Deal 10: A hot topic, at a hot price!
Back in September I was fortunate enough to go and shoot a wedding in Italy for a long time client and now friend. I brought my wife along with me and made a nice little extended vacation out of the trip and it was incredible. I’ve picked up quite a few travel tips over the years and I learned a few more on this most recent trip. So, I thought I’d compile a short list of some of the more important ones here. This list (in no certain order) will help not just anyone traveling to Italy but anyone traveling period.
This was a tip that I didn’t have to learn the hard way and it is of particular importance when in a foreign country. The main reason for this suggestion is to prevent theft and keep your photo gear in your possession at all times. Getting pick-pocketed in Europe is a very real threat so it’s important to keep your possessions in sight and nearby at all times. When you step on to a train, you have no choice but to put any suitcases you’re traveling with in the overhead compartments or in the designated luggage areas spread out in the trains. Sometimes the space above your seat is full and you have to place your suitcase several rows down (or in the next train cabin)! Would you feel comfortable placing your thousands upon thousands of dollars worth of photo gear in an overhead compartment out of sight for a 4 hour train ride? I know I’d be a nervous reck the entire time so I was glad to have my backpack in my lap the whole trip. I even used it as a pillow at times (although not a very comfortable one). My backpack of choice was the Shape Shifter from ThinkTank and I absolutely loved it. Be on the lookout for a review of that backpack coming very soon!
On the plane that is. I have always carried my tripod with me on the plane. I’ve never thought twice about this but for some reason I decided to check my tripod on my trip back to the states from Italy. I had to learn this lesson the hard way when I walked off the plane into Madrid-Barajas Airport in Spain for a 2 hour layover. If you’ve ever been to this airport then you can imagine my frustration. Terminal 4 at Madrid was redesigned in 2006 and is now one of the most elegant and modern airport terminals in the world and a photographers paradise! And I didn’t have a tripod! I know a lot of people don’t use tripods, but I rely on mine for the work I do. Try hand holding a camera in low light at f/11 when you’re trying to get an infinite depth of field and blur the people walking through the terminal! The one time I didn’t have my tripod!!! Ugh…
Sometimes I enjoy editing as much as (or more than) taking pictures. However, I was in Italy and was surrounded by some of the most beautiful scenery on Earth. Every time I tried to sit down and edit I thought to myself, “What’s a better use of my time: Editing the images I’ve already taken or going out and taking more pictures?” You can imagine what my answer was each time. Don’t use up your precious time in an exotic location doing something that will be just as enjoyable when you get home. Get out there and enjoy the scenery!
This one is a little Euro-centric I know. We bought two first class train tickets during our jaunt around the country and regretted it both times. In almost all cases, first class is the exact same as coach. You may get a food cart that comes by if you’re on first but you still have to pay for the food! So you basically pay about 30 extra Euro’s per person to get the option of buying food during your trip. Again, ugh…
This was very, very frustrating in Italy. iPhones in America (at least through AT&T) are sold locked, meaning you can’t pop an international SIM card into it during a trip to a foreign country. I paid around $24 before leaving to jailbreak and unlock my iPhone so that I could purchase an international SIM card and continue using my phone on the trip. I wanted to do this because we were traveling with clients and I wanted to be able to reach them through phone, text or email if we needed to make plans to meet up somewhere. I clearly verified that my iPhone had been unlocked and we stopped at a cell phone store in Milan to purchase our international cards. We both purchased a ‘TIM’ card for about 10 euros which included 10gb of data, 60 voice minutes and 50 text messages. The first week was also totally free and we were only staying for 11 days. Well Michael (my client) popped his TIM card into his Android phone and was up and running in minutes. I popped mine in and…nothing. We spent the rest of our trip using the internet on Michaels phone to try and figure out how to get mine working and to no avail. The potential of this problem became very apparent in Venice when we discovered that the water taxi’s were on strike and we’d be forced to walk 45 minutes to our hotel will all of our luggage through the crowded streets and alleyways. Michael gave us his wife’s phone (also an Android with a purchased TIM card) and we simply plugged in the address to our hotel and used Google Maps to guide us straight there. We had to make so many turns through random alleys, across bridges and down narrow streets that there would have been absolutely no way to get there without a map. The walk took 45 minutes but it would have likely taken several hours had we been forced to rely on locals trying to understand our language.
This tip really paid off in some situations, and would have really helped in others. The places that I researched beforehand were so much more enjoyable to visit knowing the background and history of each place. I could really appreciate these locations and it made photographing them so much more rewarding. On the flip side, I also visited several places that I didn’t research. This left me really unsatisfied because I had no idea what I was looking at and was desperate for some kind of information about it. Fortunately I was able to talk to locals in a few cases or find some sort of plaque to describe the place briefly. Sometimes there’s no way to plan for things, for example when you stumble on to some place you didn’t plan on visiting, but if you know you’ll be traveling to a certain location or ruin or building, dedicate some time to researching and studying the background and history of it. It will always pay dividends!
The last thing you want to do is be concerned about money on a trip. If you have time to plan and save for a trip, go ahead and save more than you need so you can splurge a little. Saving extra allowed us to eat out at nicer restaurants, travel to more places, purchase tickets to more museums and sites, taste more wines and cappuccinos, buy more souvenirs, drink more water (at 3-4 euros each, water gets expensive quick!) and just be able to enjoy ourselves rather than stick to a tight budget the entire time. I think anybody can do this if they plan accordingly. Budget before the trip so you don’t have to budget on the trip.
