Everybody takes pictures when travelling, whether it is on your cell phone, point and shoot or DSLR camera. We all do it and we like to share photos straight away, but things can go wrong. Some people don't like to be photographed, police minds that you are taking that picture that you shouldn’t, bags and cameras get stolen or lost. Here is a few tips on how to bring those photos back home safely and enjoy the trip without worrying too much.
First of all I always carry my camera, flash unite, laptop and storage with me on all flights. It all fits nicely in my Kata backpack. Traveling into the middle of nowhere and loosing my camera backpack would be a disaster. You can buy clothes easily, but might not have a chance or money to buy camera gear all over.
Cards, card, cards is my motto. I usually carry about 8-10 different SD cards and change them frequently, usually twice a day or so. This way, if I lose one, or it gets damaged or stolen before it has been backed up I still have some of the photos on other cards and it is not a complete disaster.
Backing up is very important. You can replace everything except your photos. After a day out I will back up everything on a computer and a separate hard drive. Considering lowering prices of storage these days, there is no reason not to have some handy and back up. They are small and portable and for some you don’t even need a computer as they have SD slots and automatic back up function. Carry a drive and a computer in different bags or have your drive constantly with you. I always have some old SD cards, some only 64 or 124 MB that I’m happy to give up in case of a trouble, make a scene as if this was the worst thing that ever happened and keep real drives and cards securely stored. You can use lots of mp3 players as a storage as well, these won’t be as obvious as laptops and drives. If you have access to internet upload files to sharing sites or to the cloud.
Take spare batteries and chargers. Hotels in Asia might have power available only for a few hour in the evening and in rural Africa you could go for a few days without power and being able to recharge your batteries. Hotels and guesthouses in remote areas will have generators so bring a jerry can of petrol if travelling by car and you will get power and some good points with owners or people staying. Recharge where you can and while you can. You should be able to recharge in restaurants and bars as well, just ask.
Expensive camera gear is a magnet for thieves all over the world. I would never discuss prices of my equipment with anybody when traveling. Shinny gear with big brand names screams take me. Simply make it look like an old piece of garbage and you will be safer. Hide that big Canon or Nikon logo. I usually use some gaffer tape to mask things and when asked why is it there just tell them it’s old and was dropped and it’s just holding stuff together. They know damaged cameras have little value on the black market.
Before every trip I thoroughly research the location. I will read as many blogs as possible and get in touch with people that has been there before me and experienced what I want to see and do. Thorn tree forum on the Lonely Planet website and TripAdvisor are fantastic tools. You can find local people that are invaluable help when travelling and travellers usually respond within a few hours with thelatest news and ideas. The Thorn tree forum allows you tocontact, arrange guides, and discuss your plans. I generally stay away from tours organised by big companies as this doesn’t provide freedom and flexibility I enjoy when travelling.
A good guide can make your trip unforgettable experience. Guide that speaks your language, knows the area, people, local dialects and languages will bridge cultural differences. I think guide is one place you should really invest in. Even in the time of internet, local knowledge and experience is very important. A good guide will organise things for you, listen, adapt, and learn what you are doing and after a while will know what you want to get out of your trip. Don’t forget to tip and leave good feedback on the forums so he/she can get work again and again.
When photographing portraits I prefer to spend some time with people and get to know them, become friends and after a while I will photograph. People will generally be more patient and willing to do what you need to get the photos you want. And of course, it is fun, it is interesting and nice to learn about the lives of others and get to know them and become friends. It feels good to just leave the camera behind and sit, talk and drink tea or coffee and talk about everything with people you just met. If I can print photos and give them to people I have photographed I always do. They don't mind, that nothing has been retouched or “fixed”. Some of them might have never had a photo taken so it is a nice thing to do for them. And it helps them to see what is actually happening. Don’t forget to always be human and treat your subjects with respect.