The Context and the Kit

The best way to develop your photos into art is adopt a Zen philosophy, and awaken to the context that surrounds you. For instance, you may focus on the waterfall but fail to see the icicles hanging off a conifer limb nearby. Or you may set your frame to capture the magnificent Roman pillars, while totally missing the Bedouin and his grazing camel in the foreground

While I consider myself to be neither an artist or professional photographer, nor a Zen master, here are some tips I’ll share to help turn your pictures into art:

- Shoot a subject interesting enough that other people will want to see it too.
- Frame the subject with something, and it doesn’t need to encapsulate your subject. A half-frame can be every bit as creative.
- Move the subject off dead center in the viewfinder.
- When shooting portraits, fill two-thirds of your photo with the subject.
- Mix up the colors with light and dark regions.
- Be sure to pay close attention to the foreground/background of the subject in every shot.

Good travel photography isn’t totally about the art, however, it also has a physical element expressed in the kit you carry. With the advent of inexpensive digital cameras that give resolution matching that of print film, it’s simpler than ever to reach for art in your photographs. Just about any $300 point’n’shoot digital camera will give you 5 megapixels of resolution or better, good zoom capability, and enough sophisticated internal electronics that great aperture and focusing operations are done automatically for you. Add another $100 for accessories and you’ll have a kit like mine that’s both lightweight and portable. All of this fits comfortably within a 150 cubic inch set of pouches weighing in at just under 3.5 pounds that will slip easily into your d aypack:

- Camera and manual: I use an Olympus C-770 Ultra Zoom that outputs TIFF formatted files. A small 2.5 x 4 x 2.7 inches and weighing in at a mere .7 pounds makes it easy to carry, while the 10x optical zoom means you won’t need to carry it as far.
- USB cable: to download your pictures to computer and then burn them to CD or write them to a flash drive.
- Flash drive: I like the Sandisk Cruzer. It allows you to retract the sensitive USB plug into its case to protect it from the rigors of travel.
- Battery charger: International multi-voltage with worldwide plug selection. I chose the DigiPower TC-371 because it does these in a compact, lightweight package .
- Spare memory cards and batteries: Although manufacturers strongly recommend using brand name replacements, I’ve had no problems with quality aftermarket parts. Have at least two of each, but as many as you can afford.
- Mini-tripod: Many brands are available – get one with collapsible legs and a tilting camera mount.

You’ll find many other tips given by photographers within the In The Know Traveler – Camera Talk section. Spend some time with these pages, and you too will bring back great pictures.

Written by Steve Smith and Christine Johnson

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Author: SS and CJ

Steve Smith inherited the wanderlust and has always needed to see what’s around the next corner. Together with his wife and co-pilot Christine Johnson, during their college days they enjoyed many memorable (and cheap) forays into Mexico sleeping under the stars. These days the excursions are typically press trips and hotels, but gathering unique experiences by really getting to know places and people rather than observing as tourists is still their approach to travel. After numerous journeys to North/Latin/South America, Europe, and the Middle East, they still believe this is the true way to experience different cultures.

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1 Comment

  1. Very helpful article; naming the brands and models that you use gives the novice a headstart in selecting their own equipment.

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