Photography Tips, Passports, Money and Pals


As an ex-professional photographer I have some tips for better travel photos. unless you are going specifically for wildlife, don’t take a long telephoto lens. For the few times you use it, the extra weight and bulk isn’t worth it. The only specialty lens I carry is a 20mm lens that gives incredible wide-angle scenery shots, dramatic for coming in close on your subject. If shooting film as opposed to digital, go with a general speed film such as ISo 400 film. Shoot more than you think you need. edit brutally...discard more than you keep. Watch your compositions. Keep your subject out of the centre. learn the rule of thirds. move your horizons to the bottom third or top third of the frame. If shooting on a bright day with lots of water or sky, use a polarizer filter. Spend as much as you can on this filter—there’s no sense in buying an expensive lens and a cheap filter.


As an archaeologist, my work takes me to wonderful sites completely off the beaten track. I’m usually required to pack in everything that I might need. I’m always looking for cost effective ways to improve my gear while cutting down on bulk and weight. my latest addition? A piece of Tyvek (most commonly used as exterior cladding for new buildings), which I use as a footprint for my tent. This inexpensive material can be bought off the roll at any hardware store, can be cut to any size, folds up super small and is extremely light—making it a much better option than a bulky blue tarp or the expensive accessory offered by some tent manufacturers.


Going to a lot of countries on your trip? Be sure to count how many require visas. even though they say they will only take up one page, they often use seals that make the back unusable (effectively using two pages). Also, border guards love stamping new pages, taking up precious passport space. If you’re applying for your Canadian passport, make sure to write a short note requesting the larger 48-page version which costs only $5 more. It will save you lots of hassle!


Keeping your documents dry in a sweaty or wet money belt is a challenge when in tropical countries or in a wet environment. Wrap your air ticket, spare cash or travellers cheques tightly in press-and-seal plastic wrap for a compact and inexpensive “laminate” surface. You can press the wrap around the edge of your document making a tight seal. This takes much less space than a plastic folder and it can be resealed if necessary. It is clear so you can easily see what is inside. This will be greatly appreciated by the officials at airports who don’t like those soggy, well-cured tickets.


“Keeping dry in extremely wet weather can be tricky, especially with down sleeping bags. After three weeks of tenting in rain, I began zipping up my waterproof breathable (make sure it is breathable!) rain jacket, stuffing my feet in the bottom of the jacket, and pulling it over my feet and legs. This worked great: I would wake up dry even after my bag touched the wet walls of the tent all night.” 


You have to learn a few key phrases when travelling. I happened to stumble on one of the best where haggling is a way of life. On my way to Penang, Malaysia I chatted with a woman on the ferry. I told her it was my first time there, and I would be living there for a year. She turned to me, a light going off in her eyes, and said, “You must learn: Saya dudo sini, jangan dipu!” Don’t lie to me, I live here! I have used this key phrase cheerfully every time I haggle, in many other languages, and it always gets me laughter and a lower price.


Choosing your own travel companions includes not just room- mates. They include your guide book, footwear, day-bag and backpack. Only you can decide the tone and approach of a guide book that suits your travelling style. Only you can decide the design of the day bag and backpack which you will be living out of for many nomadic months. Don’t let your family or friends buy these for you. Instead, ask for a gift certificate (or money) so you can enjoy the decisions, selection and purchase of these important items—part of the anticipation and pleasure leading up to your trip. remember that less is more (even in guide books). The less you carry, the freer you are. and isn’t travelling all about freedom?

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