I know, this sounds absurd, and it’s a hard one for me at times but I always try to spend some time away from the camera and just let my mind…my soul really…take everything in. I love taking pictures, I love the challenge of finding that perfect composition and pressing the shutter at just the right moment. But there’s something to be said about letting the camera sit one out every now and again. To enjoy a fresh cup of cappuccino with your wife without taking a picture of it. To just be in the moment and take it in without trying to take anything from it but memories. Depending on how obsessed you are with photography, this may have to be a conscious decision you have to make and follow through on, but I never regret taking at least a few moments to just let my memories take the snap shots.
I haven’t been through this yet (and God willing I won’t have to) but I have heard horror stories about people taking thousands of images on a trip, only to have their camera stolen, their hard drive crash or their memory cards fail before they get home. Don’t take any chances with your precious images! They are your memories! When I travel, I always have a well thought out backup plan in place.
In Italy I took two sets of CF cards. One set for all my travel and landscape work and another for the wedding I shot there. My goal was to never erase over a CF card unless I absolutely had to, so the CF cards would act as a form of backup if needed. At the end of the day I’d download the images from the day to an external hard drive and make a copy to my laptop (I made sure before the trip that I’d have enough space on the laptop as well). With the images still on the CF cards I had everything backed up in three places. I then placed the CF cards in my camera backback, my laptop in my wife’s backpack and the external hard drive in my suitcase. That way if one bag got stolen somehow we’d still have the images in two other places. Nothing is going to protect you absolutely 100% but you might as well take as many variables out of the equation as possible.
Well I am quite confident that a number of our readers here at DPS have trips coming up to Italy or some other part of Europe (or the world for that matter). I hope this article will serve to better prepare you for the adventure of a lifetime and prevent you from making some potentially costly mistakes in the process. Traveling is one of the greatest things you can do to invest in your world view and your short time here on Earth and I hope you’ll consider it if you haven’t already. Anything worth having is worth working for and traveling around the world is worth having! So here’s to getting off the couch and getting out there. Cheers!
“The measure of your success usually comes down to who wins the battle that rages between the two of you. The ‘you’ who wants to stop, give up, or take it easy, and the ‘you’ who chooses to beat back that which would stand in the way of your success – complacency.”
– Chris Widener
Now I want to hear from you! Have you been to Italy or some other foreign country recently? Feel free to expand upon this article in the comments below with extra little nuggets of wisdom about traveling abroad. Looking forward to your thoughts!
Oh and be sure to follow me (James Brandon) and Darren Rowse on Google+! My last article here at DPS was about tips for G+ and it was written while G+ was still in beta and invite only. Since then it has opened up to the public and has (I believe) over 50 million users at this point. I really am loving G+ so far, it’s a photographers playground really! So drop by and say hello and I’ll add you to my DPS Readers Circle. Cheers!
March 3, 2012 03:17 am
Lovely photos, was that first one HDR?
November 29, 2011 02:24 pm
fantastic article with loads of info in a non-rambling format! left my canon at home when i went to cozumel because i was too terrified to take it---ended up buying an expensive p & s which did fine. at least now i have some info about how to travel with equipment....and i won't check the manfrotto! thanks again
November 23, 2011 10:21 pm
Hi, from Italy.
Sorry for the delay, I am catching up on dPS posts. :-)
I've read through comments and I would like to share some thoughts on making sure your pictures come back with you. I assume you have a way to read memory cards through a computer or use a card copier. Especially if this is the "trip of your life", or you're shooting a once-in-a-lifetime event (like James at the wedding).
Memory cards are pretty cheap. So, why not bringing along an additional extra set, making a copy of a full card and sending it to your home address? You may even prepare addressed envelopes with a thin cardboard reinforce inside. Stamp can be bought as for postcards (at "T"obacconists in Italy) and you don't even need a trip to a post office unless you want a Registered letter. Once card per envelope. Just stay under 20 grams and 2mm thickness.
If you know a trustworthy local, leave her/him your backup copies, either an external HDD or extra memory cards. This will minimize the risk of loss on the journey back home too. She/he will keep the hardware afterwards as a reward for the service offered.
Online storage populated overnight is another option, but if you shoot a lot (and in RAW ;-) ), it might not be practical.
Worried about someone stealing your shots? Either the postman or your local contact?.Encrypt the backup card content with a tool like TrueCrypt.
November 20, 2011 01:47 am
i just returned from a safari trip to kenya africa
a backup plan for photos and videos is a must
also several memory cards are a must, so you don't have to erase after backing up the photos to the laptop
that way you have the photos in two places...
another tip i can give for safari trips is lenses, in addition to high zoom, don't forget the wide angle as well, it
gives great results for atmosphere photos.
here are some of the results from the trip:
November 18, 2011 12:22 pm
Quick tip- the water in Italy is safe to drink, so no need to purchase expensive bottled water. Rome boasts some of the best-tasting water in the world at their public fountains. Just order "aqua dal tappo" or "aqua del rubinetto" and you can drink for free. Or buy a bottle at a grocery store and fill it up at many of Rome's public fountains, just like the locals.
