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 Sinclairification by Grant Sinclair

Eleven Simple Things Every Traveler Should Bring With them to Take Better Photos

04 Jul 2008

This is a good article.  This one goes to eleven.

Most travelers who like to take pictures enjoy the novelty of taking their own photos while they’re out in the world.  It’s fun to take snapshots and E-mail them to friends and family, who are probably jealous they couldn’t enjoy your trip with you.

But often times people return home from a trip and compare their photos with other images of the place they just visited.  Occasionally, the other photos are better.

If this has ever happened to you, you’ve probably asked a few questions.  Namely, “How do I get pictures like that?”  It might really bother you to the point of spending lots of time and money investing in photo gear and travel, eventually starting your own web site about the subject.

Or maybe it doesn’t bother you quite that much, but you still want to come home with better pictures ™ from your trips.

Let’s assume, for the sake of this article, that you are a casual photographer.  You don’t have a fine arts degree and carry a small point-and-shoot camera or an SLR with one lens.

There are a few items you should acquire if you want to take better pictures.

1) An extra battery.  Sure, it seems obvious, but a lot of people think one battery (or set of batteries) is enough for one day.  It may not be, depending on how long you’ll be out, how many pictures you take how often you use the flash, etcetera.  If you use disposable batteries, carry at least one extra set with you.  If you use rechargeable batteries, make sure all batteries are fully charged before you head out for the day.

2) An extra memory card/Extra film.  For film photographers, bring one more roll than you think you’ll need.  For digital photographers, be sure to empty your memory cards at the end of each day EVERY DAY.  If you don’t travel with a laptop computer, see this article.

3) A watch.  Not a cell phone with a clock on it, but a good old fashioned wrist watch.  Knowing that sunset is at 7:30 is great.  Being aware that the parade starts in two hours is what you need to know.  None of that information is useful if you don't know the time.  Bring, wear and use a wristwatch, even if you don't use one at home.

4) A plastic bag or waterproof case.  This really only has to be big enough for your memory cards should your bag become unexpectedly wet.  If you have a small point and shoot camera, a zip-shut freezer bag will help keep moisture out (like rain) but is not completely waterproof (i.e. if your bag is dropped in a lake). Also bring along your camera case.  Even with small point and shoot cameras, it will help protect the camera from dust, scratches and other hazards while in your bag.

5)  A camera strap.  It’s good to have one, but be sure to use it!  If you’re using a wrist strap and you drop your camera, lift your arm UP, not down to try to catch it.  Practice at home over the bed to see what I mean.

6)  A tripod.  While this may sound expensive and cumbersome and just too much to drag around, consider a small, tabletop tripod.  Tripods are essential for low-light photography, but are also good for group photos or you and your friends in front of famous places.  Before you buy a tripod, make sure you check its weight limits.  A tripod that doesn’t hold your camera will do you no good.

Also, there’s no sense having a tripod to hold your camera steady for low-light photos if you don’t use a cable release.   If your camera accepts a cable release, buy one.  If you try to take low-light pictures on a tripod by pressing the shutter, you will get camera shake and the photo will look unsteady.

If your camera doesn’t accept a cable release, learn how to use the built-in timer instead.

7) Your owner’s manual.  There are very few people who know everything about their cameras.  Bring your owner’s manual along for quick reference.  For better reference, read the manual before you travel, then bring it with you anyway.

8) A flashlight.  Good for poking around in your bag in the dark, reading settings on the camera at night and other uses too many to list here.  You don’t need a giant, heavy flash light.  We recommend this model.  Get it in red so you can find it when you drop it in tall grass, mud, or whatever.  I also like the small AAA model.  I keep it attached to my pack for quick access to light, should I need it.  It has come in handy more times than I anticipated.

9) A compass.  Like the tripod, this doesn’t have to be a big, expensive item.  A simple zipper-pull compass should work fine for basic travel and navigating cities.  For hiking or more serious outdoor traveling, you’ll want to buy (and learn to use) a better compass, but for day-to-day tourist travel something small and light should work fine.  Just try it out before you travel.

10) A local map.  The compass won’t help much if you don’t know where you’re going.  Most tourist locations should provide some kind of map for free or rather inexpensively.  For better results, buy a guidebook with a map included.  This will help you find your way around and see cool local sights.

11) Insurance.  You’ll travel a lot easier knowing your gear is insured.  To begin the process, contact the company who provides your homeowner’s, renter’s or auto insurance.  Be sure to ask if your gear is covered while you are out of the country.

Learn to use these items before you travel, then bring them on your next trip and see if your photography improves.  Nothing, however, will make you a better photographer than practice.

© 2008

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