it very rocky/hilly ? Will you be able to carry your regular gear there if you are supposed to walk for long hours? A small light body plus lens may allow you to reach a beautiful spot uphill while a big full frame with array of lenses may keep you tied to the base of the hill and the photo op is lost.
c. How will be the weather? We can easily get the weather forecast from innumerable number of web sites. Will it rain or snow ? Will it be unduly hot or cold? Choose your gear and the gear protection accordingly.
d. Sunrise and sunset timings. The best of the landscape images are made generally a bit ahead of sunrise and a bit after sunset. So from Internet you just get a date-wise printout of such timings so that you can prepare yourself properly to reach vantage points in time.
e. The vantage points : Often we reach the spots at odd time. Say you reach somewhere at 8 pm in the evening. It is imperative to have a small walk around so that at the next day sunrise you know where to perch yourself. Look out for ugly man made constructions like mobile towers/electric polls etc. and take them into consideration so that they may be avoided.

2. Photographic Equipments : Yes equipments do matter for photography but often they matter much less than we give them credit for . A modern mobile phone is perfectly capable for making images which will be printed to regular sizes ( 6X4, 5X7 ) or for web viewing. The trick is to know the performance boundaries of the camera and to play accordingly.
a. Camera : For any long trip in the remote places check your camera well ahead of the trip. Often just before the trip we are in for a nasty surprise. If possible take at least two cameras/camera bodies, both well checked before the start of the trip. If you have many camera bodies and lenses , choose wisely, don’t try to carry everything. In 35 mm terms focal length coverage of 20-200 mm is generally more than enough.
b. Camera Battery and charger : The common culprits of ruined shootings. Always /always keep spare, functional batteries with you. A fancy camera with a dud battery is no camera at all. May consider a car charger as well.
c. Memory cards : Often an overlooked spoiler. Always keep extra cards. Every night after the day’s shooting is over copy the card’s content to a laptop/external HDD etc. For backup the military adage holds true “Two is one, one is none”.
d. Camera strap : Many of the modern camera straps use quick release where by a simple press on a clamp the strap is released. That convenience often does a boomerang and I have seen cameras being dropped to ground because of accidental release. Such quick release mechanisms should ALWAYS be bound by wires/cables/rubber bands/strings to prevent from accidental release. The length of the strap should not be too long lest the camera may get accidentally bumped.
e. Cleaning kit : I suggest cleaning of the camera every evening. Use a rocket blower to blow off loose dirts. Wipe the metal/rubber/plastic body areas , if required, by soft cotton cloth. IF NEEDED work up a fog upon lens and LCD etc and wipe gently with chamois leather in concentric circles till it is clean. I have personally used Lenspen, lint free cloth, lens tissue but the good old blower, chamois leather routine has worked equally well for me. Recently while shooting during rain I have wiped the front element of a lens clean with my shirt sleeve , but that is not recommended …wink wink.
f. Bag : A bag is ever ignored till it drops into water or falls from the upper birth to the train floor. Buy a good quality, branded bag with enough padding and good waterproofing. If not within budget , buy a sturdy normal bag of your choice, get padding sewed inside by a tailor, buy one of those rain covers and you are good to go.Avoid bags which screams for attention as camera bags ( say no to Natgeo bags please, unless your aim is to look like Indiana Jones) and as a result lifters are attracted to it as bees swarm a rose.
g. Remote release/ cable release : Please get one , if your camera supports. For long exposures they are extremely handy.
h. Tripods/Monopods/Beanbags : For travel purpose buy the best that money can buy. Most big names have their traveler series , try and buy accordingly. Same for ballheads.Many jungle safaris don’t allow tripods / monopods . So a beanbag supported over the gypsy roof may impart necessary stability. If nothing is with you use car hoods, flat rocks, walls etc for substitute of tripod. If in doubt of stability , always wear the camera strap on your neck even while shooting for tripods etc., they may just save the camera.
i. External Flash & Diffuser : Always take with you for creative lighting. Often an ignored accessory. Pop-up flash , in the case you don't have one external one, should be properly diffused. Many DIY / el cheapo diffusers are available online. I prefer the "Gary Fong" type.
j. Reflector: Keep one black & one white art paper in your bag for instant smooth back ground and reflector for portraits , if you need them.



3. Other equipments : Here I discuss about the other tiny little issues that we face while photographing landscapes during our holidays :

a. Clothing : Clothing has to be according to the place and weather. Good comfortable and not too new pair of shoes are must.
I insist upon layered clothing so that instead of one heavy jacket etc. you wear a light jacket over a woolen vest. That way you can easily combat fluctuating temperature. Ideally full sleeves shirts and full pants offer better protection. Good quality footwear with dry socks, a suitable hat, sunglass and you can hit the road. There are places where leeches, insects may be a problem and suitable caution needs to be taken. The bottomline is to keep yourself dry and warm. A small rechargeable torch : an invaluable tool for reaching vantage points during darkness before sunrise or coming back from them after sunset.
b. A small foldable umbrella : You start shooting upon tripod and a small drizzle comes, this little fella will save the day for sure.
c. A wristwatch , waterproof, with illuminating dial.
d. A swiss army multitool or plain sturdy knife ( don’t put it in your cabin baggage)
e. A length of clean cotton cloth.
f. A small insulating tape ( Black tape ) and a length of chord
g. Few old newpapers.
h. A small thermos to keep the coffee.
i. A plain waterbottle ( may be a lifestraw)
j. A simple compass.
k. A map of the area.
l. A set of your identification for quick reference.
m. Keep important phone numbers printed in a paper for the situation when your smart phone plays dumb.
n. A small notebook and pen at your shirt pocket.
I am not a gadget guy. So haven’t used altimeters , heart rate monitors etc. and have never felt the need. Keeping simple, functional tools with you, which don’t require battery etc. will help a lot in most situations.

