Travelling and photography

September 3, 2014

So I travel a lot……

And being a photographer I always have my camera(s) with me.

It’s a lot to carry, and over the years I’ve become better at it than I used to be. In 2008 I traveled to South America for 3 months with a DSLR, a kodak zoom, lomo fisheye, super sampler, and coloursplash. Big backpack! In 2009 I took a diana+ to europe with a series of add ons (and not enough film) a DSLR, an Olympus trip 35 and a coloursplash. Slightly lighter. (A lot of extra wight went on clothes and diaries however). In 2012 I managed to make my way to India, with four changes of clothes, 5 books a DSLR, holga, SLR, olympus XA2, Vivitar UWS, extra lens, pinhole camera and a SUPER 8. I came back with a Yashica 635 and an Electro 35. Okay so maybe I didn’t learn to travel light…..but I found the balance at least.

But I did pick up a thing or two about what to take, not unlike my post on festival cameras I am writing to highlight methods of practicality. Depending where you go, what you want to document and how you travel in general, here are some things to consider.

Where are you going?

This is the FIRST thing you must consider. Where you take your trip is everything. Different cameras and films are better for different locations. As well as considering where you are going also think about the kind of trip you will take….cultural? Hedonistic? Relaxing?

All these things make for different kodak moments and don’t forget the way you want it to be remembered. Some cameras compliment places perfectly . For example I remember my teenage days in Venice entirely through the dreamy lens of the Diana+. The Smema 8m compliments the Balkans and sunny soviet nations with it’s light loving lens and sturdy Russian body whereas British seaside towns and Balinese memories are stowed perfectly in little Polaroids. This is how I’ve chosen to remember my journeys. Rule no 1:Choose a cam that will highlight the memories.

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talking practicalities……


Europe is bright, relatively clean and in the most parts, and moves at your pace. This gives you freedom and flexibility. A zoom lens will help with architectural wonders and street photography is always 100% supported by a good rangefinder. The Gothic romance of Prague, Paris and Bruges with come alive with BW film. Sunnier locations such as Spain and south eastern Europe will benefit from the grain of expired colour film (try feriana solaris) to really bring out those dusty tones. For beautiful Scandinavia go for a film like Fuji Reala 100 and practice your landscape composition.

Film: Feriana solaris, Fuji neopan 400, Fuji Reala 100

Lens: Tilt shift

Gadget: Theft proof bag

Top Locations: Barcelona, Paris, Berlin, Croatia, Fjords. Urban exploration is  wonderful in Europe and there are many abandoned little places to uncover for shooting.

Top tip: Pick pocketing is a big problem in the larger European cities (most notably Barcelona, Amsterdam and Paris) keep your gear on close and get stealthy.

bcnPicture 019 pais cro


North America =

THAT SKY! America bursts with colour and landscape. The countryside is loaded with beauty and the country itself with so many photo ops if you wanna take big equipment, do it here. In the states you can drive most places, so equipment such as tripods and big lens aren’t such a big deal. A good polarizing/ UV filter will make the sky just that little bit more amazing and you can really take your time. Night photography of star trails in the wilderness are a must and pictures of the open road. Film wise go for something that optimises colour like a slide film (fuji sensia). When it comes to  lens…. go wide.

Film: Colour

Lens: wide angle/ telephoto for wildlife

Gadget: Tripod (Gorilla pod especially)

Top Locations: San Francisco, New York, Yosemite, Salvation Mountain, highways.

Top tip: Truck stops, mail boxes, signposts and landscapes are the winners here. The road is beautiful.

South America –

I was very into my lomo when I went to this enchanted land in 2008 so my photos are mostly cut-up/multi coloured but I liked it. (Not saying I’d do the same again if I went now, but I think it fits the mood.)Street shots, and landscapes are incredible here, the long open road, and of course the nocturnal circuit. I would take a flash so you can capture the party, South America is also a haven for adventure sports so you want something robust. Mugging is common but discreteness often makes no difference so i recommend taking many memory cards and swapping them regularly while uploading your photos to dropbox, etc whenever you can.

It’s not as dusty as Asia so photos often look well defined and you can find some really interesting spots to capture. Many fun shots too so make sure you have space and film to get it all.

Film: Slide

Lens: Wide again

Gadget: Coloured flash and B mode for night times (toys for salar de uyuni), UV/polarising filter very useful.

Top Locations: Salar de unyini, beaches, amazon, Machu Picchu, portraits and street photography. Buenos Aires, cemeteries.

Top tip: Sunsets rarely disappoint, capture the strange landscapes in Chile and Peru and keep looking out of the window. Little shrines all along the roads in Argentina are great.

fishsalar amazon beach butt chile christrio fishpicchu

Indian Subcontient

Where to begin. It is impossible to capture anything of what you see in this country on camera, impossible. Even if you take a nice photo it won’t be what you saw. It couldn’t really be, it moved too fast.

This place needs photos taking of it, however it takes some doing. It’s hard to be discrete, people love having their photo taken but always ask first and expect to be asked for money in return. Range finders are great but try to go for something with auto focus as you have to be quick here. Mugging is uncommon except at very crowded tourist spots but you will find it difficult to go unnoticed anywhere. This said candid shots of people and street scenes are achievable, I’d say it just takes luck and practice.

the highlight here is portraits, get a NICE lens to do this with and take lots and lots of pictures. It’s also dusty, so if you’re shooting colour get a polariser, if you’re shooting BW, red filters (especially for scenery) work wonders. I’d especially recommend this in mountain areas and hill stations.

