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Travelling with a Digital Camera

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Dargo Dog

You know you've got a dog photo in your files, but where? This is where a program like Extensis Portfolio can help. By saving your photos with keywords, you can do a fast search to locate all your "dog" photos.

Part 2        

6. The learning curve

If you think that a histogram is something that you need to see your doctor about, don't buy your new digital camera just before you go on your holiday.

OK, you might be familiar with the usual camera controls, but there can be a sharp learning curve on the software you will use to process and store your results.

You will need to be familiar with a photo processing package such as Adobe Photoshop (even the Lite version needs some practice) or the cheaper but well-featured Paint Shop Pro. Then you will need to have a filing and retrieval system organised.

I use a simple folder system on my laptop with a folder for each country or area, and then a sub-folder for each of the towns or places I visit. My laptop has a cd burner, so I save the photos to a cd on a regular basis. When I am away for an extended time, I mail these cd's home or at least keep them separate from my laptop. The worst nightmare is to loose your laptop and your storage cd's.

Your collection of digital photos will grow. As this happens you will transfer them to back up hard drives or compact disks. It is wise to start indexing your photos before it becomes too big a task to undertake. Retrieval software such as Extensis Portfolio ( is ideal for this purpose. If you have time, doing this work while you are travelling and everything is fresh in your mind makes life easy when you return home.

Remember that Murphy's Law says that if you need to reload some software while you are away, it will be on the disk you left at home. Take back-up disks for your critical programs, and with luck nothing will happen.

7. Insurance

It is wise to remember that most travel insurance policies have a limit on what they will pay out on a lost or stolen camera and laptop. More than likely the limit applies to your whole camera equipment as a group, not the individual items, so if you have everything stolen, it is likely that you will be paid just a fraction of what it is worth.

Some insurance companies offer additional insurance cover at a cost. So it may be worth shopping around to see what you can obtain. In Australia, a company that offers the ability to increase the cover on equipment such as cameras, lenses and laptops is QBE - contact them at

Some policies don't cover you if you let items such as cameras or laptops out of your personal possession (like leaving it in the hotel room) so read the fine print before you decide what policy to take.

And remember to record the serial numbers of all your equipment in a safe (and separate) place. Treat your gear like a wad of cash (that is what it looks like to other people) and hopefully your digital experience will be a happy one.

8. The cost

Good quality digital cameras are expensive, and the extra equipment you need (storage devices, software, compact flash cards, perhaps a new laptop) adds considerably to the initial cost.

So before you venture into the digital world, make sure you are going to be happy spending the money to the level where you are satisfied with the results.

The total sum you will spend could be worth a three-month trip overseas - so if the enjoyment of travelling rather than photography is your thing, then stick with your film camera.

Check out the latest storage device to use in the field

Tip: Before you go on a trip, write down your camera's serial number and keep it in a safe place. This can help identify the camera as yours to the local authorities if it is stolen.

9. Keep your equipment clean

Don't forget to take a decent blower brush, a lint-free cloth or lens cleaning paper, and some cleaning fluid.

I find it best to spray some of the cleaning fluid onto the cloth rather than directly on the lens or laptop screen. And use the blower brush to clean your laptop keyboard every now and again.

I have a plastic bag in my kit with the bottom cut out which I slip over the lens barrel when it rains. If you pull it up a bit over the built-in flash of your camera, it will give you some nice flash disbursement as well.

Piazzo del Campo waiting for the horses img4923

This shot of Piazzo del Campo in Siena, Italy was taken from ground level to emphasize the vastness of the square.

What did you think of this article? Do you have any tips or comments?

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10. Travel photography

Make sure you know why you are taking photographs on your travels. They may be just for the memories and to show your long suffering friends on your return; or they may be to illustrate an article you intend to write.

If you are photographing for your own use, it's good to include photos of your holiday activities (not just the scenery) so you can relive them time and time again on your return. If you hope to sell the photos, remember that it is a competitive market, so do something unique.

Whatever your reason, I find that it is important to choose a couple of themes - for example, you could take close-ups, or do a series on doors (or other architectural type themes), maybe concentrate on people (at play or at work). Having some themes to photograph to will help you concentrate on the environment you are in and you will get more out of your holiday (and probably take a few more photos as well).

When you show your travel photos to your friends, make a note of the photos that impress them and shoot more of the same.

The standard travel photography tips include:
1. Don't rush. Do your research before you start taking photos. Have a look at the travel brochures, postcards and books about the area to get some ideas. Make notes, have a plan.
2. Shoot when the angle of the sun gives the landscape some form (early morning or late afternoon).
3. Sunny clear weather is good, but be on the lookout for some interesting effects before and after storms or when the sun is poking through the clouds.
4. If the weather is bad, concentrate on detail shots or improve your macro expertise.
5. Don't take every shot standing on your two legs. Get down low on the ground, or (carefully) climb a tree. In other words, be on the lookout for a different angle or point of view.
6. Consider the composition of your photos. Look to include something in the near foreground, look for lines leading the viewer into the scene.
7. That long shot of the building is great, but also take some detail shots to include in your album. Maybe a window, or a door, or one of the statues that adorn the cornice.
8. People shots are great and add interest to any travel digest. If you photograph the locals, respect their privacy as you would those in your own home town. Some cultures believe that having a photograph taken has an 'evil eye' connotation, so find out about local customs. Having said all that, you'll find that a digital camera can create quite an interest, especially with children, as you can show the photo immediately.

Enjoy yourself.

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