November 18, 2011 12:50 am
You take such beautiful pictures. We would like to launch an online competition for our travellers. We spesialise in school tours and we would like for kids to start thinking of how pictures should be taken. Not just the usual happy snaps. So have a look at our website and Facebook page in the next few weeks.
November 16, 2011 09:14 am
LOVED your pictures and tips!
I went to Italy in May/June this year and thought through a lot of the same things. we ended up spending $70 to get Italy maps on our garmin and I used my iphone on airplane mode whenever there was a place with wifi. We also got these really cool camelbak bottles with built-in filters that saved us a lot of water purchasing. :)
Anyway--one other option if you aren't able to bring your laptop (I wasn't) is to backup using dropbox. I have an ipad, which we did bring, and every day I'd download my photos onto the ipad and then upload them using dropbox. That way if I were to lose everything they'd still be secure somewhere totally separate from me.
November 15, 2011 04:13 pm
Time without your camera? Are you sure that's wise? :)
November 15, 2011 12:34 pm
Well I'm from Italy too, and I was disappointed about you and your camera, next time write here or on others social network about your next trip! You probably can have more hint and invitation too! Mine for example, I'm a photograper & Chef, at our restaurant you can see the 'jail of wind' www.aeolia.com next time you are invited!
November 15, 2011 09:10 am
I'll be going to Japan next year.
Wish me luck ! I am a foreign photographer noobie. I will most likely be reading up more and more about international photography as it gets closer, but I still haven't mastered manual settings on my DSLR, so that'll be first.
November 14, 2011 07:59 am
Thank you very much for such an excellent article. Having the equipment stolen is realy one of he worst thing that can happen during trip. Unfortunatelly, this is very treating in many places in Brazil and Buenos Aires (Argentina) too. Be carefull when planing to go to these countries.
November 13, 2011 08:20 am
Just be careful with your backpack. Had my camera stolen from my backpack while it was on my back. The one time I took a break from having it in my hands as I was walking around Hanoi. I stopped to buy an ice-cream and it was gone. From hen on I carried my backpack as a side pack or front pack. The most annoying thing was losing the photos of the last 3 days. I had a second camera but still !!!
November 13, 2011 04:42 am
I thought I recognised that gorgeous ceiling from Duomo!! Just went to Milan this weekend, so excited to go through the photographs, thanks for the tips on travel!! All are completely true!
November 13, 2011 12:41 am
I don't think you can use a tripod in an airport so make sure security doesn't keep your tripod or stops you from flying because of a security risk. First class is not about the food unless you travel in eurostar. The food trolley will go to second class too. First class is just a lot more comfortable and spacious. Just like planes.
November 12, 2011 08:07 pm
Great set of tips and definitely agree with them, especially the backing up. Spent 3 weeks in France in June/July and would have cried if I lost those photos. Every night I didn't waste time with editing, but I did make sure I had multiple backups of the days photos. And yes, make sure you enjoy the restaurants and the everyday life without the camera too.
I'll add a couple more for new travelers that I didn't think of; check ahead of your visit the times for sunrise/sunset. I intended to take some night time shots of Paris, but I'm used to sunsets by 8 or 9 at latest. However when we got there and found out that sunset wasn't until almost almost 11:00pm, it made for a very late night (but well worth it). Think I finally gave up about 1:30am from exhaustion.
And something I'm always careful of but seen others do; I like to file my photos by date/time taken so change the time zone and make sure the date/time is correct for your location. It's fun to consolidate photos from different cameras when date/time isn't correctly set on them.
Tripods have their places, but I got busted by some nice police for taking sunset photos at the Arc de Triomphe using a tripod, and I've since heard there are a number of places in Italy you can't use them. Apparently it's illegal, but anyone know why? The police told me I couldn't use it but didn't know why the law only covered the Arc de Triomphe (war memorial or because of traffic maybe??). I asked them and they said everywhere else in Paris was fine to use them.
November 12, 2011 11:13 am
Great article, really enjoyed it. Treasure your pictures from the Cinque Terre as it was terribly damaged by horrendous rains and flooding in later October. Will take a long time before it will look as great as your photos...if ever.
November 12, 2011 06:47 am
I'm going to Rome and from there all the way to the south with a rented car, in late December and January.
Do you have some tips or 'secret' cities that I should definitely visit?
November 12, 2011 06:41 am
Brandon, thanks for restoring our many wonderful memories of Europe and especially Italy and Venice (can't imagine without water taxis).
Must also comment on "without camera" to enjoy the pleasure of just "absorbing." First learned as a traveling amateur -- GOLFER
November 12, 2011 06:28 am
Very much enjoyed the tips! I went to Italy in 2009 and had a wonderful time in Aviano and nearby. We did visit Venice, and I LOVED the pictures I got! My husband had lived in Italy for 8 years, so I always felt safe. Still, as a travelling rule, I always carry my valuable - and my passport of course! - with me all the time. I used the same rule when I went to Japan in 2005. And when I went to New York in 2006. It's a good rule no matter where you are going! But especially when you go to a foreign country and are not familiar with behavior that would normally tip a native to a bad situation.
I was also fortunate to have a mother in law who knew her way around Venice! We took turn after turn and then again to get around. I know I would have gotten lost without help.
