Photography and travelling

In this day and age the advancement of technology has enabled cameras to inhabit all aspects of our lives. Whether it’s the rise of the selfie to breathtaking landscapes taken from the sky, cameras enable us to capture moments, connect with our environment and now share this with the rest of the world in real-time.

I love cameras, ever since I was little I’ve had a fascination with the magic of capturing moments.  This comes from my father who was a very keen photographer.  I remember going on holiday as a kid where the cameras would be the first thing he packed, as well as the first thing taken out when we got to our destination.  I’m not joking when I say I have a cupboard with thousands of photos in it.

There’s such a wide variety of cameras out there that choosing one can be quite a daunting process, but there is something to suit everyone’s budget, lifestyle and needs.  Here’s a broad summary and some tips of what types of cameras are on offer and how to get the best out of them whilst traveling.

 

Mobile Phones

Whenever I go travelling I usually take a variety of cameras for a number of situations but again with the rapid pace of technology I find myself less reliant on them and more focused on having my phone with me (for reference I have an iPhone 7).  Cameras in phones have gone from strength to strength over the past few years, with many arguably rendering the need to have another camera obsolete for most users.  They of course have also been largely responsible for the rise of the selfie, which is no surprise given the prime benefits they have, pure convenience and connectivity.

Part of the success of phone cameras has been the ability to share content real time thanks to cellular and wi-fi connectivity, whilst apps enable us to personalise the image.  Whether it is a snapchat filter to Instagram Live, these apps enable us to connect in a way that has been possible before.

Top tips:

  • Make sure you take a portable battery charger pack with you to make sure you have enough juice whilst snapping away. Losing power is the last thing you’ll want when that picture-perfect moment appears.
  • If you are on a cruise with many sea days, consider buying a wi-fi package on board to share your moments. These can still be pricey but costs are generally decreasing, with some lines offering it free as part of the overall cruise package.  If you are in port consider a roaming sim, or take out an appropriate package with your provider to avoid unnecessary costs.

DSLR

Many years ago, these cameras were the domain of professionals or those seeking to take their photography to the next level but arguably fairly costly.  However, they have dropped in price in recent years and can be a genuinely affordable product if you shop around.  There are many well-known brands such as Canon, Nikon, Panasonic and Sony who all do very good versions of these cameras.  I am a Canon fan-boy, but all these brands produce exceptional products with a wide variety of models to suit all budgets.

DSLR’s offer a variety of functions other cameras simply cannot including manual controls, excellent picture processing and unlike a number of the cameras here, you can change the lens bringing a level of versatility a lot of cameras just do not have.  This enables them to be able to excel equally up close, portraits, landscapes or indeed action shots (which they are particularly good at).  The various types and options of lens and accessories on offer could become a whole blog post in itself and it can quickly get quite complicated if you are not careful. Despite the movement of technology, I still find that my DSLR produces the best quality pictures compared to my other cameras.

The downside to this is that they can be pretty unwieldy and heavy for some, especially with some lenses attached which may put off potential users.

Top Tips:

  • Whilst the camera price has arguably dropped over the years, with various entry models enabling people to invest more easily, the cost of lenses has arguably not dropped.  In investing in a SLR be wary that the cost of multiple lenses could get out of hand quickly.
  • Most SLR’s come with a 18-55mm kit lens which is perfect for immediate photographic needs, being able to cover most types of shots. It’s worth trying this out before going away to see how you get on with it.  You can then decide whether you want to invest in any others.  Whilst I have a number of lenses, for day-to-day ease I invested in a jack-of-all-trades lens which can cover all types of shots, whilst still being good quality and fairly compact (for reference this is a Sigma 18-200mm lens, although there are many others out there).   This does not have to hugely expensive and will pay-off in terms of the shots you can take and the cameras overall capability.

Compact system cameras

To some a DSLR isn’t the right solution given their size and complexity, however, over recent years there has been a resurgence of popularity for compact system cameras.  These hybrid cameras are designed for buyers seeking some creative control, high quality and the option to attach lenses, but without the bulk of a DSLR and represent a great compromise.  An example of this is the Olympus Pen product line which provides great versatility in a small package, whilst looking pretty stylish too.

The key to these has been the development of more complex processing power, meaning they can fit more capability into a small package – handy for the on-the-go traveller.  Depending on the model (and of course cost) you can get most of the key functions of a DSLR.

