Quick Tips for Travel Photography

In Photographyby David Meyer

Who doesn’t like to travel? I have a permanent case of wanderlust, and my wife does too. Hey, we even met in Thailand, so we both have a real sense of wonder for the world. Here are a few quick tips to help you as you travel and take photographs.

Keep it Simple

Sometimes our travel is not solely for photography, and that’s ok! It may be a vacation, a missions trip, or just a quick weekend getaway an hour up the road. You don’t always need to be packing every.single.piece.of.camera.gear.you.own. I’ve learned this the hard way, and my wife has had to help me put this principle into practice. The idea here is not how much camera gear you can carry, but which camera gear do you need to get the best results? I have a super 8 camera. It’s heavy, it takes 6 batteries and is a solid piece of machinery. I have every sort of instant camera you can think of along with a Holga, film cameras that are a tank(Nikon F5) and my own digital Nikon. Do you need to lug all that around for a trip to an Apple Orchard? No. Decide what type of shots and aesthetic style you want, what you may do with them once you produce the work, and then pick a camera.

Bulky Bag Syndrome

Ask my wife about what her most validating experience in life is, and it’s not some grandiose story of revenge and vindication (she’s not like that anyway) it’s about some security guy in the Louvre telling me in a heavy French accent in English, “Your baaaag is too bulkzy zir.”. My bag had just about all my camera gear with me, as I had just returned from Kenya. Did I need all my lenses and cameras in the Louvre? No.

In case you’re wondering, this is the bag I use when I NEED ALL THE GEAR:
Kata Beetle-282

This is my day bag, or when I’m just at an apple orchard:
National Geographic NG A5270 Medium Rucksack

Tripod or Monopod?
Travelling to different locations always brings its variety of challenges. Sometimes you have your choice of support for your camera, whether it’s a really nice and sturdy Tripod, a compact yet sturdy tripod, or a monopod. Sometimes your really nice and sturdy tripod gets broken, and you continue to fuss with it for years until you finally pitch it. This does happen from time to time. In my 2015 trip to London, England I was extremely satisfied with my Manfrotto BeFree Compact Travel Altravelingoy Tripod, and had no problems attaching it to my carryon for my transatlantic flight. I have a Manfrotto 680B Compact Monopod which works great for traveling video work, hiking or travelling on a tour bus (I used this one with NEEDTOBREATHE when working with Eric Ryan Anderson on the documentary Prove The Poets Wrong)

Get Up Early
When you are traveling, and not necessarily at your destination for just photography, get up early to take advantage of your stay. This has several benefits, the first being that it frees you from any shared agenda with fellow travelers. In London, I would get up around 5:30 AM and embark on different planned locations to shoot. This allowed me to not only take advantage of still morning light but also to not burden my travel partners with time spent fidgeting with my camera and take shots while trying to squeeze all sorts of agenda items in. Second, this allowed me to take advantage of the environment around me. London is known for the fog, and boy did I get some great shots of the Tower Bridge and the more modern skyline enveloped in fog. It was also a holiday weekend and I literally had the bridge all to my self. If I had been there any later in the day, the fog would have dissipated and been a busy thoroughfare. Not a morning person? Neither am I. I prefer to sleep late and not plan anything until Noon…but remember, you are in a unique destination and returning somewhere isn’t a guarantee. Take advantage of your travels and seize the opportunity to take full advantage of your location.

Use a Sling or an Extended Camera Strap
If your schedule is jammed packed with sightseeing and stops, invest in a camera sling or extended camera strap. I personally prefer the extended and longer camera straps because it allows you to quickly access your camera but to also put it out of the way of your movements more easily than a camera sling bag would. Also, there is no need to unzip and zip it back in place with the straps. Be careful though not to bump it on objects or people. Despite the risk of bumping the camera and possibly damaging it (I place my camera near my abdomen), its much more convenient and I’m not having to slow my travel party down by having to pull a Kevin McAllister type situation messing with my camera in a busy fast paced environment.

What are your tips for travel photography? Leave your tips in the comments below.