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Over the past year I’ve had the pleasure of becoming acquainted with, and finally meeting in person, a long term world traveler by the name of Gary Arndt. Gary left the USA about three years ago and has been traveling the globe ever since, chronicling his adventures on his wildly popular Everything Everywhere blog. During his travels his interest and proficiency in photography has grown, in part due to his subscription to Digital Photography School :). With over 70 countries under his belt and always a trusty Nikon camera at his side, I wanted to find out how he melds his love of travel with his love of photography while constantly being on the road.
1. When you started your travels, was photography a big focus (pardon the pun) for you or more of an after thought?
I really didn’t know anything about photography when I started traveling. I literally didn’t know my aperture from my ISO. I purchased a Nikon D200 and a nice tripod which was way over my head considering my level of knowledge.
My initial goal was just to take enough good photos so I could cover a wall in my house with photos from my trip.
As time went on, photography became a bigger and bigger part of my blog as my skill and technique improved.
2. How long did it take you to realize the impact photography could add to your blog and communication during your travels?
9 months. I had gone through many of the small countries in the Pacific and much of East Asia when I arrived in Hong Kong and started to think hard about the future of my site and where it was going. I did an examination of travel magazines and other media and determined that I needed to put a bigger emphasis on photography. Travel is an extremely visual medium.
I began putting a putting a photo from my travels every day on my blog on November 24, 2007 and have been doing that every day since. That was a huge decision. It is content I can have up every day, but it doesn’t require the effort of writing a full blog post. Also, readers can digest it easily.
This year I also moved from 600px wide daily images to 1000px wide images like you see in Boston.com’s Big Picture section. That has also proven successful.
3. What are some of the resources you’ve used to improve your travel photography over the years?
The main thing is a lot of trial and error. I have never taken a course and until recently I have never read a book on photography. I mainly lurked on photography forums, read blogs and listened to photography podcasts.
4. It has to be a lot of work downloading, editing and posting photos while always being on the road. Do you have a schedule or particular time of day you prefer to work on photos or is it all off the cuff?
This has been a big problem for me in the past. I took a three month road trip in the Fall of 2009 where I drove around the western US and Canada. I was moving so much I never had time to edit photos. I’d take them off my camera, back them up and head out again to shoot the next day. I had thousands of photos after the three months that I had to go through.
As I write this, I have over 1,400 photos from Spain on my desktop that I have to edit.
I normally get behind then spend one or more days in a row just grinding out all my editing.
5. Have you experimented much with different camera/lens/flash combinations while traveling before finding a good fit? What works best for you on the road?
My biggest issue when traveling is weight. Unlike many pros, I’m not just jetting off to a shoot and then returning home. I’m always on the road and have to carry all my gear with me all the time. I was thinking about upgrading to a Nikon D700, but the issue of weight with the lenses had kept me from making the move so far.
I eventually added a 12-24mm wide angle lens because I found myself doing a lot of landscape photography. Last December I added a 50mm f1.4 lens because I wanted something faster than my other lenses in low light situations.
I have also recently added a SB900 and SB600 to my bag, although I still consider myself a novice in the world of flash photography.
6. For editing and posting, what tips would you give our readers to help them not get bogged down while traveling?
1) Backup. I carry 3, 300gb USB external hard drives with me and mirror my photos on all three of them. I carry them in separate bags. Backing up to the cloud (especially RAW files) is just not possible anywhere in the world when you are shooting multiple gigabytes each day. I archive all my RAW files and carry them with me until I can get to my parents house where I keep 2, 1 terabyte drives.
2) Schedule time for uploading. Once I’m done editing, only about 10-20% of the images I shot will be uploaded. That might be several hundred megs of data. Depending on where you are and how much you have, that may take hours. I often do batch uploads while I sleep. It is very important to have an uploading tool that is forgiving of network interruptions and will restart any uploads. I’ve had many times when I’d wake up only to find that the upload ended 10 minutes after I began and never restarted.
3) Carry a laptop. I’ve heard some people who plan on traveling for extended periods think they are going to edit photos at an internet cafe. If you only have a point and shoot and are uploading to Facebook, I guess that might work. If you are using Photoshop/Lightroom/Aperature then you are going to have to bring your own laptop to do editing. Obviously, if you are only traveling for a short time, you don’t need to bring a laptop.
7. Earlier this year you started offering your photos to bloggers for use in their posts (with proper credit), free of charge. How did that decision come about and have you received much response?
I’ve gotten amazing little response actually. I think two blogs have used one photo each. That’s it. I think most people would still rather grab some generic image off of Flickr. Ideally, I’d like to see more bloggers use their own photography.
8. To those looking to improve their summer time vacation photo skills, what are the top two bits of advice you’d have them concentrate on for their next (much shorter) travels?
When you go on vacation, you are often on a schedule for sightseeing that doesn’t correspond to the best time to take photos. Many tourist attractions may not open at sunset or sunrise, or you might be a place during a time of year where the sun’s position isn’t optimal.
Try to do the best with what you got. I think that is the key to vacation photography. Schedule your lunch around the time when the sun will be at its peak. Check out Google maps to figure out which direction certain buildings might be facing. Check what time sunrise and sunset is. The farther north or south you are, the more this is going to differ by time of year.
Also, be patient. If you want to minimize the number of tourists in a photo you can do Photoshop tricks or you can just wait them out. You will usually find a lull in foot traffic every few minutes. If it is really packed, then try to make the mob part of the photo.
If you’d like to follow Gary on his adventures, he’s an easy guy to track down. You can subscribe to his blog Everything Everywhere, follow him on Twitter (@everywheretrip) or ‘like’ his Facebook Page.