This is a guest-post from John Batdorff II, a renowned travel photographer and friend of BorrowLenses.com. John is known for his landscape and travel photography, workshops, books and popular photography blog. He has traveled all around the world and, as part of our Tip of the Week series, shares his top tips on what to do if you’re planning a photo trip abroad. Take it away John!
Over the years I’ve learned a few things about travel photography. First and foremost, preparation is critical, and second, nothing ever goes as planned. Managing expectations, mitigating potential problems, and being flexible are key ingredients to ensuring a great experience. Here are few of my tips for planning a successful photo trip:
Create a Shot List: Whenever I’m traveling to an unfamiliar area I like to create a shot list of images I would like to capture. I’ll spend countless hours searching Google images and Flickr in an effort to familiarize myself with an area while jotting down places of interest. A good shot list should help answer questions like, what equipment will you need? Will you need a long lens, wide angle, tripod, backpack, etc? The list should help create opportunities by identifying the best locations and times to shoot, and most importantly, by feeding your creative vision. I like to think of my shot list as a fluid document that adapts and changes as opportunities present themselves.
Buy a Good Book: A picture is worth a thousand words, but a good book about local culture and history is priceless. Understanding the people and places you are shooting will help you discover what is important and provide an overall more authentic experience.
Hire a Local Guide: Time is a valuable resource when traveling abroad, so hiring a local guide who is familiar with the environment can be critical to maximizing photographic opportunities. I have found a good guide can help establish trust with locals (especially if there’s a language barrier) and help me understand the local customs. In many cases I find a good guide can provide insightful alternatives to the already well trampled tourist routes. Hiring a guide for the entire trip can get expensive, but even if you just get someone for one day, you’ll find it worthwhile.
Travel Light But With Backup: Whenever I travel I try to pack my essential kit, which consists of a 24-70mm (my street lens), 16-35mm (landscape), 70-200mm (when I need a little reach), a 1.4x extender (an inexpensive way to add a little reach without the bulk of a heavy lens), and a carbon fiber tripod (light but sturdy). In addition to my essential kit I always bring spare batteries, chargers, and memory cards. For those of you who are a wee bit paranoid about losing data then I recommend bringing two Passport back-up hard drives, one to store your images and leave with your luggage and a second duplicate backup that you keep with you at all times.
Vaccines and Meds: Making sure you have the proper vaccines and medication while traveling can save you from a miserable experience. My thoughts on this changed after a trip where I spent three days stuck in my hotel room with a fever. I know people have different philosophies on medication, but I always get all recommended travel vaccines and take medications that I know will save me from losing time when I’m traveling. Some countries require proof of vaccination before you can get a visa or pass through their border, so I always do my homework.
Above all else, remember to bring an open mind and your sense of humor. This, along with plenty of preparation, are essential elements to get you through any sticky situations and make for one heck of a great trip.
For more on John Batdorff and his workshops, check him out at www.johnbatdorff.com, or his blog at www.johnbatdorff.com/