Life is short! Live it like you mean it!
Traveling is all about creating great memories, right? And what better way to keep those memories close to your heart than by taking pictures – every step of the way!
I was a Photojournalist much of my Navy career. When I was a very young Sailor, I was photographing a flag officer’s change of command. It was my first assignment of that magnitude and I was nervous! During the pre-ceremony festivities the day before, the senior photographer had failed to check her camera to ensure she had film (yeah, back in the days of film!). She shot the entire reception and, when the time came for her to turn her film in to the photo lab at the end of the evening, she was mortified to discover her mistake.
It left a lasting impression on this very green photojournalist! We had a seasoned chief photographer supervising the event and I guess she could tell I was a wee bit nervous! Of course, she warned us to ALWAYS double check our cameras for film; but I remember to this day these words of wisdom: “If you take ONE good picture during the entire ceremony today, you’ll have succeeded in your job. Just ONE great picture is all you need.”
Wouldn’t we be thrilled if every picture we took on vacation was worthy of being published in the National Geographic? But let’s face it, that’s not likely. Personally, I think most of us would be happy if we had photographs that were in focus, properly exposed and didn’t have trees growing out of our heads. But there are a few easy tips that you can put in your bag of tricks to help ensure you have “scrapbook” worthy photographs to share when you return home!
The camera doesn’t have to be expensive: Cameras don’t always have to be expensive to get the job done. Surprisingly, phone cameras today take pictures that can honestly rival the quality of the most expensive digital cameras. Many years ago, I was on assignment with a National Geographic photographer – he was shooting pictures and I was writing the story. For grins and giggles, I brought a point-and-shoot camera to take pictures for my own scrapbook. At the end of the day, we turned everything into the photo lab for development. The next morning, we went through the photographs to see which we’d use for the story and the photographer pulled out a couple that he really liked – but said he didn’t remember shooting them. Turns out, they were from the point-and-shoot that I had! And they were good enough to run with our story! You can take photographs that will transport you back to that wonderful time and place with a phone camera just as easily as an expensive digital. Don’t be intimidated!
Remember to tell a story: When you look back on your pictures years from now, you want to remember everything about that special time. Take pictures from the beginning to the end of your tour, your visit, your day, your vacation. Don’t leave any gaps – because you might not remember critical or funny details years later. Think outside the box when you’re taking pictures: Try shooting your luggage before you leave, or the family as you’re packing up the car. I’ve gotten some great photos shooting over the shoulders of people on the airport shuttle or people staring out the window of the van or airplane.
Remember to get IN the photo! Lately I’ve been sorting and cataloging photographs from the last 50+ years of raising a family and I’ve discovered one really disappointing fact: I am in very few photographs! I’ve probably become the selfie queen as a result! Everywhere Dan and I go, we take a selfie! I take selfies with my grandkids, or when I’m all decked out in my pirate garb. It’s still difficult for me to remember to ask someone in the family to take a picture of me involved in whatever is going on – but it’s something I do try to remember! Another great idea is to use a self-timer function. That way no one is missing from the photograph!
Don’t get carried away with the scenery: If you wanted pictures of nothing but buildings, landscaping, etc., you could fill your scrapbook with postcards! But what you really want is pictures of the people traveling with you enjoying those sites. Take a few scenic shots – sunsets, horizons, mountain views, etc. – but be sure to include your travel companions. Those photos will have much more impact in creating memories. And personally, I love seeing how my kids (and now my grandkids) have changed over the years, throughout our travels. I have pictures of my children enjoying places that we are now taking their kids to. The cycle of life captured forever!
Bring in the Donkey! If you’re visiting somewhere with great wildlife, make sure you add them to your pictures. If you can get up close and personal, you can get great pictures of the animals, birds, etc. AND the reactions of the people around them. A long lens or powerful zoom function on your camera will help you capture birds, monkeys, dolphins, lions and other animals that are tough to get close to. (Today you can find attachments to your phone camera that do the same thing as the fancy ones for digital cameras.) Try to include activities that will put you in a position to get great photographs with the local wildlife: whale-watching, a camel ride, a walk through the aviary.
Don’t always pose: Sure, posed group photos are nice but the pictures that will really invoke memories are candid shots: shooting your family and friends as they enjoy their surroundings and activities. Some of the best pictures I have of my son (now almost 30) is when he didn’t realize I was photographing him – silly facial reactions that are far more memorable than pictures of him standing still (hahaha!) staring at me through the lens.
Don’t forget the food! I love sampling new restaurants and local cuisines when I’m traveling. Taking pictures of those special meals take me back to that time and place years later.
Include the locals: I have a picture I took in one of the Caribbean islands of a little girl who had fallen asleep while playing in the local playground: she’d just zonked out from sheer exhaustion. It’s an adorable picture. I also have one of a father and his little son, driving their scooter through a very poor town in Costa Maya. The little boy had this look of pure pleasure, just being with his dad, enjoying the wind in his hair. Those pictures tell so much about the places we visited.
Find new ways to shoot famous landmarks: Famous landmarks like the Eiffel Tower and Statue of Liberty have been photographed millions of times. If you find yourself shooting a popular tourist attraction, give it a unique twist by using a creative composition, or consider pulling back to include other tourists in your shot. To get this image of the Duomo in Florence, Italy, the photographer climbed to the top of a nearby tower and shot the famous cathedral from above.
Be sure to get inside: Most vacation photos are taken outside, but there's plenty to see indoors, too. Don't forget to photograph beautifully decorated restaurants, swanky hotel rooms, cathedral interiors and museum exhibits (if it's allowed). The light can be dim inside, so consider using a tripod or a camera with high ISO capabilities.
Change your perspective: Sometimes, getting down to ground level, or taking a shot of your destination from an observation deck, rooftop restaurant or an aerial view is a great way to set off a scene.
Check out the architecture: When you're exploring a new town or city, don't forget to photograph unique architecture. You'll want to remember things like the narrow streets in Rome, skyscrapers in Manhattan and whitewashed houses in Greece.
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Terie & Dan
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