Monday, December 10, 2012

Travel Photography - What To Take.

Traveling can be a great opportunity to get some fantastic images.  It's always an exciting proposition to see something you have never seen before and be able to get an image to remind you of that trip.

Like most of you, I do not get to travel a lot for just photography's sake.  Most of my travels, I am blessed with going on holiday with my family.

One of the most important things that I want to say before we get into a gear/technique discussion is this.  If you are going on your vacation with family - make sure to make the trip about family and relaxation first.  I learned the hard way that a trip can go off kilter if you get obsessed or overly concerned about getting an image over having fun with your family.

To that end - I try and travel as light as possible.  In recent trips, I've gotten my gear down to the following:

Nikon D50
Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8
Nikon 55-200mm f/4-5.6
Nikon SB-26 Speedlight
Lumiquest SBIII/Quick Straps
Extra En-El3 battery
two sets of rechargeable AA batteries for the flash
nikon/AA battery charger


Since my Nikon D50 is getting close to the end of it's life, I've picked up the Fuji X-E1 to replace it.  With that kit, I've got the 35mm f/1.4 and I'll most likely get the Fuji 55-200mm when it is released and sell off the Nikon 55-200mm.  That will be my new travel kit.

Given that you don't have a whole battery of lights, lenses, filters and sometimes time to get the shots that you want, I'd like to share with you the techniques I think are essential to have in your arsenal.

1.  Understand how/why to use push/pull processing in digital.
Dynamic range can be an issue and without a grad neutral density filter, getting some shots can be very difficult.  If you only have time to get one shots, use this technique to best suit your situation.

2.  Bracketing
Again, dynamic range being an issue.  At a minimum get three shots that are +-2stops.  You can then either use an HDR technique or a layer merge technique in Photoshop to keep your image within tolerance.

3.  Panorama
Practice shooting for manually stitching images together, especially if your camera does not have a built in Panorama mode.  Even if it does, you might want learn it anyway.  Panorama shots are great for showing a large area.  Stitching a few images together might also be helpful if you are working with a prime lens and it happens to be too tight to get the whole image into view in one shot.  Taking two or three images, overlapping the frames by roughly 20% should get you where you need to be.

4.  Know the Hand Holding Rule
This helps to eliminate camera shake due to hand holding the camera at slow shutter speeds.
You want to keep the shutter speed at a reciprocal of the focal length.  In basic terms, this means that if you are shooting a zoom lens at 50mm, make sure that your shutter speed is no slower than 1/50th of a second.  You can increase your ISO sensitivity or open up your aperture to achieve this(sometimes both).

Below, lets look at some of the images I was able to get while on vacation with just those pieces of kit and some photography techniques.  Enjoy!

3 bracketed images merged into one.  This prevented the window from blowing out completely.

Exposed for the sky/sun and brought the cemetery back into view using the push/pull technique.

7 images were stitched together to get this panorama of San Diego.

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