Travel

Top Tips for Travel Photography

Surprises usually aren't good news while traveling for photography.  Bags of expensive photo gear that won't fit in the overhead compartment of a small aircraft.  Arriving at your dream photo venue only for your subject to be completely backlit.  Forgetting your battery charger or backup drive.  In this blog, I'll tell you a few of my favorite tips for travel photography to avoid these type of surprises during your photography trip and return home with better travel photos.

Taj Mahal

Research Your Destination 

It pays to thoroughly research your destination prior to arrival.  Not only will this help to find the best locations to photograph but also the best times to photograph these destinations. 
  • Is it a better sunrise or sunset shoot? 
  • What is the best month or season to photograph this area?
  • Would this be a good photo venue if it is raining?
  • Where should I photograph if it is cloudy?
  • In what order should I photograph the different photography locations?
  • What type of birds or wildlife are located in this area?
  • In what season are the birds or wildlife in this area?
  • Where are the birds and wildlife typically located?  At what time?
Here are a few good tools to help with your research:
 
Look for a travel photography book on your travel destination.  There are books for many national parks and cities.  These books can be big time savers and are usually reasonably priced.  They are often available in electronic form so you can also use them for ready reference in the field.  Check out Amazon's Kindle bookstore for these guides.
 
Search for blogs.  Many blogs and discussion boards give good information on photography destinations.  This will take a bit longer to research and you will have to consolidate the information.  Also search for GPS Coordinates on your travel destination to help navigate to areas at your destination.  My blog also has travel photography information on many National Parks and other destinations around the world.
 
Check out tools like The Photographer's Ephemeris.   This app will calculate the sunrise/sunset and moon rise and set times for the destinations.  It will also calculate the direction of the sunrise and sunset.  The Photographer’s Ephemeris has apps for both iOS and Android devises.  Visit photoephemeris.com for more information.

Understand the Restrictions. 

There are numerous restrictions surrounding travel photography that are important for you to understand before you arrive at your photo location.  Many of these limitations are around the airlines.   Here are some examples of questions to research prior to your departure.
  • What size planes fly into your destination?
  • What are your options for airports?  In which airports, do larger planes land?
  • What size bags will fit into the overhead bins or in a pinch under the seat?
  • What photo bags meet these dimensions?  See my blog post on the ThinkTank Airport Antidote II and small planes.
  • Are there weight restrictions for checked and carry on bags?
  • Should I consider shipping my lenses to my destination?
  • Where is the nearest shipping facility?
  • How much will shipping cost both ways?  How much is insurance?
  • What time does the shipping facility open and close?
  • Can I use a tripod at my venue?  Some photography venues like museums, and some cities may have restrictions?

Washington DC Lincoln Memorial

Create Packing Lists for Each Type of Photography or Destinations.

I like to create packing lists for different types of photography or destinations that I can reuse so that I don't forget anything.  For example, I will create a packing list for landscape photography and modify it based on the destination or season.  I'll also reuse my packing lists for destinations that I visit frequently like Yellowstone.  I keep my packing lists on Evernote so that I can modify them wherever I am.  I also separate my list for carry on items from the items that will put in my check bag.

Look at Photos from Other Photographers.

Not to copy their work, but to get inspiration, find locations to photograph and understand what gear you need to bring.  Is it mainly Landscape photography?  Do I need a macro lens?  What filters should I bring?  Flickr, Google Search, and 500px are all good places to find photos of your destinations.
 

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