Travel Photography: Learning Through Experience

At the end of the summer, I needed a break from my normal reality. I had to get away. I hadn’t done any photography out of town in a long time so I took some gear with me. It was essentially my first vacation with my Nikon D90. On this trip I learned a little bit about travel photography. I got to shoot and entire day in historic Ellicott City, MD and ran into some thought-provoking situations on this expedition. Experience is a good teacher.

Gear I had for the Trip

In my Tamrac Evolution 8, I had my Nikon D90. I was finishing up the review for the Nikon 24mm f/1.4G ED, so that was with me as well, along with my Nikon 50mm f/1.8D AF and my Sigma 70-300mm f/4-5.6 DG Macro lens. I also carried my SB600 flash along for the journey, too. I had all my cleaning gear, battery charger, a can of compressed air, an assortment of micro fiber cloths and a towel (hitchhiker’s guide first rule: A towel… is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitch hiker can have- Douglas Adams.) I had a laptop with me to back up all my photos also but that stayed in the room.

The only thing I lamented was not carrying was my portable tripod. I did run into a situation where I needed it. Who knew that there would be butterflies and that I would be attempting macro photography on the fly? Not this geek.

Settings, to bracket or not to bracket

I chose to shoot with bracketing turned on. I wanted to have a few shots of the same thing at different exposures to make sure I got the shot. This, friends, was a mistake. I ended up eating a lot of memory and I had to go through all those photos which took forever. With bracketing, it’s up to your judgment to pick the right image. If none of the images are right and your shot was really steady you can use Photoshop to select all the best bits to create a new image. For this trip I took about 20GB of photo’s between and 16GB card and a 8GB SD. I did not need to bracket at all. I just needed to look at the back of the camera and retake the photo. I was no in a rush at all.

Do your homework

Get some information on the area you are visiting, learn where the cool spots are, where the tourist traps are, good places to eat, etc. You do not want to be the typical tourist, especially with your photography. You have to carefully look off the beaten path. Explore a little. You never know what cool sights you might find.

Knowing about where you are going can be a very important part of your travel photography. Information can come from many places. If you know someone local, that can be your best source as they know all the non-touristy areas. If you don’t have a local to help you out, you can actually look online. You will most likely find information for the area. Looking up info on the town from its Municipality’s website is a really good bet. Things to look for in your online search are, local event dates and weather conditions. These are good indicators of busy times of year.

When you are in a new environment, some people may have an issue with you as photographer. Keep in mind, photography in public places is not a crime. It is best to try and be an unobtrusive photographer, not get in peoples way or ruin their experience. When I  run across that person, who just wants to give grief, I make sure I put my camera at my side, then let them speak. All I do is listen, and try to be polite. When you don’t argue you take away any power they think they have. When they are done talking, just politely remind them that rightfully, it’s always acceptable to take photos in public places and walk away. You can always come back to the spot. I’ve only once had an issue like this, and it was an FBI agent no less, but not going into details, being respectful and talking clearly, I got my shot and no harm was done.


This is tough: shoot everything or be discerning. Believe it or not, I was tremendously selective on vacation. Sometimes there is just a lot to take in good shots all around you. If you truly explore a place, people, buildings, those areas not in plain sight, you name it, everything is fair game. It sometimes is the best way to grasp a real feeling of a place.

If you are in a touristy area, with a lot of attractions, having pictures of them are nice, but EVERYONE has pictures of those areas. Try to go off the beaten path a little and be a little adventurous.

In Post

You don’t have to show all the images, or repeat images, be very selective on what you choose to put up. Try to give all your images a similar look, a sense of your style. You never know who will look at your photos. Always try to show your best work.

Most important of all

You’re on vacation. Have fun. Don’t sweat the small stuff.

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Gevon Servo

Gevon Servo aka @GServo is an eclectic, NJ/NY Photographer. He’s a Nikon shooter, by choice nevertheless, will always test any piece of photography equipment. He believes that like ‘Photography’, ‘Coffee’,’Beer’ and ‘Comics Books’ and other things ‘Geek’ “You must try everything once to discover what you want to try again.