More Trippy Photo Tips

In the past two posts we have discussed some pointers for doing research before you leave to ensure that you don't miss a location or an event and some tips on photos while on a family road trip. Now let's get serious about some other important issues.

Packing: do not check your equipment if you can help it. It has a good chance of being stolen or damaged. A photographer friend just returned from an around the world assignment for a large corporation. He started in Sao Paulo then to London, Paris, Barcelona, Moscow, China and home to Seattle all in twenty days. I sat down with him on his return to get the benefit of this recent experience to share with you.

He had to decide whether to carry on his computer or his camera gear from Sao Paulo to London. He chose the computer. He then spent two days in London trying to organize rental equipment for his shoot as his cameras and lights didn't show up. The lights followed him to Barcelona where they caught up with him on his first day there. The case with his cameras followed the next day. When the best camera did arrive it had been removed from his baggage and dropped or abused in some other fashion. He luckily had gaffer's tape with him that served to tape the broken battery slot cover closed on the camera for the rest of the trip. He offers that you should carry on as much as they will allow. Check your clothes etc. You can always buy new ones at your destination.

Photographers that make their living with these kinds of assignments are rather like soldiers. They learn to improvise when things don't go as planned. Try to eliminate all the possible misadventures you can think of before you go. If you have to check some of your gear, put it in the center of a suitcase with lots of clothes around it. Believe it or not the choice of suitcase can be important. Jay Maisel is a long time superstar photographer. I once heard him say that he buys his cases in the thrift store. He goes for the pink "old lady" suitcases that no one would ever think contained the expensive gear belonging to a top photographer. He lines the old suitcases with the same high-density black foam padding that is in most camera cases. Another shooter got stickers from a lab technician that indicated that the contents of his cases were bio-waste. Of course, under today's heightened security rules those stickers might be more problems than they are worth!

© Kurt

If you shoot film, take all you'll need with you on the plane and ask that it be hand searched. You should also be aware that the huge machines that some airports have for screening CHECKED baggage will also damage unprocessed film. But the digital cameras and the cards are all safe from damage from x-ray.

Sometimes the need to improvise goes beyond gear and bags. Another friend, National Geographic photographer, Mike Yamashita, tells the story of being in a situation where he saw a wonderful shot of camels while on his two year long sojourn to photograph the Silk Road. The problem was that the camels were all rental camels and each had a big number painted on its side. So he improvised; shot them backlit so the numbers didn't show and the resulting image is the cover of his book. To see the image go to

Select "images" and "Marco Polo" under books. I recommend you review his entire portfolio. Mike is truly one of the masters of travel photography. And some Dreamstime photographers have used the same trick as we see from the camel shots here.

The world lost a creative force in photography when adventure travel photographer Galen Rowell and his wife were killed in a plane crash as they were returning from a photo workshop in August 2002. Galen told me that he trained for his photo expeditions to remote regions of Tibet and other places by running miles with a fully loaded backpack up and down the hills in Berkley, California where he lived prior to moving to a higher altitude in Bishop, CA.

One late afternoon in Tibet he saw a rainbow near the Potala (some spell it Potola) Palace in Lhasa. He recognized that if he could run fast enough, he could get in place so that the rainbow would be positioned in front of the palace. Even though the altitude was over 12,000 feet, he ran 2 miles with his equipment on his back in time to catch the elusive shot. His training and preparation paid off. The San Francisco Chronicle reported in his obit that a single, signed print of that shot had sold for $18,000 in the month before he died. It is also the cover of his book Mountains of the Middle Kingdom.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, Fodor's has a nice section on travel photography. Here are a few of their tips that I picked up from another site:

* For clear campfire shots, let your camera take its exposure readings from a well-lit face. Fire in the frame will throw off your camera's calculations. (Searching on "campfires" in Dreamstime reveals that this is an area that could use more images.)

* Research your destination and plan a "shooting itinerary" so you don't miss any great shots. (But remember that some of the best photographs are made when you stray from the beaten path.)

* In wild caves, put your camera shutter in the B position and fire your flash multiple times to paint the room with light.

* Underwater, colors will photograph naturally to a depth of about 10 feet but fade away quickly beyond that. Use flash.

Remember the no no's. Don't submit photos of Disneyland or any ticketed event where the ticket or the signage indicates that no photos can be taken. Even if photos are permitted, remember that the attorneys for many landmarks like to write letters and so we don't accept those images. Don't submit images of fine art or public sculpture if it could still be under copyright.

