Sunday, June 28, 2009

How to prepare for a photography trip?

I thought about this article after finding myself in a “wanting” situation while on the trip many a time . Let me explain what I mean by a wanting situation.

Sometime back we [Suni, Adi and I – the team :-)] went to NYC. On that trip, I had taken only one lens. My Zuiko 18-180mm. This is a general purpose lens and does its job for landscape and monument photography quite decently. However the 2 things I missed during that trip were

  1. Ability to shoot macro – I hadn’t expected that I would have so many macro opportunities in NYC. If you look closely in NYC, especially in summer, you would see that avenues and streets are adorned with beautiful flower pots. Some of the city squares are full of nice flower gardens. But since the 18-180 is not capable of shooting macro, I missed some beautiful opportunities that presented me.
  2. Ability to shoot wide – Although I knew I would be shooting Brooklyn bridge, I realized that my panoramas would have come out much better if I had a wider lens. The least I could go on the  lens was 18mm on a four-third, which is equivalent to 36mm on a 35mm format. This was not wide enough.

Apart from above mentioned issues, I would point out some common oversights that we make because of time constraint and pressure of planning a trip. We tend to overlook some of the pitfalls that could be pretty easy to avoid otherwise. This is my attempt to set basic rules for preparing for a trip. Hopefully,  this will help me in future.

RULE#1 – Research the destination: Before embarking on a trip, research on web on what you can expect might see during your trip. This should be good enough to give you an idea about the kind of lenses you will require. Also this can help you plan your daily excursions in such a way that you don't lug around with your entire gear everywhere you go. You would be able to select the gear you will absolutely need for each of your excursions while keeping other bulk back in the hotel. The lenses I rely upon are my Zuiko 12-60mm (decent wide angle and zoom), and Zuiko 70-300mm for macro & telephoto close-ups.  Both these lenses have great macro capability, which is good for me because I don’t need to change to a special macro lens whenever I see a macro opportunity.

RULE#2 – Research the weather: Ideally you should do this in the morning before you leave your hotel. This would give an idea on what your aperture should be for most times during the day. By doing this, you can preset your aperture before you leave the hotel. Follow the “Sunny 16” rule and improvise. For more details on the Sunny 16 rule, please follow the links below

For detailed manual exposure computation charts, this is the best reference

Other general references for knowledge

RULE#3 – Always have a backup media Card: Although, fortunately, I never had a mishap with my media cards for the camera, I would never trust just one card for any trip. Probabilistically -  its too dangerous, however reliable the card manufacturer is. You wouldn't want to find yourself card hunting in the middle of your trip :-)

RULE#4 – Always carry laptop and external backup drive : This is important because you can never predict how many pics you will take on a trip. I never erase any pic on my card unless I clicked while experimenting. And I do not erase/format my card unless my pics are backed up in my laptop and portable hard drive (2 backups). Idea is never to have a single point of failure.

RULE#5 – Carry Flashes: External flash is a essential accessory in any trip because you never know when you will need them, be it inside your hotel room or during your night time outings.

RULE#6 – Carry a good tripod: You may think you don’t need a tripod when most of your excursions are going to be during the day. However, you may be surprised on how much more creative you could have been with a tripod. Some of the examples are; fill in flash photography – slow sync needs a tripod during night time when you want the back ground to to appear in a photograph. Slowing motion – waterfalls, springs, fountains,  flowing water etc – these would need a very slow shutter speed, which means you will need tripod.

RULE#7 – Remember to Shoot in RAW: Although RAW takes up more than twice the space than a JPEG, shooting in RAW will allow you to be more creative in post processing.  From my experience I have found that, on a good day, I shoot about 125 to 200 pics. Which means I would need a card of capacity from 2GB to 4GB (a RAW on my E-30 is about 12MB). So I always carry 2 cards of these capacities so that I can shoot as much as I want to.

RULE#8 – Carry Extra Batteries: Its very easy to forget charging batteries. I have a vertical grip + battery holder which takes on extra battery (and provides me enough power for at least a 1000 pictures before I have to recharge batteries). I also carry extra batteries for my flashes.

RULE#9 – Remember UV filter: Have one UV filter for each lens you own. This will save you a lot of headache in the long run. It not only cleans out the UV haze, but also helps protect the front glass of your lens, which is very necessary as you will never know where you will get the scratches from. And if you do get the scratches, then you can say good bye to your lens as it will be pretty much an expensive  garbage.

RULE#10 – Carry Extra camera body (if possible) – If you have an extra camera body for your lens system, then you are probably the luckiest guy (or girl) around! This is because its a lot easy to switch cameras rather than change lenses. switching lenses also poses a danger of exposing your image sensor to dust and debris. So you could have your 2 most used lenses on each on your bodies and enjoy the taking pictures without a sweat! :-)

These are the 10 rules I try to follow to improve myself! :-)



Take Care

PS: I may go on  short hiatus again because my certification exams are coming up :-(. But will try to post 1 blog per week. Lets see how it goes.