Tourist, Photographer or both?

People travel for various reasons. Usually, a vacation is a chance to rest and relax, or an escape from everyday life before returning to work. For others, vacations and travel are part of a lifestyle.

In almost all cases, travelers like to take photos to remember places and people discovered \while they are away from home. No wonder the typical tourist is often depicted camera in hand, always on the lookout for unexpected discoveries.

If you are into photography, you definitely want to bring home a few great shots to show around and enjoy, but you’re also on vacation and you don’t want your photography to get in the way, or to feel like a chore. Here are a few thoughts on how you can manage both.

Research

Do a little research. Know where you are going, and even have an idea of the pictures you would like to capture. Sunrise and sunset, the best vantage points for famous monuments, restrictions, hours of operation, all this information is readily available on the web, as well as many images taken by other photographers. Don’t hesitate to use them as inspiration for your own personal images. And by all means go for that unique “Eiffel Tower shot” you haven’t seen yet.

Equipment

Your choice of equipment is also very important. Consider both weight and bulk. Do your best to keep everything to a minimum: a day of sightseeing with two DSLR bodies, three lenses, a flash and a tripod will drain your energy very quickly.

Look at the option of zoom lenses, mini tripods or monopods, and consider the possibility of a point-and-shoot camera for days that are not as “photographic” than others. Unless you expressly plan on doing a lot of flash photos, make do with the built-in flash on your camera.

Unless you’re on a dedicated photo trip, you won’t be needing your laptop. Especially since you probably don’t want to spend time indoors doing post-processing.

Plenty of memory cards and battery packs If you want backup files, you probably have a camera that supports two memory cards: set your camera to record on both and you'll have a reasonable, lightweight backup. Whatever the case, make sure you have enough memory cards and that they are good quality.

Have at least one spare battery for your device, and keep it fully charged. You’ll be taking a lot more photos and videos than usual, so your battery will discharge faster.

Tell your fellow travelers

It’s also a good idea to manage expectations of your fellow travelers. It can be unpleasant for a non-photographer to wait while you anticipate the decisive moment. And by the same token so you'll be uncomfortable if you feel you’re delaying your travel companions.

It’s best to have a friendly chat before you depart and tell your friends that you might need some «alone» time while hunting for images. Everyone will be happier.

Get out there early

By all means, be an early riser to enjoy the light. Ask anyone who does it: it will be worth it. Get up one morning and find out for yourself. You should also be on the lookout for public events, fairs, markets, festivals etc. These always offer plenty of opportunities for photos, and will usually give you a chance to show everyday life with a fresh approach.

Approach people

Lastly, don’t be afraid to approach people. Some will deny you permission to photograph them, but explaining to people why you find them interesting will get you a “yes” more often than not... especially if you promise to send a copy by email.

Most people will gladly supply their email and will look forward to receiving their picture!