It is my faithful companion on all my travels, my “without-you-there-is-no-way”, my constant when the wind of change whips into my face again: my SLR.
For four years it travelled with me around the world, from Asia to South America to Europe and back. We have probably already travelled more than 50,000 kilometers together – and I don’t want to miss you at all. Because, although many people say that you can’t capture moments on a picture, I disagree vehemently. For me, photography is in fact an important part in the exploration of an unknown country and in the reversion to the past. In my photographs, I keep alive everything, what I’ve experienced in the past five, ten or more years. And I’ve learned a lot:
1. Comfort zone goes by
In Brazil, I’ve learned that a photo can cost a lot. Sometimes even a life. Many tourists walk around with their 2,000-euro super-hi-tech digital cameras through the streets of Rio de Janeiro, by day and by night. And that without any local knowledge or consideration of the potential dangers. Raids are here on the daily agenda. And who is easier to be raided than a rich tourist? Because an expensive camera is more worth on the black market than most Brazilians earn in a month or two. For some, it even exceeds the annual income. If you become a victim of a robbery, then it is always advisable handing in your money and valuables without fuss or quibble. Many thieves are even armed and they aren’t afraid to use them. I myself have heard that many tourists take along a second purse, with fake credit cards and very little cash – in case of a raid. A camera is just hard to fake – and as in my case it has often an emotional value for its owner.
But how can you avoid this? First of all, you should be aware that you have to leave your comfort zone for a good – and also harmless – photo. This means that you adjust and adapt the prevailing habits in Brazil. As a Central European, of course, I was very striking, with my pale skin and the – for Brazilian standards – above-average large stature. A lack of language skills immediately unmask a tourist, too. Therefore, it is important to orientate on the Brazilian clothing style – and not to stroll through the favelas with high-cost designer clothes from the latest season. On photo tours, you can hide your camera in a safe backpack or in one of the well-liked Brazilian shopping bags. A highly effective cover. Likewise, it is worthwhile not to carry along unnecessary equipment. Less equipment also means less load and less objects that could be stolen potentially. I’ve always been thinking previously, where, what and under what conditions I will photograph and packed or rather bagged my camera equipment accordingly.
2. The equipment issue
It makes a difference whether you go to the streets of Rio searching for the real life or into the Amazon to photograph the “Boto Vermelho”, the red dolphin. For street photography, I tend to carry along with me a wide angle lens and a telephoto lens, if necessary also a HD, FLD or UV filter, for strong sunlight. The animal photography cries out for a universal macro lens with high ISO setting. Especially in the rainforest just a few sun’s rays reach the wet tropics floor. Most get caught on the thick foliage. Therefore, you should also consider whether it is worthwhile to take along a tripod – because of the weight and the technical requirements. If you decide against a tripod, a strong light sensor, which photographs sharp and not soughing pictures at high ISO settings, is indispensable. Because what’s worse than a great subject that soughs? A camera with an ISO auto can also be a big plus for travel photography.
I recommend everyone to create such a checklist to decide for the right camera equipment:
- Do I photograph at daytime, in the morning and evening hours or at night?
- How is the weather where my photo tour will take place?
- What subjects will I photograph (animals, people, landscapes, cities)?
- Is there a universal lens which also meets my needs?
- Do I have instead of heavy lens an lighter, qualitatively equivalent lens?
- Do I need a tripod?
- Did I remove all my old photos from the memory card?
- Is my battery charged and do I have enough spare batteries?
- Is it necessary to take along photo filters?
3. Secure camera or camera insurance?
Finally, each travel photographer or photographic hobby traveller should ask himself if he should conclude a camera insurance. For my little four-year-old Canon it is probably too late. But if I would buy a new camera – if there is enough money one day – I would probably always conclude an insurance. Not only in case of theft, but even if the camera is dropped, you get back some money. A cold comfort, compared to the sentimental value, but a good start to be able to buy a new jewel and to collect new memories.