Digital Camera Reviews

Tips: Travelling with your New Digital Camera

The compact digital camera has found a definite niche with travellers and holidaymakers. Even many professionals admit to keeping one in their pocket for those moments where a clumsy SLR kit is inappropriate. Discovering and exploring the world with a camera can be an exciting and enriching pastime, but it too is fraught with pitfalls for the unwary.

Too much concentration on photography can make you a boring and tedious travelling companion, especially if you are part of a group tour and continually disrupt the schedule because you always want that extra shot. Be considerate and learn to kick back occasionally.

A quick checklist;

  1. Look after your camera. Always use a neck- or wrist-strap. Use lens caps, even filters to protect the critical glassware. Get a soft case or make your own. Lost it? Use a sock.
  2. A no-brainer I know, but always carry spare memory and (charged) batteries. Even the best get caught out.
  3. Pay attention to personal safety. Flashing a smart camera around marks you as a bag-snatch or mugging target. Be alert to your surroundings. Don’t get complacent, especially when travelling in unfamiliar countries.
  4. Put the camera down occasionally and just enjoy the surroundings without looking for composition, texture and lighting.
  5. Learn to use it.

Familiarise yourself with the camera settings and pre-sets that you are likely to use on your travels. Landscape, portrait, indoor, flash/no flash and night settings are indispensable if you really want travel pics to brag about. It’s always been a trap to buy your camera as you step on the plane. If planning a serious (and expensive) trip somewhere exotic, buy your camera well in advance and be proficient with it BEFORE you leave. Duty-free savings are not what they once were. If you plan on buying a new camera while away, take your old trusty unit too.

Choosing an appropriate camera to travel with is important. Small is good for travel and there are plenty of really decent little devices lining up for a spot in your carry-on luggage. A wide angle is also handy when choosing a companion. Most 3x zooms in the midrange units start at about 35mm on the old scale. There is a couple that kick off at 28mm that you should ask to see at the store. If you’ve decided you’re only going to take one camera (like most travellers) ask about telephoto and wide-angle attachments for your chosen unit and try them out on the spot. Supplementary flashes are extremely handy if you intend shooting big subjects more than a few metres away.

Just one of the joys of travelling to far-off lands is to experience new cultures. Photography is looked on differently around the world. Some people will virtually ignore you, while others will be deeply affronted, so it’s vitally important that you research these tricky topics before you find yourself being chased down the street by an angry mob.

Here’s a few to think about:

  • In China, some people believe photography steals the soul. Often you’d get the same reaction if you pointed a loaded gun.
  • In India, regular folks are delighted to pose for a picture, but will be quick to hold out a hand for a ‘fee’.
  • In some Muslim countries, photographing local women will get you extremely unwelcome attention from their husbands, fathers or male relatives.

In general, wherever you are, it’s just good manners to gain the consent of your subject if you are specifically photographing them. Some may ask for a consideration or ‘donation’ while others may simply request a print – and why not? Be a good global citizen and follow through with your promise.

Now here’s a tricky one: children. We are increasingly seeing pictures of cute kids in travel magazines and brochures. You and I might enjoy the simple delight of a child’s innocent, smiling face, but the world is a complex place and not everyone is as well-intentioned as us. Look for a parent or responsible local adult and get consent. Don’t encourage criticism, or worse, accusations, by paying too much attention to children. Sometimes you’ll find hordes of laughing, dancing little tykes following you down the street in some dusty village. Spend a moment with them by all means, but be definite about ‘bye-bye’ time and send them off with a firm, cheery wave. Encouraging underprivileged children to rely on the generosity of tourists is a major no-no these days. If you really want to give something back, there are numerous charities and legitimate self-help schemes who would gratefully take your donation.

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