We travel to explore, relax and find excitement and inspiration. We photograph to capture the memories of these journeys and emotions they invoke. To many photography itself is a way to relax, inspire, and create. Travel and photography are the perfect pair. I honestly could not imagine being on a journey to a new destination and not having my camera by my side. Over the years, I have visited many new places, always with my camera, and usually with too much stuff. It is through these experiences that I have learned what is needed to best enjoy my two biggest passions in life, travel and photography.
Choosing a Camera for Travel
Choosing the right camera for travel is not easy. The market is full of options, all of which are good for different reasons. To decide which camera system to invest in, one must first ask: Do I want something simple and easy or complicated with rich features? How much weight and what size do I want to carry when I travel? How much do I want to spend on a camera?
The answers to all these questions are all personal. For me, as an experienced travel photographer, I want a camera with some advanced features that not too expensive or flashy. My top priority however, is that it is small and light weight. I have carried too many lenses and accessories on tour and I always come home tired, frustrated, and with items that I never ended up using. Carrying too much will always take away from enjoying your days. A camera is there to capture the experience, not get in the way.
Cellphone: The smart phones sold today have surprisingly good cameras, and they get better every year. In good light, they can provide great image quality and have simple and easy to use interfaces. In low light, however most will find the image quality drops drastically, and with generally limited focal reach they are not the most flexible of cameras.
Fixed Lens Camera: This is how it sounds. The camera will feature one lens that cannot be changed. This can be a single focal length (or prime lens) or can be a super zoom that can cover from wide angle to telephoto focal lengths. The flexibility of a super zoom cannot be understated, but these do come with limitations. Most will offer lesser image quality and more importantly limit your creative possibilities by having a limited aperture range.
Micro Four-Thirds Cameras (MFT): MFT cameras have smaller sensors, smaller camera bodies, and most importantly smaller lenses. These cameras allow users to change lenses to suit the scene and generally include innovative technology and features. Most will include an auto mode, but will also allow users to take full control by working in manual mode. The smaller sensor size can limit low light performance.
APS-C: When it comes to sensor size this one sits in the middle. Because the sensor is larger than an MFT, you will also find the camera bodies and lenses are larger as well. For me this is my preferred camera size and weight. While I still find it too heavy sometimes, (which is often my fault for taking too much) it does allow me the flexibility I enjoy while providing the image quality that I want. In this category, Fujifilm makes excellent cameras and stunningly good lenses, but you can also find excellent options from Canon, Nikon, and other major camera manufacturing companies.
Full Frame: For travel, this is the largest sensor size I would ever consider. For most travellers, it will be too large and heavy with the camera bodies and lenses being gigantic compared to an MFT. If you really want the best image quality possible for travel photography this might be the option you consider most. Just be prepared to carry around a lot of extra weight.
How to Improve your Photography
The number one way to improve your photography is simple - practice. Your camera is a powerful creative tool. By playing with the different settings and learning to use the exposure triangle, you can open up a new world of photographic possibilities. Treat the first 10,000 images you capture as a way to learn and hone the craft while finding new ways of harnessing your creativity. Remember that even the best professional photographers in the world will take more bad photos then good ones. Coupled with your persistent practicing, should be some research into important topics and the various functions and capabilities of your camera. Some topics to include:
Fundamentals and Features: Learn about the exposure triangle (shutter speed, aperture, and ISO) and how each affects the images you capture. Read the manual for your camera. They are boring and will include a lot of information you may already know, but there is a good chance you will discover a new tool you didn't know you had. If you are seeking instructions from an expert, your local seniors' centre, library or community centre may offer free or low cost camera or photography classes and camera stores like Henry's offer classes specific to your type of camera or the style of photography you are interested in as well.
Composition: Knowing what to include in your frame and where to place it is incredibly important. A dozen photographers can take a picture of the same tree; the one with the best composition will usually have taken the best image.
The Greats: There have been many incredible photographers over the years. Seek them out, study their work, and be inspired. Some of my favourites include Steve McCurry, Alan Schaller, Annie Leibovitz, Ansel Adams, Robert Capa, Vivian Maier, Henri Cartier-Bresson, and Elliott Erwitt.
Another fun way to improve your photography is to set yourself goals or challenges to complete. Many photographers try to take at least one good photo per day. This to me is unrealistic and can put too much pressure on yourself to create in a short time table. A better challenge would be to focus on a specific genre of photography until you have created something for which you are proud. This might be portraiture, landscape, architecture, or better yet travel photography. These focused goals will provide a sense of challenge and success that will reinforce your love and desire to take photographs. Happy creating!