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What to do when you get there (08/28/2005)
By Tom Hirsch

Most of us travel for the pleasure and wonderment of seeing new places. A sense of discovery takes place within us when we experience the terrain and climate of another part of our country or the world. We're fascinated by the taste of strange foods, and have a feeling of curiosity when we visit with people who might look different from us, dress in unusual clothing, and have customs that are unfamiliar to us. By looking, tasting, communicating and making comparisons, we're able to get a perception of a region, and come home with an appreciation, if not a total understanding, of the area.

Photographs are a way in which we can record, and later recall, the memories of another part of the world. If you'll be staying in one location for a period of time, it's worthwhile to get an overall impression of the region by first taking a guided tour. It's a relaxing way of locating the best photo opportunities, and at the same time learning some of the history and traditions of the people. Tour guides are always willing and eager to answer questions from visitors.

If time is a factor and a full or half-day is out of the question, you can get picture-taking ideas by talking to people who live in the area. When traveling the interstate highway system, the rest stop just inside the state line is an excellent first introduction to the region. In town, the local Chamber of Commerce or tourist bureau can provide loads of information. Even local service station and restaurant personnel can furnish leads. Don't forget to ask about some of the out-of-the-way places. These can give you a more realistic impression of the local color.

The time to begin your photo expedition is after you have some background knowledge of the area and people. If you didn't come by car, rent one. A bus tour can highlight the places and things you'll want to photograph, but because of time restraints, picture-taking opportunities will be limited. Also most city tours will stick to the well-known places, and bypass the remote, and sometimes more interesting, regions.

Along with the subject of a photograph, don't forget the members of your family. Including them in a few shots will give your pictures a personal "we were there" touch. At the same time, don't fall into the "where was dad?" syndrome. If he, or some member of the family, takes all the pictures, there will always be one member missing. To make your photo album complete, occasionally ask another tourist to snap a shot or two of your whole family. Take a few seconds to show him or her where the shutter release is, and how to operate the zoom lens, then join the rest of your group. After the shots are taken, don't forget to ask if you can return the favor.

One last reminder. Regardless of how photogenic the subject is, it's still important to use good picture-taking techniques. Probably the most common error in photography is not filling the frame. It's easy for us to look through the camera's viewfinder and see only the subject that interests us, even though there's a large expanse of space surrounding it. Occasionally it adds to the concept of a picture if we include interesting scenery surrounding the subject, but this should only be done if it adds to the image we want to present.

Use the zoom lens to control the size of the subject in the viewfinder so you include only what you want. Get in the habit of looking at the scene through the viewfinder with the thought that what you see is the finished picture, because it will be. 


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