TOURISTS HAVE been associated with photography from the time of Burton Holmes, the ubiquitous traveler who thrilled our parents and grandparents with lantern slide lectures on exotic lands and usually concluded his presentations with a hand-tinted sunset on some distant horizon.
We have come a long way both technically and artistically since the days when it was necessary to carry a camera in a suitcase and record images on glass plates. The compact 35 mm camera has made it possible for any traveler to record his own eyes and from his own point of view. Recent developments such as improved lenses, films and automatic exposure have made it much easier for the novice to get good pictures. The camera industry is booming and thousands of travelers are taking countless millions of pictures.
If one is serious about photography and is interested in more than the casual snapshot, the following basic guidelines will be helpful. Choice of Camera
The 35mm cameras are a wise choice for travelers because of their small size and light weight. The best quality for the money are the Japanese imports, and there are two basic types. The least expensive is the fixed lens rangefinder camera, which is usually equipped with a moderatley wide-angle lens and automatic exposure. Some of these are avaible for less than $100 and they will handle most picture-taking situations very well.
Used effectively for scenics, individuals and small groups of people, they usually have a focusing range of about three feet to infinity. These cameras utilize a split-image in the view-finder for focusing and cannot be used for extreme close-ups. Of course, they do not have telephoto capability.
The more versatile 35mm camera with interchangeable lenses will start around $200 for the camera body without a lens, but with this system you have unlimited possibilities. You can use a telephoto lens to photograph elusive wild-life or a macro lens to focus down on a rain-drop on a rose petal. High-quality zoom lenses are available, providing an entire range of focal lenths in one lens. My favorite zoom is an 80-to-200mm lens, which has traveled with me throughout the world. It is interesting to note that many of the newer camera models are lighter and smaller, a distinct advantage for international travel.
I strongly favor cameras with automatic exposure. Most of these have the option of manual override. It is very useful to both professionals and amateurs to be able to focus and shoot without taking a separate light reading and transferring it from a hand meter to the camera. This permits the photographer to concentrate on the subject and not the mechanics. Choice of Film
There are two types of color film, color slide film and color negative. Kodak slide film, which I prefer, is known as Kodachrome or Ektachrome, and negative film is marketed as Kodacolor. These types are videly available and very dependable. Kodacolor negative film is basically designed for prints, but excellent prints can also be made from Kodachrome or Ektachrome color slides. For general use, even when prints are desired, I recommend Kodachrome over Koda-color, beacuse with the latter film it is necessary to have prints made of every frame just to see what your pictures really look like.You can select color slides for printing by just holding them up to window light and picking the ones you want.
Kodachrome 64 is my favorite color film. It is brilliant, sharp and dependable. Ektachrome 200 is faster and is good for low-light situations or when it is necessasy to use an extremely high shutter speed to stop action, such as at a bullfight or the Grand Prix at Monte Carlo. Be aware, however, that this high-speed color film is grainier and less sharp than Kodachrome.
When using slide film is I set my film speed indicator about 10 points higher than the normal ASA speed rating for better color saturation. For instance, ASA 64 would be about ASA 74 or 75. This helps avoid pale or washed-out. color slides. I use Kodak Tri-X for all black-and-white pictures, but do most of my shooting in color. Choice of Subject
This is the most important element. Cameras and film are only the tools to create images. It requires the eye of the photographer to select, compose and decide on the precise moment to capture the image, to preserve it in his black box. The act of selection and timing is crucial.
Too many travelers find it diifficult to photograph people. They sometimes feel hesitant about pointing their camera at a stranger and invading his privacy. Of course, there are a few instances and places in the world where the tourist's camera is not welcome, and it is wise to be sensitive and responsive to these situations. (For instance, Moslem women do not wish to have their faces photographed.) I have found, however, that most people do not object to having their picture taken.They are often pleased and interested, especially the children.
An important rule in photographing people is to move in close, usually the closer the better. This is not difficult if you've established a rapport with the subject, but you can also get good close-ups of faces with a moderate telephoto range for these types of portraits, since I can stand back in one position and frame my picture to the best advantage.
In addition to my regular 35mm camera, I carry a Polaroid Pronto instant camera so I can give my subjects a picture of themselves on the spot.
This is a good way to make instant friends in a foreign country - even when you can't speak the language.
On a recent trip to Yugoslavia, my wife and I went to the marketplace in Ljubljana so that I could photograph the people and the colorful produce and flowers. She took along the Polaroid Pronto and took pictures, handing them to the vendors and farmers as they developed. We could have won a popularity contest on the spot. Everyone was delighted to have a picture of himself. We were showered with gifts of flowers, fruit and even fresh sauerkraut. I was able to take all the pictures I wanted with my regular camera, and we were sorry when our supply of Polaroid film ran out.
Scenics and interesting buildings do not have to be boring.Frame your picture with a tree limb or an arched door or gateway to give it a feeling of depth. Include people in your scenics whenever possible, but make them a natural part of the scene and do not stick them in just for the sake of having somebody there. Aunt Sally doesn't add much to the Taj Mahal, but a woman in colorful sari would be appropriate. I photograped a chateau in France with a brilliant red rose in the foreground. It added a spot of color and interest to what would have been a plain, rather drab picture of a building.
Seek out those subjects that reflect the culture and distinctive qualities of the country you are visting. You can find these qualities in the people and their dress, the cities and towns with narrow streets and ancient buildings, or even in the distinctive geography such as flat, barren deserts or massive mountains. Even in photographing such landscapes, look for the element that identifies the location, such as a camel in the desert or a chalet in the mountains. Miscellaneous Advice
Take plenty of film with you. It is light weight and considerably less expensive when you buy it in the States. Shop around for the best price. You'll probably find it for film with prepaid mailers at the large discount stores. I personally do not mail my film back from overseas, but turn it in to my local camera store with the mailers after returning from a trip. Don't hesitate to take all the film you think you'll need. Film is relatively cheap and you may never get back to Timbuktu again.
Run a test roll of film through your camera just before leaving on a trip and have it developed to make absolutely sure your camera is operating correctly. Be sure there are fresh bateries in your camera and flash unit. Take a few spares.
Carry your cameras and film with you on the aircraft. Do not let the security people put your film through the X-ray machine - no matter what the little signs say. They are required to hand inspect it for you at your request.
It is not wise to leave you cameras in your hotel room, but if you must, lock them in your suitcase and put a "do not disturb" sign on your door.Avoid carrying expensive cameras through the lobby of the hotel since this advertises to thieves the fact that they may be left in your room at some point during your stay. I carry my cameras in soft zipper bag that is not readily identifiable as a camera bag. I also use a chain with a combination lock to fasten my suitcases and camera cases together in my hotel room. These precautions might save your cameras and your vacation.
Purcell, a government audiovisual specialist, is a motion-picture producer and photojournalist who has traveled more than 2 million miles and shot film in 76 countries. A columnist for Pohotography magazine, he lives in Bethesda.