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The care of your photo equipment during your travel will vary with the climate. It will be different in the winter in Alaska, and in the summer in the Amazon or Sudan, but some principles will always stay. Today in most places of the world you can have your camera repaired, but it could take days or weeks. So if you want to be sure of travel pictures take a second camera or have someone in your family carry a second camera. Try to get a similar camera (or cameras) so that your extra lenses will fit both cameras.
Most cameras have a leather or plastic carrying case which is often not sufficient in adverse weather or travel conditions. Many photographers will carry their camera and extra lenses (and other small items) in a light aluminum case imbedded with a foam rubber pad contoured exactly to the camera's and lenses' shape. Most cameras will not stand any drop on a hard surface and no prolonged exposure to vibration.
When traveling in dusty air, or when traveling with the car windows open, the camera should be protected with a plastic bag closed with a rubber hand or two. The most dangerous environ ment for a camera is a sandy beach and salt water mist. A camera dropped in salty water is lost. You may try to wash out the salty water with regular water, or later try alcohol and send the camera to be repaired, but in most cases the camera is lost. Sand can severely damage any camera. Never put your camera on the sand. Never let wind blow sand on your camera. Cleaning sand from the outside of the camera is easy, but from the inside it is difficult and often impossible. Movie cameras are especially vulnerable to sand and will stop working. Their repair will be long and costly.
Rain, snow, and dense fog are other dangers. Often the camera will be exposed from its cover for only a few seconds of picture taking, or else the camera will be covered with a plastic bag or raincoat with only the objective free for picture taking through the plastic cover. This is not advisable. Of course, there are special covers for cameras if you would like to take pictures from underwater.
Today's camera lenses are coated with thin layers of antireflection coating which also increases the light transmission and improves contrast and color retention. This coating can be easily scratched or removed. There is never any reason to touch the objective with your finger. For cleaning the objective of dust, use only a soft camel hair brush. The dirty film on the lens can be removed with soft special lens cleaning tissues and lens cleaning fluid. Do not try a common household substitute like eye glass cleaning tissue. I repeat, do not use eye glass cleaning tissue. It contains silicones which may damage lens coatings. But sometimes if accidently the lens gets really dirty, then it would be better to send it for professional care.
In winter you should either have the camera all the time under a warm cover and take it out only for a few seconds when you are taking pictures, (which is the best) or else you carry the camera all the time on the outside. But when you get back to a warm room the camera lens will be covered with drops of water. To avoid this, keep the camera in a cold room, and let it warm up gradually to prevent condensation.
Today most cameras have batteries. You never know when these batteries will lose their power. The best thing to do would be to change the battery before your trip, and maybe take a spare. In many countries it would be difficult to get the exact battery you need. Another problem with a battery is that in colder weather the older and weaker batteries may not work. Very cold weather 10 degrees Farenheit or colder may bring more problems. Do not touch any metal part of the camera with your bare finger. (They may freeze frozen together) Use gloves or special silk gloves. The film will be brittle in cold weather and will break easily. So it is best to keep your camera inside your parka or warm clothing. Advance your film slowly to prevent broken film sprocket holes and a build up of static electricity which can leave exposure streaks in your film.
In warm weather you have the problem of heat and humidity. Once in Sudan my black camera got so hot that I could hardly keep the camera in my hand. Later I got all of the pictures perfectly exposed and developed. But keep the camera and especially the fllm as cool and dry as possible. Kodachrome will be more resistent to heat than Ektachrome. The worst is humidity. This may damage your film, and eventually a fungus may grow on your camera and film.
Keep your camera as cool as possible. Leave any films you will not be using in a hotel refrigerator or kitchen refrigerator. Take with you only the films that you will be using in the hot and humid weather. Use all of the film during the day; do not let any of the film stay in the camera overnight.
When traveling, find the coolest place for your camera and film. Never put your camera on a window or in a car's front glove compartment. A trunk that has good insulation may be better, but in the sun the trunk will get extremely hot. Carry your camera, accessories, and film you will use that day, with you. The remainder of your equipment and film could be stored in the hotel lobby safe, or deposit box. If possible, rest your camera and gadget bag on your lap while traveling in a car, on the seat. The equipment will be subjected to unnecessary vibration on the floor or in the trunk.
Not only your camera, buy your film, filters, and other photo equipment will need good care during your travel. Use a common sense approach. Do everything -possible to protect the camera and the result will pay in less anxiety to the loss of your valuable travel pictures.
PREPARATION FOR A SUCCESSFUL PHOTO-TRAVEL
Usually we already know where we will go, months or sometimes years ahead of time. This usually leaves enough time to collect all the necessary information. The best way to start is with a Pan American Booklet, (available in all travel agencies) or an encyclopedia of travel. In this you will find the addresses of the Consulate and the tourist offices from which you may receive more information about the country you will visit. When you are in a travel agency you could ask for more pamphlets, short booklets, or advertisements of the particular country. Take everything you can get. Any information may be useful later. Then if you need more information you can find the addresses of the local tourist offices (private or state) in the particular country.
Even when traveling with a group you will surely get a lot of local information from the agency who organized your trip. This information will be of particular interest to the group as a whole. But your interests may be different. You might want to see specific places. By having your own information, you may find places of greater interest to you. Group traveling saves a lot of money, but still you might find another place to visit and just forget the places that have no special interest to you.
