It’s summer and that means it’s time to travel! With vacations and adventures awaiting you this summer, it’s important to document your travels. There are a few techniques you should keep in mind when packing your suitcase and your camera. We talked with Tracey Heppner of Follow Your Heart Photography Tours to get 5 key tips on successful travel photography.
1. Pack the Right Items
Pack only what you need and what you want to carry. Remember, you probably aren’t going to have help during your travels carrying around your stuff, so less is more!
When I travel, I travel with one main body (Canon 5dm2), a second body (Canon 5d) that I use for backup (or if I’m in a place I don’t want to keep changing lenses I put one on it), a long lens (70-200, 4.0) a wide (16-35, 2.8) and a 50mm, 1.2 mid range lens. Why do I choose those lenses? Well for one, I don’t own a 28-70 anymore. So instead, I bring the wide for scenery and buildings, the long for distance. I use the long for when I like to stay back and document life and the 50mm for great portraits when I really to embrace the culture and its people.
I also pack more than enough memory cards and my Macbook pro with a pocket size hard drive. I have my files copied 3 times. I do it because I like to know that if my laptop got stolen, I still have my hard drive and cards. Or if my hard drive corrupts, I still have my cards and laptop. I cover my bases.
I carry this all in my Lowepro computrekker backpack. It’s compact and it’s in all there. My batteries and chargers fit wonderfully as well as my laptop. It’s the perfect travel bag when I want to be compact. My backpack has traveled everywhere with me – throughout the USA and Canada, all over Italy, Turkey and Germany, and to many islands of the Philippines.
Good shoes are important too! The amount of walking you will do, you want to make sure you have great soles on your feet. Also, don’t forget travel insurance. You always want to bring that, not only for yourself but to cover your gear if anything were to happen.
Study where you are going and be sure to go off the beaten track . When I am on the ground wherever I am traveling, I like to have a good idea of what I want to see and do and leave the rest for wandering and going with the flow.
For example, my first visit to Venice, Italy, I knew I wanted to see San Marco square. I found it on a map, photographed it and then ventured through the back streets. I found more jewels and gems by going off the beaten track than I could have ever imagined.
Each place has its own iconic shots that I want to get. I make notes in a little note pad that I stuff in my bag so I won’t forget. I love lists, so this works well for me. When you shoot these iconic places, try and get different angles and shoot it from a different point of view than what is normally “typical”. You could come up with one of your favorite “postcards” from that city by looking at it in a new light.
I also research the areas and places to see if there are special events and cultural things that are going on that I will be able to photographed and really make my experience in these amazing places unforgettable.
3. Photograph Passionately
Shoot it like you’re never going to shoot there again. I always have in my mind when I’m shooting in different places abroad, “If I don’t ever make it back here again, I want to make sure I have all I can get from my shots.” That sounds like a big order to fill, but if you really document and be journalistic in your approach, it pays off. Try telling a story through some of your photos so that when you get back home you have these images full of life and meaning behind them and you will LOVE them for years to come.
I did this when I was at Oktoberfest in Munich one year; I didn’t know if I would ever be back here. So I put on my 50mm and my wide and away I went, getting in the faces of beer-drinking tourists and locals inside the big beer garden tents and yet capturing the massiveness of these with my wide. I haven’t been back to Munich or Oktoberfest, yet, but I am really happy with how I captured my time there. I didn’t miss anything.
4. Be Friendly
A smile goes a long way. Not only does it allow you to engage the locals and what’s going on around you when you travel, it also allows you to ask permission to take their photo for a portrait.
I have experienced this time and time again. Once in Chinatown in Manila, Philippines I was walking down the street and saw this most adorable old Chinese man vegetable vendor. I knew there was a portrait to be had there. So I started up conversation and we chatted some, I looked at his beautiful vegetables. And then I popped the question: “Picture? You?” At first his smiled and said, “No, no!”. I looked at him with a smile and said, “just one.” And he obliged. One of my favorite photos.
Another time I was in Nagercoil, India, I saw these two beautiful Indian women. They had little English, I smiled lots and played with a baby that another girl had beside them and began shooting photos of the baby. Then I looked at them and said, “Picture?” And their first shot was no smiles. I then smiled at them and encouraged some smiles. Bingo. Another favorite street portrait of mine.
5. Write it Down
Trust me on this one – at the very least, write down the places you stayed at along the way and if you can, make some notes about your day. I have a little “travels” book I bring with me to write the date, place, accommodations, companions and highlights in. I have kept it since 2007 and it is fun to look back and remember.
Facebook and blogs have made documenting our travels and lives so much easier than even 10 years ago. I recommend photographers to blog about their travels. If you have Internet access while traveling, blog one photo a day and write a bit of what you did. Not only will everyone who follows it have something to look forward to, it will help you to remember what you did. You can always do more in-depth posts when you get home.
When I visited Germany & Italy for the first time, I did this – I blogged a little bit each day. My family and friends were able to follow along in my adventure while I was gone. It made it more “real” for them to see a photo or two and a story behind it.
My blog is filled with images and stories, both past and present, meaning there are still photos I haven’t blogged about and written about from years ago that I decide to blog about years after.
When you write about your travels after the fact, you can relive your adventures…it’s like you are there again! But warning – it will also awaken your wanderlust and you will probably in no time be planning your next trip!