© Corot2

I have always said that in advertising photography there is no area of the world with poverty, no children with runny noses, no flies, no slums. For non-editorial use, concentrate on the good things associated with your destination. Zero in on close-ups of food, markets, traditional dress and unique angles of the overly photographed places of interest or go for the magic light moment. You may not have access to photograph Whirling Dervishes in Turkey but you can come home with an image of one on a handbag in a market. Improvise!

Site for regulations for flying in and into the US:

Article about digital cameras and airport security:

Interview with Jay Maise...but he doesn't mention suitcases:

History of travel photography:

Galen Rowell website:

Mike Yamashita website:

Photo credits: Wong Sei Hoo, Louis Capeloto, Digitaleye, Sergey Kovalev, Kurt, Randi Utnes, Radu Razvan Gheorghe, Scorpion26.


photo tip trip

Your post must be written in English

December 14, 2007


Not have my blog, for free gredit. What me do?
My Link not to fixplease optional my link

July 24, 2007


Fleyeing: you have it down! Safe travels and thanks for the tips.

July 22, 2007


As a regular traveler to and inside SE Asia, I can only agree with these tips. As to flying, the metaphysical question always is what "To Check or Not To Check".
My paradigm is that whatever is checked, I can lose. So I make a priority list of items in decreasing order. Cam (included charger and cable) are on top, then the portable disks, then the laptop. My record is 14kgs in a strong (Samsonite) small crap looking backpack as hand luggage plus the cam belt, which I never put down.

To my horror, in September 2006, just after the planned plane attacks from London, all hand carried luggage was suddenly reduced to 7kg flying into LHR (Heathrow). In that case, you will have to make some snap decisions on the check-in counter as to what is totally vital and what isn't.

And be creative. I only checked one portable disk, the other one just fit in a pocket of my pants. The cam belt didn't count so I put more heavy stuff in the side pockets of it. When traveling, make sure you wear pants with loads of large pockets on the hips!

As to the hazards of traveling in a poor and not-so-peaceful country with expensive equipment: the key is to look crap and poor yourself. I wear local slippers that look terminal. My bags are top-quality (Samsonite, Loewepro) but they look greasy and worn on the outside. Use some olive oil and flour to achieve that effect. Of course you have to cut the brand name labels off.
My travel bag is a large (but very strong) plain backpack that looks so worn and dirty (use olive oil + paint) that nobody ever would want to steal it. Don't lock it, locks attract thieves. Never use suitcases, never carry anything that looks 'business'.

As to my Nikon D200, it doesn't look appealing to them because it's bulky and plain, not shiny and tech-glittery. I always downplay its value and tape off the Nikon brand name. The key is NEVER to tell you're a photographer or designer, to nobody, just tell you're an old hippie with no cash to burn.

I guess that's called mimicry ;-)

July 17, 2007


Just one thing on the camel bit..., it says at the end, "And some Dreamstime photographers have used the same trick as we see from the camel shots here."
Yes, they used a silhouette but a) these are not examples from "photographers" as they are illustrations, and as such b) do not require the use of such a backlighting "trick" to remove unwanted elements of the photo as they were their own creations.
Well you could have (DID) fool me! I thought those camels were awfully well behaved marching in such a straight row. thanks for catching this.

July 15, 2007


Just one thing on the camel bit..., it says at the end, "And some Dreamstime photographers have used the same trick as we see from the camel shots here."
Yes, they used a silhouette but a) these are not examples from "photographers" as they are illustrations, and as such b) do not require the use of such a backlighting "trick" to remove unwanted elements of the photo as they were their own creations.

July 14, 2007


We accidentally posted this blog out of sequence. A piece that I wrote for originally posting this week about the opportunities that exist when traveling with family that was meant to be posted before this one, will appear next.

Your comments though are very true. I have always said that there is a special place in heaven for the wives/girlfriends/boyfriends/kids of travel photographers that stay at home while the photographer moves around the world. It's a lonely job for certain.

July 14, 2007


Excellent story and detail about pointing to Mike Yamashita work is more than worth reading. As an old hard core news photographer from early 80-s, last years of news (I worked in Sipa and Gamma) I would like to point to another side of good news and travel photography. One is ALLWAYS alone! News or travel - its same. There is no way to carry your family around. After I finished my news career I was thinking to start with travel photography but there was a problem. If I want to produce first class stories I have to travel alone again. In almost 15-17 years of my news career and traveling all over the world I lost most of my friends from the school, most of the friends from my youth years, college etc. They have their families, friends from the job etc, etc. I met lot of nice people, guides, interpretors, etc. but most of them I have not seen again.
Also when I traveled around kids were growing. And now I can list many important moments in their childhood when I was NOT present. This is sometimes too big price for good photographs, but there is no other way. Or there is solution for this, I am curios to hear.

Related image searches
Photo related image searches