SF PAC's recent meeting was a talk about travel photography with Adam Derewecki. On a recent trip to China, Adam shares his work and experience about international travel photography.
Travel photography is about combining two things people love: going places and having an experience; and keeping a memory by means of photography. While people can snap a photo with their iphone to document the same thing, travel photography is also about turning the experience into art. This type of photography is the kind where you can create a memory worth hanging on your wall and not just posting it to an Instagram account. Most people who choose to do travel photography do it because they love it.
Before embarking on your travels, take into consideration your destination. Keep safety in mind, not only for your gear but for yourself. Depending on the type of images you want to produce, sometimes taking a micro four thirds camera will suffice. However, if you absolutely need to take a larger, more dynamic camera, a few hacks can help. For example, on some trips, swapping out the branded full-frame camera strap for one that advertises “xti” or a generic strap can help minimize the risk for theft. Tucking away your camera helps to ensure your safety as well as your camera's safety as you're less likely to have someone else have a rough encounter in crowded spaces or having your camera knock into something and breaking. Also, being aware of cultural differences and norms are beneficial to reducing confrontations with those who do not wish to be photographed. Especially in foreign countries, its better to not provoke locals who may be a resource you need to ask for help later.
As with all travel, your destination and the length of your stay will have an impact on what you pack. Generally, you want to keep portability at the forefront of your planning process. Choosing the proper gear, accessories and storage should be planned ahead of time. Are you going to shoot vast landscapes? Will you be photographing people? Will some of your photography goals require long exposure, remote shutter release cords, or the use of a tri-pod? Is gear weight going to be a problem for you?
During Adam's trip to China, he choose to use his National Geographic Rucksack, a laptop, a Canon 5D Mark II, three Canon lenses (24-70 mm 2.8L; 50 mm 2.8 Macro; and 8-15 mm 4L fisheye), a 42″ travel tripod, intervalometer, and flash cards, battery and charger, and lens cloth.
The destinations that Adam planned to go to included dark caves, mountain tops, and popular tourist attractions like the Great Wall. He chose the 5D Mark II because of its excellent low-light handling, great battery life, full-frame sensor, and, of course, it shoots in RAW format.
He chose the 24-70 mm because it is a versatile lens which is great for landscape and portraits. This is a fast lens which works wonders in low-light situations like caves. Although a great lens, it can be heavy and bulky especially when compared to the compact, 50 mm Macro. Yet, when in caves, it is important to be able to get in as much of the scene and light as possible where the 50 mm is limiting with its fixed focal length.
Despite the 50 mm being constraining, it is a great lens that yields fantastic image quality and has a beautiful bokeh at f/2.5. The detail is incredible when used in landscape images like the photograph of Monkey Rock at Sunrise.
The wide-angle 8-15 mm lens is not a practical lens for most situations due to the extreme distortion. However, it can give you some incredible results. Adam's example below is of an iPhone photograph of the Nine Bend River, Wuyishan. This is still a beautiful capture, yet, it does not capture the whole story of being there in person.
With the wide-angle lens, you really get a sense of the magnificence of this location; to be able to see the beautiful curves and textures as the river meanders through the land formations.
In terms of accessories, it depends on what you plan to photograph on your trip. The perks of taking the 42″ travel tripod is that it is extremely portable and compact. Yet, the drawback is that it is not very secure-a strong gust of wind can knock it over. However, this tripod was suitable in order to capture a timelapse of Xiamen from night time to sunrise. Since this was captured on the balcony at the hotel, Adam was able to better secure the tripod to the balcony rails. Adam used the intervalometer programmed seconds a part and stitched together in post processing.
Some other tips to consider with travel photography include:
- Always check your settings. Though, sometimes during travel, schedules can become unexpected or weather can change on a whim. Choosing the Auto Exposure Bracketing (AEB) can help you work with these unexpected changes. AEB shoots three separate exposures of the same scene and can be programmed to be either a half stop to a few stops in difference (EV -1 1/125s; Ev 0 1/60s, Ev +1 1/30s).
- Stick with a versatile lens if you're pressed for time. You can easily lose a few minutes to lense changes and, as a result, miss “the shot.”
- Sometimes, people tend to crowd an area to get a shot of something common or popular. If you step aside a few feet or at a different angle, you can end up with pleasant results without having to fight for shooting space.
- On the same token, sometimes its advantageous to go off the beaten path. In this example, a lot of tourists were only using one of the two open entrances.
- Visit the most popular places during off hours. For example, most tours break for lunch at the same time. So, bus loads of people will clear a destination while they have lunch.
- Be sure to cull and post-process as soon as you can. When people return from travel, the last thing they want to do is get to culling and editing photos right away. Realistically, most of those images just end up sitting on the hard drive for a long time. Have a strategy to off load images from your memory cards, process your favorite few and clear out duplicate/bad images.
- Unless its going to be going on a canvas or a huge display, resist the urge to edit to perfection. Batch processing can help speed up processing with programs like Lightroom.
- And don't get caught off guard! Don't limit your workflow to internet accessibility. Some hotels charge steep fees for internet access and some mobile plans don't have suitable coverage. Charge your battery when you can and be aware that not all outlets are the same.
- Rent the best gear and use insurance. Not everyone can afford a multi-thousand dollar lens when it is, realistically, going to be used a maximum of five weeks a year.
- Allow for time to get through customs if travelling internationally. Some airports require you to unpack everything and step aside as agents inspect items.
Adam Derewecki is the founder of peer-to-peer camera rental site, CameraLends. A photographer for nine years, Adam focuses on landscape, urban and travel photography. Adam's collection of travel photography can be found on flickr.
CameraLends has well over 200 cameras and lenses in stock. A bulk of clientele are Bay Area residents. Pick-up and drop-off times are flexible and features less-expensive options like 1-day rentals.
This blog post was submitted by Celeste Wyrick, San Francisco Bay Area PAC chapter leader.