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Planning a trip, Part 1 (08/14/2005)
By Tom Hirsch

A journey begins with the first step. That's fine if the first step is to get pencil and paper. Whether you're traveling across the street or halfway around the world, you should begin a trip with some planning.

Planning not only involves knowing where you're going, but also having an idea of what to expect when you get there. If sightseeing and picture-taking are to be a significant part of your trip, you should know the answers to such questions as, is the weather at that time of year hot or cold, wet or dry? Will I be shooting indoors and out? Will there be daytime and nighttime picture-taking opportunities? Will I be riding most of the time, or will there be a considerable amount of walking? What major sights will I be seeing? Does my insurance policy cover lost or stolen photo equipment while I'm on vacation, or should I get an insurance rider?

Much information about an area can be obtained by writing to state and city tourist offices and chambers of commerce. A travel agency such as AAA will provide its members with free regional guidebooks and maps. There's a moderate charge for nonmembers. If you'll be driving, they'll also furnish information on highway closings due to road work.

If you don't mind a little advertising along with a great deal of valuable travel material, you can obtain information about a specific part of the country or the world by contacting major airlines, railroads, bus lines and oil companies. To avoid the sales pitch, visit your local library and bookstores for vacation guides and travel-oriented magazines. They provide current information about specific tourist areas.

Now for the camera part of the planning. Not surprisingly, there are differences between film and digital photography, and these differences will determine how you plan for your trip.

If you're using a film camera, remember that regardless of how much film you take along, you'll never come out even. Hopefully, you'll take more than you need. The general rule is, take two 36 or three 24 exposure roles for each day of shooting. Any leftover film can be refrigerated and saved for the next time you want to take pictures.

Isn't it more practical to take along a few rolls of film, and buy additional rolls as the need arises. No, except in an emergency. When buying film at home, you'll have time to shop around and find the film you want, and at a much lower price than you would pay in a popular tourist spot.

If you'll be taking some indoor shots, flash is usually appropriate, but circumstances arise in which it's better to use available light. Such situations include times when you want to be unobtrusive, it's illegal to use flash, you're shooting in a large auditorium or cathedral in which the distance would be too great for flash to reach, or the mood created by the existing light is more dramatic. For such occurrences, you'll want a good quality fast film. Kodak Gold Max is a good choice because it allows you to shoot at a wide variety of film speed settings ranging from 25 to 6400. Keep in mind, though, the faster the film speed setting, the grainier the pictures. On the other hand, in available light situations, graininess is overlooked by viewers.

If you'll be shooting digital, your planning will be much simpler. Just be sure that you have enough disk capacity for the trip. Remember that you'll be able to delete pictures along the way, but you will also want to save the good shots, and that might amount to quite a few. To be on the safe side, buy the largest capacity memory card you can afford.

Planning on buying a new camera before the trip? Be sure to get it well in advance so you'll have at least a month to become familiar with it before you leave. With a film camera, run at least two rolls of film through it. If you bought a new digital camera, take at least 100 shots, and try to use as many of the camera options as you can.

Any new camera will take some getting used to. Regardless of how familiar you might be with your old camera, there will be differences. The heft and feel will be different, and, of course, there are the new options that you'll want to get used to. Even the way you look through the viewfinder won't be the same. As Confucius, a very wise man, would have said, "Never experiment with a new camera while on a trip." 


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