Your images are fantastic! I'm glad you got to capture some of God's most beautiful creation!
November 12, 2011 05:33 am
I agree that carrying the tripod is important but combursome .. As another way to back up my pictures, I started carrying around my iPad and the adaptor for the memory card. Much lighter than a laptop :-)
November 12, 2011 03:34 am
I totally agree about putting the camera down and taking a minute just to take in the whole picture of a place . We were in Europe in Oct . 2011 and I found myself taking some pictures then just sitting the camera down so I could totally enjoy a place . Examples would be the top of the Leaning tower of Pisa and the Sistine Chapel just to mention a couple .
I totally agree about saving and cutting back at home so when you get on your trip you can enjoy the things we don't get to have at home and eat wherever you feel like that day and not worry about a budget . Also to know you have extra if something should happen and you need to stay an extra night .
The only things I could add would be to take a small more portable camera that takes good pictures maybe not as good as our DSLR but catch the moment you stumble across . I found mine good for taking pictures of our food if i wanted to without worrying about something getting spilled on my DSLR . I have a brand new Canon PowerShot SX150 IS That was great . It came in handy when i forgot to charge my battery the night before for DSLR . Plus it was easier for my Husband to use . Sometimes i just didn't want to carry the bigger bag around with me .
I guess that would be another tip make sure the person you are traveling with know how to use the camera even just the basics .
November 12, 2011 03:19 am
I can't believe of all things you take your tripod on board. What a major hassle. My computer bag and my photo backpack, yes, but my very heavy tripod too?? No way. Ok, so once in dozens of trips I miss some shots of an airport, I'll just plan on being in that airport again and bring a compact tripod. But because I might miss something once doesn't mean I'm going to suffer each time I travel.
November 12, 2011 01:13 am
Just completed a trip to the Oregon coast and Willamette Valley. Each day I attached my D300 to my iPad, and all photos that day were transferred (copied) to the iPad. That meant I had two copies--the iPad "events" by date, and the CF card contents.
Periodically, I'd review the photos on the iPad, deleting obvious rejects. The iPad makes it easy to check for sharpness, etc.
Connecting the iPad to Lightroom3 upon my return, each day's shots (the keepers) were properly catalogued. Peace of mind was nice, and upon return, didn't have to go through the reject process.
November 11, 2011 10:26 pm
Good tips thank you for sharing
November 11, 2011 07:11 pm
Nice article and trips Brandon. Had been to Italy in July this year and it was a fantastic trip; a dream come true. Water from the fountain sourced by aqueducts is safe and we carried a plastic bottle for refills. Also the metro stations have coop stores were it is priced most reasonably. My wife and two kids too take pictures and we found the experience most rewarding. The historical architectural heritage of Italy is worth visiting and I found the place safe and an amazing place to photograph. I agree the danger of crime is everywhere and we need to take care of our belongings. My Italian friends were most friendly. Thanks for the tip.
November 11, 2011 04:46 pm
Enjoyed the article about photography in Europe, but if I may digress a little, here are some more tips. I returned from a two-week pilgrimage to Italy, but it was during two weeks in England that I realized what I was doing wrong. I have begun shooting movies with a Canon 5D Mk. 11. I went to my home town in the south of England and shot 143 video clips of the park where I used to play as a boy.
Mistake one: I had stopped down two stops for bright sunny work while I was at home, and hadn't bothered to reset the camera. On cloudy days the videos were really murky. The lesson? Leave the settings as they are. Mistake two: don't rely on automatic focus, use manual.The shots I thought were sharp turned out to be blurry and out of focus because the camera was focussing on the wrong thing.
Mistake three: although I have a little level that fits my camera accesory shoe, I didn't bring it with me. Hence, about 10 percent of my clips had a crooked horizon.
Mistake four (this is the biggie) - take a tripod. I did bring a monopod, but even that couldn't stop the shakes and the sways. No, the only way to shoot good stable movies is with a firm tripod. Making movies is not like stills. Once you're shot it, there's nothing you can do to improve it. Photoshop is no good here! Next time I'll know better.
November 11, 2011 02:53 pm
Great article. As an Italian American, I love Italy and we travel constantly. I agree with everything you did except the part about your iPhone. Did you consider just getting an international plan from AT&T. We have used ours in Asia, Europe, Australia and NZ without a problem. Just paid for the 50 meg plan (there are lots that have more capacity) and the phone has worked great.
November 11, 2011 02:24 pm
Spending time without the camera is the most important thing when you're with your wife. I spent a week in Paris with (1) my cheapest lens and (2) no tripod for that reason alone. Sure, there are many shots I would have liked to get, but I don't regret it in the least! I got plenty of pictures to capture the memories.
November 11, 2011 01:48 pm
When researching photo oportunities and locations before a trip I often visit the local photographers and camera club websites to get ideas.
November 11, 2011 01:41 pm
Thanks for the tips, in fact i have followed the said tips and advices ( where i found through a search on the net) when i had my recent trip to France and Italy. Truely, the most important part of it is the BACKUP PLAN. I remember i used to keep awake the whole night downloading my images to my iPAD ( which i used as a portable hard drive ) then i got some problems and i had to buy an external hard disc with 3 times the price of it in my home town in Saudi Arabia, just not to regret loosing my images ( memories ), thanks for the nice tips and i have learned more new things that i would advice my friends to go for
November 11, 2011 01:19 pm
Totally agree with the author on the tips for travelling. Just another reason to have the camera gear in backpack is lot of cities have cobbled streets and if you're dragging suitcases its not going to help the delicate camera machinery..
heres my lil collection to Italy..