When you arrive at your destination you can buy local guide books and get more detailed local information. Today, many things are rapidly changing. The local information will be more up to date than the tourist agency material. Also your group will have a guide or two, so if you have any more questions-just ask. The local people will help you too. Very often a guide who has often traveled with good photographers will tell you not only about the places, but also about better views for the best compositions of your pictures. You may get, locally, all the regulations and restrictions on picture taking for that particular city or country.
The color pictures in travel booklets and travel guides, and on postcard pictures in hotel shops will give you some information on what you should see and also where and what you can get on your pictures. Naturally, you do not want a simple "postcard" picture, but you want your own original composition with the expression of your individual artistic taste. However, a postcard or pictures from a local book can give you some idea of what to take and where.
It would be good to memorize all the information before you leave to travel. Surely everything is written in the guidebook, but often you may find on returning home that you missed an interesting place that was in your book, but you only read about it after returning home. You could have more information than your guide who is usually more concerned with the general interest. When your interest is photography you may have to find your own ideas, because the weather, sun, or time of the day may be important for your photographs, but not to your guide.
The different tourists that you meet in your travel group will surely have different interests in travel and photography, maybe opposite to yours. Even other photographers will seldom agree with you on your composition. He may have a different idea of what is a good picture. Sometimes it might be hard to leave the pre paid guide tour, (Usually on a bus with few stops) and pictures through bus windows are not the best. But there is still time during meals, or shopping, or rest hours when you can be by yourself. When you know where to go and what pictures to take, you may walk or take a taxi and still have a few original and good pictures from your trip.
A private guide who personally knows the local people would be ideal. Explain your interests to the guide. Tell him what you would like to see and photograph. He may introduce you to the local people. His friends will become your friends too. You could have the most beautiful pictures with the local people's cooperation, and more often their suggestions. You may see places you never knew existed. Having your own car as transportation may be expensive, but it would give you the best opportunity to see the particular places of your interest in the country, and would surely give you the most interesting pictures. When you go with a group you could still separate, rent yourself a car and go alone, or with your guide, for your own photo-travel expedition. But having a good amount of knowledge of the country and the places before going would be immensely helpful.
THE STORY OF YOUR TRAVEL PICTURES
We always like to tell the story of your travel with photographs. But our travel pictures or films should tell the story of our travel. Even before traveling we should have some idea of what we would like to tell. What is the reason for our travel, what we expected to see, or why we went to this particular place. There should be some sort of general idea all through your travel story. This idea that is anticipated before your travel may not work perfectly. There is always the possibility of unexpected travel changes such as, bad weather or simple personal problems (like an upset stomach) in which the expected pictures will not be taken. 50 our travel story must be flexible enough to be adjusted or changed.
But on the other hand, during our travels we may find many places and situations which will give us new ideas, for unexpected picture opportunities.
Sometimes it is good to walk around without the camera in strange places where you are for the first time, and just look and admire, and think of what story idea could be told by pictures. Then later return with the camera and take the pictures you need to tell the story. We should be ready to "edit our pictures" with our camera. A single photograph may be good, but in story telling we always need a series of pictures. A single unrelated scene will tell little of our travel. We need few a few connected pictures to tell the story.
You could just take some pictures from the hotel windows and bus windows when you travel, but this will seldom be admired and the story connection may be loose.
Such pictures may be accepted by your family or by other people who took part in your trip because they may remember the other details connecting the pictures. But for the people who did not go with you, this will be just an unrelated confusing accumulation of different photographs. Later you will forget most of your travel, but through pictures you will remember your experiences. Unrelated pictures with no story will be a poor method in which to remember your travel.
When you have your travel story, and some idea of continuation, in taking the pictures, you must look for something that is useful for telling the story. You will save film by not taking pictures which later you will not need. When taking particular pictures always place the accent on originality. Take time to walk around and make your pictures different and original. Your travel story will be more interesting if your pictures are not just simple quick snap shots. And there are always thousands of ways to take pictures of the same object.
Everything that you have already seen, heard, of read has been already done. This is not original. You may learn from photo books or other pictures, but when you go for your own pictures you must find your own original way, something that nobody has done in such a way before. Find a different way: use your own composition. Mix elements you already know of from other technique and art ideas and build your own idea of an original picture.
I will point out here again that the most common mistake of many travel pictures is to photograph wide angle scenery in which the main objects of the scene occupy only a very small percent of the picture area. this looks very poor on a small print or when projected on a screen. The details are too small to be noticed.
Telling a story with your pictures is like telling any story with your mouth. You should have some main object on your pictures which will be repeated, and have at least the same object on subsequent pictures so that your story will go from one picture to another with some continuity. Then the addition of another object will continue to the next picture. In such a way you will get a perfect continuation of your story.
In building your story you will use the technical skill of your camera and hands, and your mental artistic approach. The combination of both elements makes the best picture. Always use your imagination and think what emotional impact your story will have on the future audience. Your story should have some emotional effect. You can tell an educational story or tell something just to entertain the audience, but the emotional impact will always be the most important. You have to reach the people's souls, not only to their eyes, with your travel picture story.
Every travel will give you the opportunity to tell your travel with your pictures in the way that you planned and desired. You may show the good or just all the bad aside of your travel. You may just tell one simple idea. But whatever you do, try to connect all your travel pictures with some idea, and try to make some emotional impact on your audience.