Travel and Photography

Travel and photography go hand in hand. One without the other is like playing cricket without the ball.
…No famous person said that; I just made it up!
Rohinton Mehta

Most people love to travel. Curiosity is a facet of human nature. The need to know about other places and what other people look like creates this urge to explore. We want to know more about other cultures and their ways of life. We are intrigued by the natural beauty, and the man-made monoliths of other cities and countries. And of course, since human memory is fleeting, we want some means of preserving what we see. Hence travel and photography are closely related.

Traveling can be for pleasure or business. Traveling for pleasure can relax the body and soul. But to enjoy our travel, we need to be prepared like the boy scout.


Try and capture the serenity of the locations. Though there is no one in the chair, this picture conveys the feeling of ‘being there’. It immediately brings to mind peace and comfort

If you are traveling by road, don’t forget to photograph your vehicle. Instead of just showing the vehicle (as done here) it would be better to include the travellers.

Decide your destination
This is the first step. This decision will depend on your personal likes and dislikes and what you wish to see and photograph. If traveling in a group, it’s always better to have joint meetings with your would-be traveling companions – whether they be friends or family. The Internet can be a great place to start your search. Ask friends who have been there. Write to the tourist office for brochures and other details pertaining to your travel and stay. Find out the best time and season to visit the places of your choice. Check out hotels for their rates and facilities offered.

Decide if you are traveling alone or with like-minded photographer friends or with the family. This decision will mostly determine the equipment you’ll carry. If you are traveling with the family, your photo equipment is likely to be restricted since you will have to consider items of comfort for the family, which you might not consider if you were to travel solo.

Book your tickets
Once you decide the locations, it’s time to book your tickets. Do so well in time, don’t wait till the last minute. Often, last minute fares – especially air fares – can be much higher. Railway tickets are often booked months in advance. If traveling abroad, always go through a reliable travel agent. Remember, low-cost offers can sometimes prove expensive. If the costs shown are low, expect some hidden costs. Get everything down in writing. Insist on and check your receipts for your hotel bookings; check your tickets for correctness of traveling dates. I remember an instance when at the airlines counter, I was informed that my ticket was one month old! The air ticket was provided by a client (I was going there to conduct a workshop) and the travel agent had made a mistake about the dates. Such situations can ruin your holidays and cause you enough embarrassment.

If camping out in the open, click such images as they are sure to bring back memories later on.

Take a break from moving around, and relax. Freeze those instances.

If you decide to travel by your car, have it thoroughly checked by a competent mechanic well before you start your journey. And don’t forget to carry your driving license, insurance papers, few important spares etc.

Don’t forget to photograph your co-travelers indulging in some adventure.

Bring out detail in mundane objects.

What to carry
Travel light. Don’t carry more clothes than you need. Avoid expensive or fancy clothes that could be damaged if the going gets rough. At the same time, don’t avoid carrying warm clothes if you are going to a cold climate. If the weather turns nasty, and you are not prepared, you may curse your decision to travel.

Similarly, do not overburden yourself with unnecessary photo equipment. Extra weight will slow you down. If you were to leave some extra equipment in your hotel room while you go gallivanting, you stand to lose your peace of mind and the equipment too. And believe me, the lens you leave behind is the one you’ll miss
the most!

If you own more than one system (for example, if you own a bridge camera, an ILCC, and a D-SLR system), which one should you carry? The answer would depend on the intensity of the shoot – meaning to say the dedication level for your photography. Remember, basically you would be on a holiday and the camera is to record the places and the interesting things you are likely to see. You are not on a paid photo assignment (in which case you will certainly need more than you might like to carry). Convenience along with reasonably good picture quality is what comes to my mind and I would opt for a ILCC system. Also consider how large your pictures are likely to be. Most travel pictures are not larger than 8 x 12 inches and with my ILCC, I can easily make high-quality 16 x 20s!

A general view of the location that depict day-to-day activities.

Don’t forget the guidelines of composition. Leading-in lines takes the viewer’s eye into the picture.

Pack your gear depending on what you are likely to photograph (and how often). Those beautiful birds on the other side of the river might call for your 500mm f/4 lens but unless you plan to shoot a great deal with that lens, and plan to stay nearby for a few days, try and avoid the big gun. That beautiful Victorian castle requires your 24mm lens? Yes? Then by all means carry it. Got the idea? If you are likely to use a particular gear very rarely, try not to carry it. If you are traveling with your photographer friends, you may consider sharing your equipment provided they are using the same make of cameras. So, instead of each one carrying say, a 70-200mm or a 100-300mm lens, and also that flashgun which may be used rarely, it is better to decide on who’ll carry what equipment and then sharing the same. Also, if traveling with photographer friends, carry at least one spare camera body, just in case someone’s camera conks out.

For serious photography, tripods are a must but again, don’t plan on carrying a heavy one which can bog you down. A small tripod or a lightweight carbon fiber tripod can be considered. If traveling by air, don’t forget to check the permissible baggage size for hand-held luggage.

Take time and scout around for the best location and angles.

Unusual angles bring out the ‘oohs and aahs’ from the viewers.

Medicines / First Aid
Make a list of medicines that you take regularly or feel that you may require and cross check when you place them in your bag. Remember that the medicine you want may not be available everywhere. In some countries, you cannot even buy most over-the-counter medicines that you may be able to get here.
Always, for safety, carry basic first aid items like band-aids, sterile gauze, anti-diarrhoeal pills, antihistamines, and whatever else your family doctor may recommend.

It’s wise to take insurance against accidents or sickness during your travel. Similarly, insure your equipment too. Getting insurance for your equipment is rather difficult, but it’s worth the try.

Unusual angles bring out the ‘oohs and aahs’ from the viewers.

What to photograph
This list can be endless. Record the start of your journey, your mode of travel, the countryside, the local population and their lifestyle, the clothes they wear, their modes of travel, cozy bungalows, stately buildings and offices, museums, markets, hotels, fancy cars, shopping malls, road signs, the local cuisine, floral decorations, local festivals, and anything else that you fancy. Don’t forget to take pictures that identify the places you visit.

Remember that certain areas may have a ban on photography. Avoid photographing military installations, police outposts and/or any area where a ‘No Photography’ sign is put up. If in doubt, ask. And the best persons to ask are those in authority, tourist guides or your local hotel managers.

Dos and Don’ts (Otherwise known as Common Sense Approach)
1. Check out in advance the voltage and type of electrical outlets at your destination. Carry an all- in-one adapter for different types/sizes of electrical outlets.
2. Carry your mobile phone and battery charger.
3. If traveling abroad, scan your passport and save a copy in your G-mail/Yahoo account. Have a copy on a flash-drive.
4. Double-check your travel tickets and hotel bookings. Carry your hotel booking receipts.
5. Inform a family member/friend about your travel plans.
6. Carry your personal medications and first-aid kit.
7. Check your photo gear and if any gear needs service, get it done much before hand; don’t get your equipment serviced at the last minute.
8. Take only what you really need.
9. If you have a credit/debit card, don’t forget to take it with you.
10. As far as possible, drink mineral water instead of the water supplied at hotels.
11. Don’t travel if you are in bad health. Remember, medical care abroad is horrendously expensive.