November 11, 2011 11:49 am
Over here in Malaysia, one isn't allowed to set up tripod to shoot in malls or outside malls. Security will come after you. That was my experience.
November 11, 2011 10:46 am
I just got back from Beijing and your Iphone will work if you buy a gevey sim pro before you go
I bought one then in Beijing bought a prepaid sim and dropped it in, and used my phone the
entire time I was there.
As for the pictures I had my wife and child with me, which made it a little more difficult, but the
reward was well worth the extra effort. I just suggest bringing a kid carrier like the bjorn.
really helped out. And plan your shots ahead of time as much as possible, I did this the second week
on and it helped to relieve a lot of stress due to time constraints.
November 11, 2011 10:25 am
I've spent quite a of time in Italy, but this set of photos from Venice are my favorites of all the photos.
November 11, 2011 10:08 am
Another one here that has NOT been allowed to take a tripod as carry on. This has happened in multiple countries.
Dont risk it, just check it.
I know someone who had their Gitzo 150 anniversary tripod taken by security staff with no recourse to get it back. Thats was a 3000 british pound tripod.
November 11, 2011 08:34 am
By far one of the most beautiful countries! - and you have some very pretty photos to tell the story of it's beauty too! Bravo!
Trains, in Italy, and most of Europe are the absolute best way to travel. First class isn't necessary , like you said, but being aware is SO important. Yes, there are pick pockets, like everywhere, there'e poverty.
I lived in Italy for six years and traveled most of Europe at that time too. Since then, I've taken groups abroad there to study and tour - it's a truly enchanting country.
The people are kind and warm, generous and understanding.
It's definitely one country where going "off the beaten path" is a good thing (and yes, pretty safe)- you can wander into bakeries making fresh bread in the very early hours, or walk up to an outdoor Enoteca for a glass of wine and sit on a stool on cobblestone streets, and find some of the best pasta ever in a small one-room ristorante... possibilities are endless in Italia - for photographers especially!
November 11, 2011 08:12 am
We spent a week in Rome in June and didn't feel the least bit threatened by pick pockets, just made sure to be aware of our surroundings and the people around us. Did have a bit of an issue with the fellows around the main sights trying to give me roses though. When you said no they were always ticked off..lol.
I took my gear in a Lowepro Passpost Sling..which I never let out of my sight..both on the plane and in all our daily adventures. I also made sure to take an SD card for each day we were there, changing to a new one every morning. That way I didn't lose the previous days photos and if one of them would have failed would have only lost a days pics.
It is an amazing place for photos-took well over 1500 in our week-and most of the time my camera never saw the inside of my bag...lol Also, even not knowing the language, the locals were extremely helpful in guessing what we needed and doing all they could do to help us.
One last thing..we had no phones with us-but every evening in the motel we could facetime our family back here in Michigan on our Ipod. The grandchildren thought that was the coolest thing ever...and they could actually see realtime pics of Rome from our window.
November 11, 2011 06:58 am
We were in Italy last year. I sadly took so many pictures and did not take time to smell the roses, but we'll be back. Love your pic of the Rialto Bridge, but they all had signs on them when were there. Thanks for all of the great tips.
November 11, 2011 06:52 am
Great advice all around. I've been to India twice and am going back for a third trip in January. The first 2 times, I used my point and shoots and results were ok. This time I am planning to bring my DSLR - though it's a smallish Rebel T1i.
The worst thing that happened in 2010 was dropping my new P&S into a bucket of water. The hook in the bathroom just swung around on one screw - plop - splash - the flash card was SAVED. The camera - useless. Next town, I found a local store and bought another decent P&S for about $100 with local charger and batteries. You've got to expect the unexpected sometimes.
My cell phone will be a Blackberry because of it's wide coverage area - I can buy an International data plan that lowers data rates from$10 per meg to just under $1 - just get it before you leave! Remember to turn off data roaming - and wait for a WI-FI hotspot to read mail. Last trip, my wife's phone cost $4 per minute of talk time - SO BASICALLY DON'T USE IT.
My gear will be with me in my carryon - none checked!
I like William's idea of sending back DVD's from abroad with file backups - must remember to bring blanks - don't try and buy some in a resort. My plan is also to bring a portable hardrive - but not a laptop. Most hotels we'll be at have PC's in the business centre - and bring a small USB card reader.
November 11, 2011 06:38 am
beautiful photographs...I'd be inclined to believe anything you say
November 11, 2011 06:25 am
My wife and I just got back from a trip to Italy not too long ago. we have similar pictures to all the ones you posted on this article. What a beautiful country to photograph. Riomaggiore was especially great. The colour of the buildings at sunset was fantastic.
November 11, 2011 06:22 am
Very well written, I couldn't agree with you more. These are all things that were true for me on my recent trip to Denmark and a trip to England in 2009. And pretty much any trip I've taken, since I always bring my camera gear. I especially LOVE having a backpack to carry my gear in; mine has the zipper on the back (facing my body), so I love the confidence and security I feel, no matter where I'm going - someone would literally have to take it off my back to get anything out of it. It's also a very comfortable way to carry everything - win-win!
