One of my favorite travel quotes goes, “You do not travel if you are afraid of the unknown, you travel for the unknown, that reveals you within yourself,” said by Ella Mailart. As someone who loves to travel to take photographs, I feel the unknown is one of the best parts about going somewhere new. Not knowing what to expect can be a great source of excitement, but it can also make taking photos harder than if you were to shoot in your own backyard.
After dozens of trips I feel like I’ve developed a sense of how to travel, take excellent photos, and still find time to enjoy a new place without being attached to my camera. Here’s my five best tips for you to consider the next time you plan a trip.
1. Have Your Camera On You At All Times, Or Not At All
All of the research in the world can never prepare you for the unexpected subjects you may encounter while you’re out adventuring. For instance, monkeys are everywhere in Costa Rica, but only cross your path every so often. For this very reason (I have an unusual admiration for monkeys) I tried to have my DSLR with me most times I went out in case one should happen to surprise me leaving a local grocery store.
This is true for any surprises you may encounter on your trip. If you don’t have your camera, you may miss the shot of a lifetime.
On the reverse side of things, sometimes having to worry about your camera can ruin how you experience a place. If you know you’re going to be visiting a location for awhile, especially a place you can’t leave a bag unattended or locked in your car, then I would recommend leaving your camera somewhere safe every so often so you can head out and enjoy the ocean worry free.
2. Research The Location Prior To Visiting
While it can be a rush going out without a plan, sometimes it’s really nice to know where you’re going and how to get to certain attractions. One of my favorite ways to get original imagery isn’t by going to well-known tourist locations, rather, I enjoy hopping on Google Earth and trying to find hidden beaches or spots where the general public may not be willing to wander.
It’s incredible the places you can find just by being able to see unmarked trails on Google Earth. The photos above were taken at a beach that I visited by the recommendation of a friend, but was only able to find after looking at the trail online. Since it wasn’t publicly advertised there wasn’t anyone else on it.
For your next trip make a list of places you want to check out, both well known and a little more off the beaten path. Knowing how to get there will save a lot of time by not getting lost (Unless that’s your goal).
3. Bring Only What You Really Need
No matter how you’re traveling: plane, train, automobile, or by backpack, it’s crucial that you don’t overpack. Everything you put in your bag is extra weight that could make you tired too early, or become a constant liability while you’re shooting. Unless you’re positive a piece of equipment will be necessary, leave it at home. For instance, I frequently brought three camera bodies thinking it’d be good to have “options”, and while this is true for more extensive trips, taking the extra weight while backpacking for a week was completely unnecessary.
4. Know Your Equipment
Whether you’re trying to capture people or an unbelievable sunset, knowing your gear becomes even more important while you’re out gallivanting around. This tip goes back to having your camera on you all the time, in that not only does your camera need to be present, you need to know how to use it in all kinds of lighting. There’s nothing worse than missing a shot because you’re shutter speed was too slow, your flash didn’t fire, or you didn’t have the correct lens on.
In order to become a master of your equipment, spend a bunch of time learning the manual settings in varying lighting situations.
5. Fill The Frame
Photographs are intended to capture memories, but they’re also supposed to capture the world in a way we wouldn’t normally view it. Walking around day-to-day we view the world in a peripheral, 180-degree view that doesn’t always narrow in on the finer details. Instead of shooting all of your travel photos wide-angle with the intention of bringing home as much of the view as possible, take the time to really isolate your subjects within the frame.