Tips - Preparing for Travel Photography

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Tips on how and what to prepare for when you want to take photographs while travelling

Text of Tips - Preparing for Travel Photography

  • Welcome to the Canon D-SLR photography service centreWorkshop

    72 | PhotoPlus July 2014

    PROBLEM #33

    Whether its a wet weekend in Bournemouth or a fortnight under canvas in Kenya, taking a trip somewhere new will do good things for your photography. Youll get to spend some quality time with your camera, youll feel motivated to take plenty of pictures, and youll be able to capture some memorable family moments.

    Travel photography often involves a bit of everything, from landscapes and nature to family portraits and night photography, and that has implications for the gear you take. If youre flying, the determining factor in what youll take and what youll leave behind is your carry-on luggage limit. Never put a camera, lenses or flashgun in your checked baggage unless youre confident it wont arrive at the other end in pieces if it arrives at all. Keep your expensive and fragile kit with you as hand luggage, leaving your tripod to run the hold baggage gauntlet alone. When it comes to carry-on weight and size allowances, long-haul flights are the most generous. Budget airlines are usually

    very tight, and its worth checking your carriers restrictions on its website.

    While certain holidays demand specific gear, such as a telephoto lens for a safari, the core kit for most trips will be a single camera body and a standard zoom. A lens in the 24-70mm range is a great all-rounder for a full-frame camera, wide enough to tackle sweeping landscapes and city views but

    with moderate telephoto reach for head-and-shoulders portraits. Canons 24-70mm f/4 IS and 24-105mm f/4 IS lenses are solid examples of all-purpose travel options. On APS-C cameras, your 18-55mm kit lens or similar gives a similarly versatile range.

    Extend your rangeIf space and budget permit, then consider adding an ultra-wide lens (something equivalent to a focal length of 17-40mm is ideal) and a telephoto zoom (such as the classic 70-200mm) to your kit. With these three lenses youll be able to cover the vast majority of shooting opportunities. If you want to shave more weight, then taking just

    Keep your camera with you as hand luggage, leaving your tripod to run the hold baggage gauntlet alone

    How do I prepare for travel photography?From the gear you really need to how to shoot from a plane, heres our ultimate Canon D-SLR holiday guide

    Activate the Live View grid display and electronic level to help prevent wonky horizons when shooting video or stills


    It can be hard to see detail on the rear screen in sunny conditions. Heres how to improve the view

    How to set up your LCD when its sunny

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    BrightnessA factory-fresh camera is set to an average level of

    brightness. Some EOS D-SLRs will automatically adjust this according to the conditions, but wed suggest setting brightness to max in the menu when sunny.

    Highlight alertIn blazing sun, it can still be hard to see the important

    histogram detail when youre reviewing shots. To make it easier to spot potential exposure errors, open the blue playback menu and enable Highlight alert.

    Check and adjustClipped highlights will now be indicated by flashes of

    black during playback this is easier to see if you use the full-screen view. If key detail is clipped, use negative exposure compensation and reshoot.

    Battery lifeIncreasing the LCD brightness uses up more

    battery juice, so take steps to reduce power consumption in other areas. For instance, choose a low setting for the Auto Power Off feature.

    a single superzoom might prove a better option. The large range of focal lengths that these lenses cover, typically 18-200mm, is certainly tempting, although they are compromised, both optically and in terms of maximum aperture. You may have to increase the ISO to get a fast enough shutter speed for handheld photography, and that can degrade the quality of your pictures.

    Essential accessoriesIn terms of accessories, again, keep things light. Lens hoods, plenty of memory cards and a spare battery should top your list, followed by a lens and sensor cleaning kit, a flashgun and a couple of filters. Wed recommend a UV filter if youre shooting at the coast in order to protect a lenss front element from salt spray. If youve yet to invest in a circular polarising filter, a holiday provides the perfect excuse to do so, enabling you to capture picture postcard blue seas and skies. Circular polarisers are available for both screw-in and square filter systems, and cost anywhere between 30 to 215. If you choose the screw-in type, buy one that fits the lens with the largest filter thread in your collection, and use step-up rings to attach it to your other lenses. If youre using a square filter system then youll just need an adaptor to make the circular polariser fit the mount.

