Vacation time again and you are traveling with friends or family, the dilemma is how do you balance being serious about photography and vacationing with your loved ones.  Here are a few pointers to having an enjoyable hassle free trip.


With airlines getting more onerous about luggage and charges it is important to plan your trip to have the least possible hassle.  Keeping in mind that luggage restrictions are now severe for carry-on and checked luggage it is important to balance your packing to make the most of your allowance.  The way to do this is to pack tripods and AA batteries in your checked baggage but pack the more valuable items in a backpack or roll-aboard that you keep with you on your journey.  As you’ll find out later the tripod is an important dual function piece of equipment.  Camera Bags are as important as your camera, they protect your valuable equipment, I primarily use LowePro Gear and have the Compugear All Weather bags because I can fit my computer and two camera bodies 3 lenses and 3 flash heads all in a comfortable bag and still protect them all from the elements, there is also a tripod carrier and many other places where you can attach gear.  There are other interesting manufacturers out there including GuraGear whose bags are lightweight yet functional.  Honorable mention also goes to the Tamrac Velocity Sling Packs. If you have so much equipment that you need to check it be sure to look at a hard case like a Pelican case, Pelican makes the most popular hard cases.

Be sure to check your airlines luggage allowance for both checked and carry-on baggage before you begin to pack.  Some airlines allow a carry on and a camera bag, some are now more restrictive, recently airlines have been dabbling with the introduction of charges for carry-on luggage even.   Here is a recently updated chart outlining luggage charges.


The Taking Stuff Away enforcers (TSA) have an important duty to do to ensure your safety.  They screen so many thousands of people daily that they appreciate proper organization regardless of the complexity of your equipment.  I suggest that you have a properly compartmentalized camera bag from which items can easily be removed and replaced otherwise you will have to repack your carry-on in the security area so that you can close it and proceed to your gate.  Also it is important that if you carry a multi-tool, which I often do, that you pack this in checked baggage and not your carry-on.  Nothing of this nature is permitted on any aircraft post 9/11.  Make sure your batteries are charged so your camera can be powered up and they can look through your lens as they sometimes do.  Keep your cool while they handle your equipment remember you are not permitted to touch anything during the examination.


Vacation with friends or family is always looked forward to but as photographers we consider an important part of vacation is being able to use our cameras to record parts of your trip whether for snapshots or for artistic photography.

The Internet is a great resource for finding shooting locations even before you leave home.  Some of these locations can be enjoyed with your travel partner like Point Reyes Lighthouse, Point Reyes, CA .

Urban Ruins.   Before traveling to any city or country extensive research on the Internet will save wasted down time.  A good tip is to see if there is a local camera club, they often allow guest from out of town to join them on an arranged shoot. My local club, The Barbados Photographic Society, also on Facebook under the same name, does and I have shot with other clubs when I’ve traveled.

If not and your travel companion(s) wants to go shopping encourage them do that while you shoot.  Also for early morning shooting let your travel companion(s) sleep in, unless they are early morning jogger(s),  while you shoot sunrises.  If they sleep in on return you can join them for  breakfast and prepare for the remainder of the day.

If you have a rental car on your trip keep your camera with you at all times if not the whole kit,  just your SLR and a telephoto lens like an 18-200mm in a  very portable bag, if not take a good point and shoot,  Modern point and shoots are of sufficient quality good enough to capture exhibition images in some instances, even though they don’t have the flexibility of an SLR.


The down side of traveling and photography is that people often prey or you for your expensive equipment.

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  It is important that you be cautious and aware of your surroundings when you shoot and keep your wits about you especially in an urban or remote situation.  This is where the secondary use of the tripod comes in handy.  I hand carry mine with the ball head being most distant from my hand and it makes a very effective club-like deterrent.  Anyone intending to accost you for your equipment will think thrice before attempting  to do so when you are armed with a tripod.  This works well for urban situations.

Cloak Bags make a viable option.  Your dress and jewelry are also important: dress down as much as possible, wear old jeans and an older T-shirt sneakers, little to no jewelry and a simple watch.  In colder climates get a slim line backpack (the modern type with strings for straps, put a hotel hand towel in the bottom and put it UNDER your jacket or coat.  Be aware that in some countries the modus operandi is to cut the bottom out of your bag and take the contents from the bottom while you are distracted.  The most important advice is to be aware, do not display any flashy jewelry or be loud and boisterous in public because accents give you away as a non native.


As with any trip there are the snapshots and then there are the photographs.  You want to pay attention to your composition and lighting and produce the most technically correct photographs possible.  Once you have your snapshots out of the way lets really get creative and use your knowledge to create exhibition quality works of art.  Lets completely ignore the programmed side of your camera dial and use the creative side, these being Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority and Manual.

Additionally, I use a single focus point so I make the choice of focus rather than the camera. I also more often than not use spot metering and then I recompose my shot after choosing my focus point and exposure.

Avoid taking postcard shots, you will want to select scenes that make the location memorable to you, don’t dwell on the traditional areas highlighted to visitors and make them the sole subject of your photograph.  Get out and get your very own spin on the location you are visiting.

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Your photograph is hardly unique if it is on a twenty-five cent postcard.  Each photograph you capture should contain the WOW factor; laymen should be in awe and other photographers should be suitably impressed at your capture.

Happy shooting!

Jeremy is a consultant, educator and photographer based in the Caribbean. He shoots an eclectic range of material, but his favorite subjects are urban and seascapes, people and aircraft. He mixes his love of technology and travel with photography. Following a brief post college hiatus he picked up a camera again in 2003 and has been shooting ever since. You may view his work on his website

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