November 11, 2011 05:21 am
The hardest thing for me on a trip is to resist editing my pictures at the end of the day before publishing them on my blog. But I agree with James, its time to get out and take pictures.
I also agree with Mooniak and I always study the language before visiting a country.
Here are my trip pictures of Italie: http://blogue.colpron.com/
November 11, 2011 05:10 am
In addition to the good advice about keeping your camera backpack with you on a train, the same also applies to a taxi cab ride. When getting a taxi, if the taxi driver automatically tries to take your camera backpack to place in the taxi's trunk- don't let him take it! I learned this the hard way, when our cab driver in Spain sped off after our ride without getting out or returning our backpack. We lost our camera, in addition to the 500 photos I just took at the Alhambra hours before! We ran after the cab, but we never caught up. I never even had the chance to backup the photos, since we hadn't even returned to our room yet. The good news is that our homeowner's insurance covered the cost of the camera, but those photos are lost forever.
November 11, 2011 04:46 am
Always nice to read your tips, James!
I love the photo of the bridge in Venice! I agree with most of your tips, although I need to comment on the "it would have likely taken several hours had we been forced to rely on locals trying to understand our language" part. You will find that in most places locals are much better suited to understand your language if you try to speak theirs. After all it is THEIR country you are visiting. In my experience, if you manage to say even a few sentences in whatever native language they speak, people will be much more amiable and keen on helping you, even if they must change language afterwards.
WRT to Madrid, airport, totally agreed. I always have a connection there on my yearly Christmas trip home, and after the first one I decided I'd have to get some cool pictures from there ;-P
November 11, 2011 04:44 am
Last year in June went to Italy(europe) for the first time. We had no problems. Most of the locals know English. I'm from a big city so that helped. Even went on the subway during rush hour. Used both 40D and point and shoot. Used common sense and read articles before hand.
The taxi's went on strike when I was there, but you still could have got transportation. In fact the taxi buses went on strike, but it is brief and merely causes delays. It's like they all take turns. I can hardly find my way to the bathroom but for some reason had no difficulty finding my way around Rome Florence or Venice.
Was almost pick pocketted in Venice - but knew what was happening so they were thwarted. I do not keep anything in my wallet anyway - have a back pack purse so tougher to get at the wallet. They back off if you get loud or make a scene too. (In Rome if u do some reading u'll find out which buses are more 'theft prone'.) It was sort of one of the highlights of my Venice experience. haha. I also photo copy anything of importance and keep them in various places.
I ended up with award winning photos without a tripod. Though we are novice Europe travelers common sense really helped.
November 11, 2011 04:26 am
Just got back from a month in Tuscany. I had to check my tripod as security would not let me bring it on as a carry on. But I was able to fit mine in my checked luggage. I maxed out my allowable weight at 53lbs but the flight attendant at check-in let me slide as there's a 50lb max.
I had 8 CF cards with me that I cycled through. At the end of each day, I backed up my photos through LR3 on to my MacBook Pro and a 750GB external drive.
Regarding your first tip; I totally agree. I had a LowePro 350AW with wheels, which came in handy for moving the gear from place to place. But when I was out wandering through towns, I wish I would have had a smaller bag or lighter backpack to carry only the lenses I planned on using for the day.
I had borrowed a couple of UK cell phones from a friend. The calls were only $0.35/min, not the $0.99/min ATT wanted to charge me WITH the international plan.
November 11, 2011 04:22 am
In 2005, my wife and I traveled to Oaxaca, Mexico for the Day of the Dead celebrations. I had just bought an external hard drive a couple of days before we left, had taken it out of the box, and charged the battery in it the night before we packed and left.
Those were still the days when CF cards cost about $150/gigabite and I only had two 1 gig cards with me. After 2 days shooting in Mexico, I was ready to download the cards (which were full by this time) to the external harddrive. I downloaded the first card - everything worked fine. But, in the middle of downloading the second one, the battery in the external drive ran out. O.K., I thought, I'll just recharge it. Looked in my luggage for the charger and when I realized it wasn't there, remembered that I had never unplugged it from the wall at home where I partially charged the battery 3 days earlier, before we left.
Fortunately, our niece was house sitting for us, so I bought a TeleMex calling card and called her. Since DHL was the only package delivery company that delivers to Oaxaco, I told her to go to the UPS store in my small north Georgia mountain town, where DHL has a pickup location, and overnight it to me. We were going to be in Oaxaca for 2 weeks, so I figured I'd get it in a day or two.
Went out looking for another CF card or two. There was no place in Oaxaca that had one with more than a 16 meg capacity (enough for 2 raw files from my camera) and it cost $135. Fortunately, found another American in our hotel who would be there for the same time we were and who had a laptop and could burn a CD for me each night after a day's shooting.
Finally got the charger the night before we left to come home, 10 days after it should have been sent. When we got home I found out why - my niece, who had formerly been a letter carrier for the US Postal Service, took the charger to the UPS store to send via DHL and found out the cost would be $85 (which I gladly would have paid). The clerk suggested she send it via USPS next day delivery for only $30, which she did. Unfortunately, she did not realize that USPS next day delivery only works within the continental US. Once it got to Mexico, it was delivered as any other old slow snail mail package would have been.
