Travel Photography Tips

busy airport photo
Picture yourself trudging down this concourse loaded with camera gear - by Brian Robert Marshall

Tis the season when families consider making the trek through wild weather and brave crowded airports to spend the holidays with family and friends. Travel photography presents its own set of challenges and a shortened equipment list. Here are my tips to get great pictures while not losing the feel of being on vacation.

Pack Light

Hauling a full-size DSLR on vacation travel is a non-starter for many people, even some photographers. These days you don’t have to with cameras like the Nikon J1 and the Sony NEX-5 (compare).

With these new compact, mirrorless cameras sporting large sensors in a small frame camera, there’s little reason to drag your full size DSLR along on vacation or family get togethers, unless you’re really a glutton for neck strain.

Modern Zoom Lenses Mean Fewer To Pack

The zoom range of some modern lenses means fewer you need to carry. With lenses like Tamron’s new 18-270mm zoom lens you don’t need to bring the bag. That is a crazy long zoom range. Criticized for having a slightly louder focus motor than the Canon lenses, I’ll put up with a little noise if it means I don’t have to carry a lens bag through a gate change in Atlanta.

Speaking of Bags, Get a Good One

A well-constructed padded bag is a necessity for your camera gear. Look for names like Lowepro, Canon, Think Tank and Domke. Don’t forget about the new sling-style bags that look like bike messenger bags. Those are super easy on your neck and leave both hands free for carrying your other luggage.

Take a Spare Data Card

Nothing can spoil the holiday mood like a data card going bad. I’ve had two SanDisk cards fail on me, one in the middle of a once-in-a-lifetime event. Now I always have an emergency spare data card taped to my camera strap, besides the spare card. If it’s in a bag, it can get lost. If it’s in a pocket it can fall out. Taped to my camera strap is the only place I know it will be with me where ever I happen to be shooting.

Spare Batteries

I carry a pack of AA batteries with me all the time and always have a spare camera battery charged and ready. There’s an unwritten rule in nature that camera batteries must always run out at the most inconvenient moment. I pretty much use the same rule for my camera battery as I do for the gas tank in the car: Never below one quarter. Newer batteries don’t develop charge memory like the old NiCads, so there’s less incentive to push it. When my camera battery gets below half, I swap it out and put the other one on the charger.

Plan ahead and make a minimal investment in some decent gear and you’ll have much easier travel experience and enjoyable holiday.