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Photographic Travel Tips – Part 4

Once we arrive at our destination, however tired of the journey we will certainly be eager to start photographing. Let’s not do it. The first hours, if not the first days, are crucial to discover the local customs and traditions, to understand where and how to move in peace, thus avoiding unexpected events and problems.

So we go to our accommodation and put down our bags, keep a document in our pocket and the second one we leave it safe in the room (in case of loss or theft, we will still have a chance to go back home), take the bare minimum and throw ourselves in the local markets , in the most famous and tourist streets and then slowly wane towards all that we find real and typical.

Fishermen in China
Fishermen in China.

We need to take note of sensations that will pervade us as soon as we arrive at our destination: sounds, scents, colors, climate, prominent architectural elements, how the locals move, how they are dressed. Let’s look at their gestures, interactions between the same sex and between different sexes. As much as one should always arrive prepared at the destination, living it is often a very different experience from our imagination.

If possible we try to make contacts willing to take us around the suburbs of the place, taking care to understand as far as possible how much we can trust those in front of us. It would be advisable to find local guides months before departure, looking for him among trusted contacts that act as a guarantee.

Otherwise as a starting point we can rely on portals that deal exclusively with this, such as GetYourGuide.

When we acclimatize to the new place we are visiting and feel ready to start photographing, we will have to be prepared to get up early and stay up late: only in this way will we find the best light for our subjects.

Before asking for permission to take a photo to the locals, let’s talk and entertain them to put them at ease. It’s not always necessary to know how to speak the local language even if, of course, knowing at least a few basic sentences will help us reach our goal more easily. We often speak through gestures and expressions, understanding each other very well. However, spend 15 minutes of our time to learn phrases like “can I take a picture of you” or “can I shoot you a portrait” in the local language is perhaps more than necessary.

A view from a Moroccan Medina.
A man in looking out from a window in Marrakech’s Medina.

Attempting to take quick snapshots as you rush from one location to another will leave you with the same boring photos everyone else has. Make sure you plan “photography time” into your travel schedule.

The equipment that we will bring with us is fundamental: small and barely visible bodies and optics will be an important advantage, both for the weight (we will have them all day around our neck or on shoulder), and to remain with a low profile and not give attention to possible malicious people. Pay attention to the level of camera and the optics tropicalization (how resistant they are to water, sand, dust, snow…), but also keep in mind that if we cannot cover a whole trip with just a small 35mm or 28mm lens, it’s smart to take a zoom with us like a 24-70mm f2.8.

Don’t forget spare batteries, plenty of memory cards (most probably there aren’t shops even for miles from us), a camera and lens protection for extreme situations also if a simple cellophane bag can be fine if you have nothing else to handy

Remember to set RAW as file format: it would be a shame to back home and not have all the creative freedom to edit images produced during the trip.

Take written or vocal notes of each photographic situation: creating a caption for each photograph that we deem worthy of remaining in our archives and ending up shared online is essential as well as useful in the future.

Sahara desert Moroccan side. Africa.
Sahara desert Moroccan side. Africa.

Remember just one thing: enjoy the experience you are having, especially today where everything has already been photographed, seen, discovered. The real discovery is finally internal, intimate, personal.

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