Lesson 1 - Don't forget chargers
Lesson 2 - Teach relatives to do exactly as you ask, even if it does cost more
Lesson 3 - Familiarize yourself with new equipment before you leave home
Lesson 4 - Always have plenty of memory card capacity available when you go out on a shoot
Lesson 5 - Be thankful that Americans are usually friendly when overseas.
November 11, 2011 04:15 am
I was just photographing in Italy myself and my AT&T iPhone worked just fine with its existing SIM. I enabled international roaming before I left and selected a data plan. It cost bit, but was pro-rated for the time I needed and was very convenient. I just considered it part of the cost of the trip.
November 11, 2011 04:08 am
Excellent advice for a newbie like me. Do you have any suggestions for lenses. I have a 28-200 and a 35mm,1.8 and will be in Italy in the spring-Venice/Rome/Florence
November 11, 2011 03:48 am
James, thanks for the great article. I'll be traveling to Europe sometime thins next year to see the sites. Interesting to see the differing views on tripods. Now, if only I can get my students to take tripods seriously!
November 11, 2011 01:06 am
I was fortunate to spend several months in Germany a few years ago. I took several thousand photos and I made copies onto DVDs and sent them home by mail. In fact I did a lot of sending home using the post office. The if it fits it ships thing is pretty much the same in Germany as the US. When I purchased souvenirs at a large store I had them ship it home for me. That way I didn't have to carry it and it was insured so it could be replaced if lost or stolen.
I tend to not pack things that would identify me as an American. In fact I typically don't pack shirts when I travel. I buy a couple after I arrive so I blend more with the local populace.
When I was out walking around I didn't carry a wallet, just my passport and medical insurance card. I carried cash in an inside zippered jacket pocket as I was there in the winter. I used my debit card to get money from the ATM when I needed it. Your ATM card will open the door to the bank if it is closed.
I carried a 12.2MP P&S camera in my pocket along with a table top tripod. I used this setup in low light situations. Disable the flash, use a two second delay which acts like a cable release. I was able to get some really great shots. I had also a big tripod but couldn't carry it on so it was in my suitcase. I had it disassembled so it would fit into my suitcase and every time I went to baggage claim it had a tag that TSA had opened up to check my bag's content.
You can get some great meals at the local deli / butcher. Not as expensive as the restaurant and great food to boot.
November 10, 2011 10:50 pm
Great article, but how are you paying 3-4 euros for water? Even next to the Colloseum in Rome you can buy bottles of water for 1E (half a liter).
November 10, 2011 09:16 pm
Great article James,
We spent a month in Europe last year and some thing I found really helpful was the online photography community. I had seen a photograph of Sacre Coeur (http://devwijewardane.blogspot.com/2010/11/basilique-du-sacre-coeur-paris-france.html) which I really liked and wanted to take a similar shot myself. Unfortunately I couldn't find where the photograph was taken from! I thought I'd try my luck online an wrote to one of the photographers. She got back to me almost straight away and sent through a lot of helpful information. It turned out that the photograph was taken from a roof of a particular building. If she hadn't told me this, I would never have been able to figure it out.
November 10, 2011 08:31 pm
Your tips are VERY valid....VERY! I'm living in Europe for few years and I've learned the hard way with these same issues! Now fun! iPhones are major issue with the whole unlocking etc to use in Europe. What a pain! And having Google maps is very important...ever been to Paris...uh yeah! Thanks for the tips! I'll hold them close as I continue my travels!
November 10, 2011 07:37 pm
I am interested in your point about photographing the airport in Madrid.
If I tried to go anywhere near a transport building of any description with a camera, here in the UK, security would have a fit and my feet wouldn't touch the ground as I was being ejected! I know mainland Europe is a lot more relaxed about photography than my paranoid little island, is it really that relaxed in Spain that you can simply set up a tripod in a public building without any authorisation?
If so I might just give up on the UK and do my city shots on the mainland!
November 10, 2011 02:12 pm
Enjoyed your article! I, too, have been lucky (so far) with not losing my digital photos (however, a couple of times in years past, I wound up getting home without one or two rolls of "film"....remember that?). I take photos of everything when I travel......300 to 600 or more a day. Most of my non-photography addicted friends think I'm nuts. However, I MUST say that those photos are instrumental in bringing back so many more memories that I could possibly actually ever "remember" without some form of reminder. I upload my photos to SmugMug galleries (I usually do my trip in "Days"....Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, etc.). Then I send the links out to friends and family who may or may not be interested. I can't tell you how many people come back at me to tell me how much they enjoyed "the trip" and that it was almost like they had been there themselves. Also, many of these people have never been to these places and many will never get there. In some ways, I feel like I'm providing a nice "service" to lots of people I know.....and I enjoy doing it. :-)))) BTW.....can you recommend a reliable external drive? That's one thing I do not have......yet.