Film: TMAX/ Reala (for those skin tones!)

Lens: Canon mark ii 1.2 50mm fixed (eye popping detail)

Gadget: training your self to be speedy

Top Locations: Varanasi, Dehli, Kolcatta, Udipur, Jodphur, Himalays, Kerala, Hampi, Trains

Top tip: Don’t be afraid to ask to take photos of people you find interesting. It’s usually okay and people are so eager to sit for portraits. Also you will get your own photo taken a lot. So get used to that.

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Middle East –

Photographers paradise. Long windy street shots, markets and historical ruins. Smoke makes for nice pics and it’s dusty too, so get close to things. The colours in bazaars and tile work is perfect for close ups and I’d recommend trying to capture the cay/nargile/backgammon lifestyle. And the cats, snap the cats.

Film: Formapan (found cheaply in  Istanbul ;))

Lens: close up -for details. Wide angel for rooftop cityscapes.

Gadget: Bokeh filter

Top Locations: Istanbul, morocco, Egypt, bazaars.

Top tip: It’s paradise, take photos of everything. Buildings, markets, people. Light really comes through in the golden hours and highlights the beauty. Minarets at sunset = magic.

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Long trip or short stay?

Being a child of the Easyjet generation I have spent many long weekends running around Europe’s sexy playgrounds and beach resorts snapping away like no tomorrow. Likewise I have spent many long hours in those scanners explaining to the airport crew what my TLR is doing stuffed in my mini suitcase and putting rolls of film on the side so they don’t get jumbled in the scanner.

On these short trips I like to take a variety of cameras. I won’t be needing to document everything as it’s a short trip and as I usually have a fixed aboard, space and weight are less of an issue for. Disposable cameras are brilliant for city summer nights as are instant camera’s. Pocket compacts such as Olympus XA series, mju ii and Vivitar UWS are great for out and about snaps and love good sunlight. Diana+ and other cheap medium format models are also great for the short breaks. I recommend Diana for the romantic cities ala Paris, Venice and Vienna and Holga for the eastern European party towns where you can play in the dark or Berlin.

For a longer backpacking trip you should think about your luggage. Because these things are heavy. Also you’re seeing more stuff right? So you need a better all rounder to take it in. I like the freedom you have on a short trip to just capture the moments of whatever you can on a weekend, however if I quit my job and paid a lot of cash to go see the Taj Mahal I’m gunna need some substance for the slide show right?

So take a camera that can do it all. Either a very good digital camera or a DSLR. i’d say something with interchangeable lens is better. Don’t be too swayed by the all travel friendly underwater models that a truck an safely run over. They do not take very nice photos.

A good SLR……

Go for something well built and robust, if it’s digital get a good model that charges off mains, don’t get a camera that takes batteries or you will go through a lot of them. Flashy extras are rarely worth it and try to get a good wide angle with manual overrides for everything. A built in flash is handy but make sure you can turn it off. If it has a hot shoe consider taking a really small flashgun with you. The quality is just better.

Canon and Nikon make beautiful, sturdy and reliable. These are the brands I’d recommend.

Take other lens and filters. You want versatility. Take a smaller camera too and plenty of film/memory cards.  If you have a good camera bag take it, lots of pockets and cushioning. If you don’t you can make a nice one (I’ve done it, super easy, just make a template to fit your camera, some cardboard and make a strap out of anything, a belt is good as well as plaited fabric).

Take the fiddly things before you go, don’t think you’ll find that super weird battery for your rangefinder out there (you won’t). Memory cards, film and other things are widely available and cheap – except film in western Europe, ouch!

Film vs Digital

You know what I will say. FILM. However digital is great for those million shots of the landmarks and pics of new friends, group jump shots etc.

Film is easy to find in Asia/ S.America/ Middle East. Also easy to develop although to varying degrees of success. Expired stuff is usually on display and you can haggle for it if it’s your bag. Haggle for it. Memory cards are easy to buy and you can download your photos onto CDs at most places. Film always photos always have better definition and the cameras are great for soaking up the light and atmosphere. Digi images often look flat and film really does win for those atmospheric beauty shots. You can also alter the quality of colour and grain depending which film you use. I’d say ultimately carry both. Digital for the everyday snaps and film for the special ones if you can.

Olympus XA2 Neopan 400 Film

Olympus XA2 Neopan 400 Film




everestdigi everestfilm 

Handy hints

Batteries wither in the cold. Prepare for this and try to keep them warm

Camera bags should be durable, waterproof if possible thief proof

Guard it with your life, never leave that thing unattended and beware of pickpockets and thieves.

Difference in the details – Try and do something different with the landmarks, We all know what the Taj looks like but you’re there and you have the opportunity to make it look unique. Find ways to spice up the most photographed things in the world. Pee into the wind, throw up on the Berlin Wall.

Document everything – but not too much. the best pictures are always of the little things, cracks in the pavement, that cows arse. Those are the things you’ll remember about your travels so don’t sweat the perfect Effiel Tower shot too much, the postcards do it better anyway!

And seriously not too much – leave the camera at home one day. Like when you go to the favela or the big stupid wedding or the stag do in Tallinn where you lost your toe and experience it with the camera god gave you (your eyes hahahahaha).






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Day Fourty – Three

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