Top Tips

  • Unlike with SLRs there is less choice in terms of availability of lenses and most likely this would have to be the same band as the make of camera (whereas there’s a plethora of brands, choice and prices ranges for SLRs).
  • This option may appeal to many because of the great middle-ground it offers between performance, versatility and size, however this can be costly.

Point and shoot

You may think that with the choice outlined already the humble point-and-shoot camera would be out of a job, but this is not the case and they still offer a viable alternative.  These cameras have adapted to the times, offering more features, capability and other advancements such as wi-fi to continue to be just as relevant as they were a number of years ago.

These cameras are perfect if you don’t want the hassle with too many controls and want something relatively inexpensive to produce great pictures and moments from your holiday.

Top tips

  • This goes for a number of cameras here, but don’t automatically go for the cheapest option. Whilst you can get some great little cameras inexpensively, you can equally buy some pretty bad ones too.
  • I find that to get the best photos you need a camera that can do both optical and digital zooming. This will enable you to cover a wider range of shots.

GoPro

Ah the GoPro.  What started as a camera designed for the most adventurous and sporty people has now become a genuine option for any user wanting to take breath-taking shots.  I have been using a GoPro for a couple of years now and I am still impressed with what it can do.

The key to the GoPro’s success is its versatility and size.  At just 138 grams the GoPro Hero 5 camera takes up little to no space but can still produce photos that rival a number of the options I’ve mentioned above, with a standard built-in wide-angle lens producing high resolution images and video.  The versatility comes from the sheer number of accessories and mounting options available as to how to stand it.  Whilst you can attach it to a simple tripod or ‘selfie-stick’ to take shots, this seems almost mundane when you could attach it to your head, your chest, whatever happens to be surrounding you.  Add to this the fact that it is easily made waterproof and you have a great piece of kit.  You can even mount it to your dog if you feel like it, as this video shows

The downside here is that the GoPro is not a cheap camera, and the accessories equally can easily cost a fair amount if you aren’t careful.  The other thing to consider is that unlike a number of the other cameras here, GoPro photos may require a fair amount of editing and refining.  Thankfully GoPro have developed a number of easy to use apps that make this process as painless as possible, but it is still something to consider.

Top Tips

  • The one downside of the GoPro historically has been the battery life. The current GoPro Hero 5 battery lasts around an hour and a half shooting video, which has come on leaps and bounds compared to the original cameras.  I recommend buying a couple of spare batteries to avoid being caught out.  Again, a variety of suppliers produce batteries for the camera so you can find some decent deals.  I also invested in a multi-charger so you can charge more than one at a time.
  • As I’ve mentioned the accessories costs can mount up very quickly so shop around and look at reviews. GoPro’s own products are very good quality but can be pricey, but there’s other brands which product just as good products. I recommend buying a starter bundle such as this, which will give you a basic number of mounts and accessories to get you started.  You can then decide what works for you and go from there.
  • The one thing I recommend if you have a GoPro is to play around and have fun with it, this is what it’s designed to do.

Drones

Finally, I want to briefly talk about drones. The classic definition of a drone is an unmanned aerial vehicle, although these days the term applies to a variety of different land, sea and air drones.  Their potential grows day on day, with companies trialling deliveries, expanded military purposes, as well as challenging ways in which we do things like surveying and planning, particularly in harsh environments.

On the consumer side, drones are becoming cheaper and more accessible to all.  You can pick up a drone very easily, as is learning how to operate them. This poses a conundrum to companies and Governments alike in how they operate and interact with daily life, including privacy issues.

Drones such as, for example, the DJI Phantom 4 or Mavic Pro can provide unique amazing videos that it quickly becomes apparent why people would want to use one.  My friend Ade from CruiseCelebrity produces some of the best cruise drone footage around.

Top tips:

  • In terms of cruise lines, this is still a grey area although broadly speaking they are not allowed on board ships, with certain lines such as Disney and Royal Caribbean International explicitly stating this within their policies. My best advice is to contact customer services and ask directly whether you would be allowed to take something on board and what the conditions would be, as the crew may want to keep it under lock and key whilst the ship is underway.
  • Similarly, government policy is shifting and becoming stricter so do research before you travel, for example it is getting harder to film with drones in America. I’ve heard stories of drones being confiscated and damaged when such research hasn’t been undertaken.

Final tip

If life has taught me anything it is don’t rely on the camera.  Step away from the view finder and experience what’s around you, be in the moment.  The more I travel the more I want to just enjoy what’s around me, there’s always time for photos.

Pictures © 2017.