    When it comes to camera settings for travel photography, wed suggest settling on a set-up that you can use in grab shot

    Memory matters

    Aside from ensuring you have a regular source of power to recharge your camera battery, and that your gear is insured, the biggest pre-flight worry is invariably memory card related. How much storage do you really need? And the answers always the same: double what you think, particularly if youll be recording video. You can take a laptop with you, and religiously transfer shots from your memory card every evening, but thats the last thing youll want to do if youre trying to cut down on weight. Dont rely on using just one large-capacity card if it corrupts, you could lose all your shots. Take a few 8Gb or 16Gb cards with you instead.

    Weve all been there: running out of space on our last memory card with no way to back up the images. Here are some options that can help you squeeze more shots on there:

    Shoot JPEGs You can get around four times as many JPEGs on a memory card as you can Raw files. Or some EOS D-SLRs can shoot smaller M-Raw or S-Raw files.

    Shoot in Single drive mode Its easy to end up with unwanted duplicates when youre shooting in Continuous mode.

    Erase unwanted images Youll have to be ruthless. Delete shots as you go, or use your D-SLRs Rating or Protect Image options to highlight the keepers, then choose Erase images in the Playback menu to remove the rest. Dont format the card though, as youll lose the protected images as well.

    Saving space

  • On family holidays in the sun, taming deep shadows and bright highlights in blazing sunshine is a challenge, and there are a few things you can do to capture better exposures. First, shoot Raw so that you can pull more detail out of the shadows and highlights in post-processing. If you shoot JPEGs, make sure the Auto Lighting Optimizer is activated, as this automatically adjusts the brightness and contrast. Where possible, use the Auto Exposure Bracketing option to take three versions of a shot at different exposures you can then choose the best one later, or combine two or three images in Photoshop. If your camera has an HDR mode experiment with this, although be prepared for flat-looking images. Finally, use a blip of flash to open up shadow detail in portraits.

    Controlling contrast

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    Custom shootingCustom shooting, available on EOS D-SLRs from the 60D upwards, enables you to save your own bespoke camera setup to the mode dial. The 6D, 7D and 5D Mk III have more than one C mode, enabling you to save setups for the different shooting situations youre likely to encounter street portraits, indoor scenes or landscapes for example and instantly switch between them.

    Circular polarising filters reduce glare and cut through reflections, revealing detail under the surface of water and removing distracting shine from glass and foliage. They also boost colour and contrast, making them a good choice when youre photographing landscapes or architecture, or when shooting at the beach, where they will darken blue skies and saturate the sea.Polarisers are made from two pieces of

    glass, and you rotate the front element to increase or reduce the strength of the polarisation. The effect is most pronounced at 90 degrees to the sun, although you may find the sky becoming too dark when the filter is used at its strongest setting look at the scene through the viewfinder or on the Live View screen, and slowly turn the filter until you get the desired effect.

    Top travel kit: circular polariser



    Brightens up shadows without looking too artificial



    Select Custom shooting mode (5D Mk III and 6D), or Camera User Setting (60D, 70D and 7D) to save the settings

    Avoid using a polariser when shooting skies with very wide lenses, as the effect will be uneven. Rotate the filter to reduce the strength or remove it altogether

    Uninspiring, flat-looking colours

    Richer colours and a punchier resultSelect the mode number C1, C2 or C3 on the mode dial if applicable

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    5 hints and tips for the

    3 Exposure compensationThe 1200D enables you to set exposure compensation of up to +/- 5 stops, but the viewfinder scale only runs to +/- 2 stops. If you need more compensation, use the Quick Control screen.

    2 Movie hiccupsWhen playing back a movie you may notice it pausing. This is likely to be because the autoexposure system was adjusting to a big jump in brightness. To avoid this, select Manual exposure in the movie menu.

    4 DoF previewMany D-SLRs have a depth of field preview button to enable you to see how much of a scene will appear in focus. The 1200D doesnt, but you can assign this function to the SET button via Custom Function IV: 9.

    1 Finer meteringThe 1200D does