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Vacation and travel photography (04/11/2004)
By Tom Hirsch

First, a couple of definitions.

Vacation Photography: Pictures taken over a period of time longer than one hour, including preparation time.

Travel Photography: Photos taken beyond the limits of your own yard, including preparation time.

The point is, regardless of the distance traveled or the specific experience, there should always be some planning. When we travel, we need to know what clothing to take, how much money we think we might need, what mode of transportation, etc. Photographic planning is no different. Based on the nature of the trip (or event), we want to be prepared ahead of time.

For starters, take plenty of image memory, whether it's film or a digital memory card. As a general rule, carry two 36-exposure roles of film or three 24-exposure rolls for each full day of travel, or enough digital memory for 150 pictures a week. If you shoot film, chances are you'll have some left over after the trip, but this can be used at a later time. It's a good idea to standardize on one type of film, such as a good quality ISO 400 print film for general picture taking, but you might want to take along a roll or two of ISO 800 or 1000 for shooting after hours, or in dim available light situations.

If you use a compact film or digital camera, your choice of equipment will be easy. Those of us who are blessed (or cursed) with more elaborate gadgets, such as a Gismomatic Deluxe XL 5000 35mm camera, three lenses and an arsenal of filters, will have more choices to make. Remember that the more equipment you take along, the more weight there is to lug around.

When planning my camera equipment needs, I have had a tendency to overdo it; you know, taking things I think I might need, just in case. It was usually three zoom lenses that gave me a range of focal lengths from 19 to 300 millimeters. Although I usually used all three lenses, I could very easily have gotten by with the one lens that gave me a range of 35-105mm. This is also the zoom range of many of the popular compact film and digital cameras.

As a matter of fact, my wife's compact digital camera has almost the same zoom range as my medium range lens. I frequently borrowed her camera in situations where my larger equipment might have been too unwieldy, too conspicuous, or too heavy to carry around. Although her camera is much smaller than mine, the lens quality is excellent and the pictures we get from it are great.

In the past I took a lot of equipment with me, but I finally wised up. I bought myself a good quality digital camera that has all the features I need, and a few more. Now I use it almost exclusively on trips. I now use my 35mm SLR as a back-up camera because of the wider angle and greater telephoto capabilities, but sometimes I don't take it along at all. Sometimes it's just added baggage.

Here's good advice if you're a film shooter. If you shoot several rolls on a trip, sorting them in chronological order when you get your prints can be frustrating, unless the rolls have been numbered ahead of time. A simple method is to number the cassettes in sequence with a felt-tip pen each time you change film. The numbers can then be transferred to the envelopes when the film is turned in for processing. Another advantage of a digital camera; everything is sequential on a memory card.

Before going on a trip, it's always a good idea to review good picture-taking techniques, especially if you haven't handled the camera for a while. Practice holding the camera in a way that will assure good steadiness. You can also rehearse the procedure of turning the camera on and bringing it up to your eye quickly in order to get those spur-of-the-moment shots. You can practice these things while you're getting ready for the trip.

Whenever you go out on a picture-taking expedition, plan ahead. Preparation in advance not only assures you of having all your photographic needs in order, but in so doing you're also making a commitment to take pictures. 


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