Most of us take our cameras along when we flee the Northern frost for Southern frolics. We spend a great deal of time on deciding where to go but very little on what to take pictures of and how. And yet, the snaps we take will stay with us long after the tan has paled. We will show them over and over again to friends and family -- and always wish that they were better.
You can take better pictures on your next holiday tour by investing just a fraction of your time in planning what equipment to take with you and what you will be taking pictures of when you're there.
Start off exactly the same way that you plan your clothing and other needs -- take a photographic equipment inventory. This can be quite simple if you have only one cameras and lens, but it can get more complicated if you have a choice.
The cardinal role in travel photography is to travel light -- take only what you will use. After all, it's a pleasure trip -- not an assignment. Start off with your basic camera and lens then add a wide-angle and a telephoto. The focal length of the lenses should be suited to the kind of pictures you expect to take. Normally a wide-angle of 28 mm is sufficient and an added tele of 90 mm to 105 mm will cover the distance shots. But if you're anticpating wild life photography, a 300 mm to 400 mm is essential.
If you have a choice leave the clumsy zooms behind. You'll get very tired of lugging around a 200 mm lens when almost all of your pictures could be taken with a normal 50mm, or a moderate 35mm or 28mm wide-angle. It's also much easier to tour with a camera that rests right against your chest with a short lens than one you have to sling over your shoulder or prop up with one hand because the long lens keeps dangling.
Don't take a lot of filters, A 1-A skylight filter to warm up overcast blue skies, a polarizing filter for cutting down reflections and haze and also to achieve that dark-blue "night sky" during daylight will cover nearly all your needs.
A small electronic flash, such as the new Vivitar 2500 auto unit, is a handy addition. There will be many occasions to use it to take party and dancing pictures at night.
Forget that tripod. Not only will it cut down on your luggage weight, but you don't need one. With high-speed films you can open up and take pictures in color in any situation where you can easily see the subject; and if it is really dark, then use flash. If you don't feel secure without your trusty three-legged assistant, get a tabletop tripod. These can be readily carried in a travel bag so you can take those night scenes that require long exposures.
There are a few light accessories you should throw into the kit. A lens-cleaning brush to knock off the dust instead of grinding it into the lens surface with a kleenex, lens cleaning fluid for that needed extra cleaning (these come in small plastic containers and take up no room at all), a small jeweler's screwdriver to tighten up a loose screw instead of losing it and a cable release for long exposures so that you don't move the cameras when holding it against the side of a tree or building for long exposures.
By all means take film. Not only will you be sure in this way you have a fresh film, but you will also have the kind you are used to. This will eliminate errors of exposure and setting that can occur when you have loaded up with a new film and you're not sure how it will turn out -- another kind of hassle you don't need on vacation. sJudge your film needs by multiplying the number of rolls you shoot on an average day's outing by the number of days you expect to be out shooting.
The last consideration on your photographic inventory list is a gadget bag to hold the gear. If you have only one camera and don't expect to shoot much, you can carry the equipment in your travel bag along with that spare sweater, maps and sandwich, but if you have more lenses and are serious about pictures, by all means pick up an extra bag. It doesn't have to be ostentatious -- in fact, it's a good idea to keep it simple so that it won't attract the attention of potential thieves. A canvas-type bag with sufficient space for camera, lenses and film is the most suitable.
After you've decided on what to take, give some thought to what you want to take pictures of. Don't try to compete with the local picture postcard photographers -- learn from them instead. They know all the best viewpoints and they've been there when the light was right. So pick up an assortment of cards and study them, but don't try to retake their views. Rather look for details on the cards that you can relate to and concentrate your pictures on those subjects. If the card shows a street scene with interesting architecture, then shoot closeups of details that interest you. If it takes in a panoramic view of the beach, pick out a section you think is the most picturesque and shoot there. And if the scene is of a marketplace, then look at the stalls and decide which ones sell the kind of goods that are the most typical and colorful.
Of course there will be the obligatory "Here, stand in front so we can say we've been there" kind of snapshot, and of course you'll shoot the big panoramic view that looks so vast when you're standing on that overlook and so minuscule when you're looking at the point. But pay some attention to the personal views. These are the ones that you'll keep and re-run for your friends.
Give them a break. They've seen the postcards and know ma and pa and the kids. Show them instead some unique pictures that only you could have taken because you were there. PHOTO BOOKS THE BEST OF POPULAR PHOTOGRAPHY, edited by Harvey W. Fondiller and published by Ziff-Davis, New York. A supermarket, sampling of all those fascinating Pop Photo pieces. This inspirational anthology has something in it for every photographer, from the interested amateur to the avid pro: pieces by the big-gun picture people like W. Eugene Smith, Ansel Adams and Philippe Halsman, and useful articles of tips and techniques by specialists like Carl Purcell (travel) and Clif Edom (human interest). The range of subjects is as all-encompassing as the field of photography, and the images are just as varied. I recommend this book as a good way to renew the picture juices and review the wide-ranging art of photography. PHOTOGRAPHY: WHAT'S THE LAW? (revised edition), by Robert M. Cavallo and Stuart Kahan, published by Crown, New York. Since the revision of the U.S. copyright laws in 1978, photographers have been asking about their rights to the pictures they take. This book answers many of these questions with a minimum of legalese and a good deal of humor. Robert M. Cavallo has been the legal counsel for the ASMP (American Society of Magazine Photographers) and Stuart Kahan heads the New York headquarters for the same prestigious group. Q: In a recent column you explained how to do print solorization. May I call your attention to the fact that solarization can also be accomplished in the camera. This technique is described by Jim Zuckerman in Petersen's "Image Magic." I've tried this type of solarization with excellent results.
A: I have referred to Jim Zuckerman's "Image Magic" by Petersen Publishing Co., 8490 Sunset Boulevard, Los Angeles, California 90069. It is a fun book and has many special effects that are very well explained.
The solarization technique that you refer to in Zuckerman's book is a system of copying original color transparencies on two types of film. First with Ektachrome infrared and next on Ektachrome-X or fugichrome. The second copy on Ektachrome-X or Fujichrome (in fact any of the E-6 films will do) is then developed as negative color in C-22 chemicals. The two copies are then sandwiched together and recopied for the solarization effect. The sandwiched copies can be placed in register or out of register depending on the effect that you want.