Will discuss technique in next part
Last edited by iamsomnath; Jul 24th, 2014 at 21:03.. Reason: incorporating suggested changes
#2 Jul 23rd, 2014, 18:05
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#2
Nice checklist Somnath. Do you have any recommendations on filters? The sun tends to be a bit brighter in India than some of us are used to.
#3 Jul 23rd, 2014, 18:12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dave W View Post Nice checklist Somnath. Do you have any recommendations on filters? The sun tends to be a bit brighter in India than some of us are used to.
Hi Dave,
I use the following filters .

a polarizer
a set of Hi tec graduated neutral density and Reverse grad from Hitec (square)
a set of cokin square filters of different colors
one NDx400 Hoya made for nine stop light blocking.
One circular Infra red filter (Hoya)
some nicks nacks and oddities.

While travelling I carry ONLY the Circular polarizer.
regards
Somnath
#4 Jul 23rd, 2014, 18:12
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#4
1.a never stopped a certain gent called Vaibhav Arora.
#5 Jul 23rd, 2014, 18:21
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#5
Quote:
Originally Posted by ViShVa View Post 1.a never stopped a certain gent called Vaibhav Arora.
The irresistible VA . The checklist is meant for lesser mortals

cheers
Somnath
#6 Jul 23rd, 2014, 21:22
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#6
Thank you for the filter advice
#7 Jul 23rd, 2014, 21:28
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#7
Quote:
Originally Posted by iamsomnath View Post The irresistible VA . The checklist is meant for lesser mortals

cheers
Somnath

Irresistible or irrepressible ?

#8 Jul 23rd, 2014, 21:32
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#8
Great learning for novice like me!
#9 Jul 23rd, 2014, 21:55
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Re: Travel Photography handy checklists and techniques

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Originally Posted by Prakaant View Post Great learning for novice like me!
It's time for me to blush !!!
Any additions / alterations to the checklist by anyone? Eager to know your thoughts
Cheers
Somnath
#10 Jul 23rd, 2014, 22:37
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Som,

What a comprehensive checklist! I really cant think of much to add, but will try to add a few from what I've seen others do in the field as well as my own improvisations developed over the years (such improvisations are the best way of teaching oneself bad habits, but still).

1. External flash. The usefulness and IQ enhancement value of an external flash cannot be stated enough. I find the onboard flash to be weak in outdoors situations. On my long 18-140 lens, the onboard flash produces an ugly shadow. Even the smallest sb-400 (Nikon) gives great results if used properly. Others have reported good results with Youngnou brand. A flash is an excellent accessory for daytime shoots - I've even used direct flash on unsuspecting pond herons

2. Flash diffuser. One can buy a flash diffuser for as low as USD 3. Better still, one can make a flash diffuser out of thick white paper. If that doesn't help, I have used my white cotton handkerchief for excellent results . Imagine temple sculptures in a dimly lit, smallish enclosure - you need a flash - bouncing it off the ceiling will produce uneven illumination (top half can be too bright as there's not enough space for the light to fill) and direct will produce a lifeless image. Hence, diffuser!

3. Minor point - walking sticks can be used as monopod substitutes at ASI sites!

4. When choosing a camera bag, make sure it has a hidden rain cover. An umbrella is good but a rain cover is truly life saving. I've been caught in downpours and thankfully, the lowepro bags I have had hidden rain covers. Also (this is a long side discussion unto itself), the best camera bags are the ones that balance your gear properly on the body, don't look like camera bags (ok, mine do) and provide for easy store and retrieval. Lastly, do not store the camera with the lens top down in the bag. A very knowledgeable store keeper admonished me once about this. The front element is very sensitive and can easily be damaged.

That's all I can think - had a long day at work.
Vaibhav

@ Dave - Hoya CP-L filters are the way to go. Excellent value for money (much cheaper than Nikon and I've used them in Indian daylight conditions).
#11 Jul 23rd, 2014, 22:51
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#11
Quote:
Originally Posted by vaibhav_arora View Post Som,

<snip>

@ Dave - Hoya CP-L filters are the way to go. Excellent value for money (much cheaper than Nikon and I've used them in Indian daylight conditions).
Excellent add ons VA. Specially the flash and diffuser . Will add to the article.

cheers
Somnath
Last edited by vaibhav_arora; Jul 24th, 2014 at 11:17.. Reason: removed quote, unnecessary
#12 Jul 23rd, 2014, 22:58
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#12

Smile Exhaustive & Amazing!

Thank you so much for all the tips. This will be like a BiBle for many of us beginners. Please continue posting here
#13 Jul 24th, 2014, 01:01
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#13

Re: Travel Photography handy checklists and techniques

Quote:
Originally Posted by piyukamath View Post Thank you so much for all the tips. This will be like a BiBle for many of us beginners. Please continue posting here
Thanks buddy. Keep sharing your experiences as well.
Cheers
Somnath
#14 Jul 24th, 2014, 03:53
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#14
How about a light meter and a reflector for portraits.
#15 Jul 24th, 2014, 11:21
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#15
A light meter is a great add on, but is useful only for professional photographers or serious enthusiasts. Most of us get by just fine with exposure compensation applied in post processing.

A reflector is far too cumbersome (even the small umbrella type reflectors), really and I wouldn't bother unless it's a paid assignment with atleast one extra set of helping hands available. I've found boucing the flash off the ceiling (possible only with external flash or using a flash with a cord) much better.

A great tip I received from hyderabadi regarding light availability was to check for the blue hour online. Since then I've photographed in the blue hour exactly twice in the last two years. Delhi is too polluted for the BH and in other places, my blanket too comfortable and warm.
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