Travel Photography - Picture this

Wherever you go on your travels, the fact that you’re reading this suggests you’ll be planning on taking two things:

  1. Your camera.
  2. Lots and lots and lots of photos.

You may even already have an idea of what your photo subjects are likely to be or, if you’re a particularly organized photographer, the locations and specifics of the photos you intend to capture.

Taking photos of anything and everything is a good way to ensure you miss nothing.


Alternatively you might just intend to snap whatever comes along and see what you get, and there’s nothing wrong with that either. However, there are a few shot described here that you might not have considered taking, but if you do, they could help save you a lot of strife!

“Passport, wallet, camera…..bugger.”

So you’ve taken a fortnight’s worth of snaps on your dream holiday in the sun, but on your final night out you have one too many piña coladas and leave your camera (complete with memory card full of never-to-be-repeated moments) on the table in the bar. When, in the taxi to the airport the next morning, bleary eyed and head throbbing, you realise your mistake, two thoughts cross your mind. Firstly, will the bar staff or a friendly fellow tourist have picked up your camera, or will a light-fingered foreigner have pilfered it to flog on El Ebayo. With a terrible sinking feeling your second thought reminds you that even if a good Samaritan has picked up the camera with the intention of returning it to its owner, they’ll have absolutely no way of knowing who (or where) that is. Your camera is lost.

Although there’s little you could have done to prevent a ne’er-do well from profiting from your misfortune, there is a ridiculously simple way to help any Samaritan fulfill their good deed and get your camera back to you.

With the first frame on your memory card, snap a photo of a piece of paper, on which you've written your name, phone number, and e-mail address. We are, by our very nature, exceptionally nosey creatures, and if someone picks up your lost camera, chances are they'll look through the photos stored on the memory card. They should then come across your photo message telling them how to contact you and return the camera. End result? You get your camera back and they get an enormous sense of wellbeing from having done a nice thing – everyone’s a winner!

The nicer the note, the better your chances of hearing from the finder!


“Do we turn left at the palm tree or right by the gift shop?”

Despite any protestations to the contrary, we gentlemen are just as capable of getting hopelessly lost as the ladies. Taking into account that due to male pride we are usually unwilling to ask for directions, this should come as no surprise. However, if you’re fortunate enough to be lost in some exotic foreign setting, you may well find that it’s the language barrier rather than pride that prevents you from seeking help. At the very least this is a little annoying as you might not get back to the hotel in time for the karaoke party and talent show, but for many being lost in an unfamiliar place can be a genuinely frightening experience.

For those who have a poor sense of direction when sightseeing – particularly if you like to wander off where your feet take you - use your digital camera to snap photos of street signs and landmarks as you travel through an unfamiliar location. When you realise that you’ve left your hotel/tour group/wife far behind you, you can use these photos to help you find your way back.

In addition, you can use your camera to photograph information maps so you’ve always got it with you when you need directions. Many large cities and tourist destinations have maps on display at fixed locations and, depending on the size and scale of the map, one photo of the whole thing or several photos of different areas will mean you are able to take the information with you – just remember that the “You are here” arrow won’t apply…

Take a picture of the whole map and your camera should let you zoom when reviewing for more detail...


...although if you've moved since taking this picture, you are probably not 'here'.


“They look like people, only smaller”

There’s no two ways about it; travelling with children is stressful. As well as having to remember to pack all the stuff they’ll need as well as your own gear, the odds of them being happy doing the things that you want to do when you get there are slim at best. As a result, travelling families often play it safe by making at least one visit to an entirely kid-friendly location. Then, when you’re more relaxed because the kids are having fun, you take your eye off them for a split second and they wander off in search of whatever it is kids go wandering off in search of. It’s every parent’s nightmare, and the initial feeling of panic and dread is unavoidable, but there are steps you can take to make finding your children (assuming you want them back) as easy and quick as possible.

If you're traveling to a place where it's possible your child might become separated from you, such as a large amusement park or zoo, be sure to take a photo of your child before you enter the park. That way, when you need to give the staff or security personnel a description of what they look like and what they are wearing, you can simply show them the photo on your camera. This saves you having to remember exactly what they were wearing and attempting to describe it (potentially to somebody whose English may not be great), all while in a heightened state of anxiety. Whilst this doesn’t guarantee that your children won’t wander off in the first place (a collar and chain on a child is usually frowned upon) it will at least help the process of getting them found.

They may be kinda funny looking, but they're mine and I'd like to keep them.


“We're here. You're not. Shame.”

Ok, so this really isn't going to save you from much in the way of hassle, unless of course you consider purchasing postcards an unpleasant chore. Neither will it make any new suggestions as to what you should be taking pictures of so it can hardly be described as alternative, but it might just change how you use those pictures. Postcards are an integral part of travel - a way to show the folks back home that while you are away exploring the world and they're carrying on in their ordinary day-to-day existence, you haven't forgotten about them entirely. Postcards are essentially a socially acceptable way of gloating.

Rather than sending the standard scenic postcard that anybody and everybody could send from the same location, why not send your own customised postcards using your photos? There are several portable printers that are small enough to be packed into a suitcase, king of which are the Canon Selphy range of printers (and no, you don't have to have a Canon camera). The paper cartridges for these printers include sheets of 6x4" card complete with the postcard markings on the back, ready for your message. A customised photo postcard is a great way to show everybody what a wonderful time you're having - after all, a picture is worth a 1000 words (and you'll never get 1000 words on the back of a postcard).

A custom photo postcard allows you to really rub in the fact that you're there and they're not.


Not just for the nasty things in life...

Taking pictures while travelling should, first and foremost, be an enjoyable and pleasurable part of the journey, but as shown here, it can also be a way of making your trip safer and less stressful. There are plenty of other purely practical photos you can take; pictures of passports and other travel documents are a great way of ensuring you have a copy of important paperwork with you at all times. But once these few shots are taken, get back to using your camera as it should be used – to photograph new and amazing sights and locations to help you remember the experiences you’ve had and to show the folks back home – it’s what your camera was made for.

Happy travels.