Well before your departure, make sure your camera is working and in good condition. If it’s a new camera, become familiar with it – take a tour of your hometown for at least a few hours. Practice uploading the pictures to your computer or storage device if you don’t regularly do it.
Make sure to bring spare batteries, memory cards and your battery charger. Bring the booklet that came with your camera, and a memory card reader or the USB cable that connects your camera to your computer. If you’re traveling overseas, see the section on Electricity to be sure you have the plug adapter used at your destination.
Yes, bring the SLR, if you have one. Especially for a first trip to any photo-rich destination. If you’re going to one of your bucket list destinations and have one, bring the point and shoot too. My camera started acting up in Peru. If it died before Machu Picchu, I probably would have had to pay top dollar to replace it if I didn’t have a backup camera.
As a woman traveling alone to a lot of somewhat risky places, I carry minimal camera gear in a Crumpler 5 Million Dollar Home bag that isn’t obviously a camera bag. I know there is a need for all those lenses people carry around in huge backpack looking camera bags, but I manage to get by with 1 wide angle, 1 zoom and some extra memory cards.
My camera of choice is a Canon EOS Digital Rebel. It’s small, light and has all the features I need. I carry only 2 lenses – a Canon 17-55 F2.8 wide angle lens and a Tamron 70-300mm (bought used at Adorama) F3.5-5.6, and a lot of Sandisk cards. At some point, I would like to replace the Tamron, but the price was right and I use it mainly for details on buildings and to sneak pictures of people from afar. Although I primarily use a 2 gig card and back up nightly, I also carry 2-3 extra memory cards – just in case.
If photography is important to you, back up every night. In fact, double back up if possible. On those major photography trips like Peru and Angkor in Cambodia, I backed up nightly to my laptop, and a small Western Digital external hard drive. These devices were stored separately – so if one was lost or stolen, I still had the other.
Always ask permission before taking pictures. If you don’t speak the language, motioning to the camera usually works.
When interesting looking people attempt to sell me something I’m not considering buying, I often offer them a tip – or the equivalent of the inexpensive item they’re trying to sell (usually well less than $1) to take their photo instead. That’s a win win situation. I got the close-up photo of the very distinguished woman in beautiful embroidered clothing, and she got money for an item she didn’t have to sell.
For great prices on everything photo related, I can highly recommend Adorama. Their retail store is in my neighborhood and I shop there all the time. Leisurepro, the dive shop is a division and features a full range of underwater cameras and housings.
The most thorough information out there about equipment for traveling photographers, among a wealth of other advice and photography that gives me chills, can be found on Karl Grobl’s web site.
Jim Cline Photo Tours and Karl offer photo tours to the most photogenic destinations in the world. Their itineraries, hotel and restaurant picks are perfect. I learned more from Karl in the first 15 minutes than I ever knew about my camera. For more info, click here.