November 10, 2011 01:42 pm
I agree re pickpockets in Italy. Especially bad around tourist spots and public transport. We have had locals there point out pickpocketers to us on buses. You do not feel threatened though, it is more of an art form in Italy rather than the muggings you may have in other countries, you just have to be aware. I have travelled extensively over 45 years and, although coming close to being pickpocketed in Italy a few times and in Singapore in the old days before it was sanitised, have only had some salt stolen from a slashed pack on a 3rd class train in India (what's valuable can be relative). In saying that though I find India to be a lot safer than Europe and Indians a very honest race even if some are still very poor. Great images by the way!
November 10, 2011 01:28 pm
I spent 3 weeks in Italy last year and this is all excellent advise. Although I might add that if you are willing to go the more costly route it is worth it to get a package from your cell phone provider that allows your internet to work there. I did that and even went over my usage and they were good enough to call me and wipe out my $500 of overages if I bought another package...so worth it. Love your picture of Riomaggiore - I rented an apt. right on that dock with the same view!
November 10, 2011 11:54 am
Beautiful images. Tip #9 is important. You never know when you need extra batteries & memory cards.
November 10, 2011 09:47 am
Hi from Spain James!
Just two points about Europe Specially about. Spain:
1- there's hundreds if not thousands of locals unknown places to shot, behind every corner, so almost 90% are out of your sight. I recommend to ask in photo forums of each country. There are a big Fellowship with foreing photographer here in Madrid, for example in canonistas.com and nikonistas.com ( you may figure the reason of their names).
2- The risk of pick-pocketers is REAL, even for locals, but only in hotpot places for tourism, like Las Ventas in Madrid, Ramblas in Barcelona and Plaza España in Sevilla. Otherwise, people should be helpfull and collaborative in the rest of the country.
3- the tripod. You were lucky. I worked in and airport here in Spain, and almost 100% of tripod had to be checked or leaved behind. Spanish airport security staff are very estrict about ANY kind of blunt objects.
Hope you enyoyed your visit to Spain.
November 10, 2011 09:23 am
I am about to leave on my third tip to europe in three years. This trip I will not be seeing everything through a camera lens.Yes I am taking a slr and a single lens ,but plan to use them sparingly. Much to my wife's relief.
November 10, 2011 07:55 am
As far as first class travel is concerned, I'd definitely recommend it on longer trips (over 2 hours) where reservations are not mandatory. More leg space, no passengers standing because they haven't booked a seat etc. On shorter distances where all seats have to be booked in advance, it is a waste of money to pay for first class.
November 10, 2011 07:14 am
"can’t a picture just be nice without having to figure out if it’s HDRish or not?"
Is there a problem with trying to figure it out ? I mean we're on a photography website. I guess the HDR feeling comes from the use of micro-contrast and also a rather unnatural result. Nevermind the details, I just wanted to say, that probably like Andy, seeing these particular photos can't help some people but wondering about the post-processing that has been made.
November 10, 2011 05:08 am
By the way, I never felt unsafe in Italy either. I found without exception that the Italians in the restaurants and in the stores were the most charming and pleasant and generally happiest people I've ever encountered in my travels. And this was after high season, when you think they'd be sick of us tourists. I know a bit of Italian but they were always perfectly willing to switch to English when I wore out my vocabulary.
I wandered around alone late and night and early in the morning all over Italy with expensive cameras and never felt unsafe. But I wouldn't leave a bag of cameras or a suitcase unattended, in Italy or anywhere else!
I stayed in incredible Monterosso four days before the floods.
November 10, 2011 05:02 am
We were also in Italy in September of this year and we had the same experience you had with the iPhone. Had it unlocked, but it was still useless with an Italian SIM card. We bought the iPhone specifically for this trip. Fortunately it was still useful for the GPS app we had purchased and we had our itinerary in the calendar. Phone calls, internet - USELESS!
November 10, 2011 05:01 am
Hi James! Great article. I wish I had read it before we went to Europe in September. We travelled from Greece, through Italy, then France before finally ending up England. It was an amazing trip, full of great memories. And you are right about saving. We thought we had put enough away, but three weeks there just about did us in. We are still trying to recover financially, and we did it on the cheap! We mostly stayed through accommodations we set up using http://www.airbnb.com (amazing service, highly recommended).
I made the mistake of using 10 megs of data via roaming and ended up with a $300 surcharge on my monthly bill!!!! I got the carrier to cut it in half but man...what a ripoff!
I really didn't want to lug my 7D around, constantly worried it would be stolen. So I decided beforehand to leave the big boy camera with our friends in England while we trekked across the continent. I only had my iPhone 4 with me, and took a bunch of pics using Pro HDR, Camera+ and a couple other apps. Was pretty impressed with the quality! All of the pics with the exception of the last 9 were taken with my phone:
You can only really take a certain type of picture with a cell phone, but if you stick within its strengths you can get quite good results. Enough to fool and impress your non-photog friends, at any rate.
November 10, 2011 04:23 am
Totally agree on your article, very well put! I was also in Italy this September and also felt like I had to be "on my guard" in the Roma Metro and the crowded places in Venice, but isn't it like that in any other part of the world? I'm mexican and almost felt home there :)
Is there any website where we could see the photos from your trip? My biggest regret is that I do not have a wide angle lens (had to switch to the kit lens for those) and missed a tons of shots :(
Another tip is to make sure your SD memory does not have any faulty sectors (like mine) - even that I could see the photos in my camera, some RAW images were corrupted!!!!
November 10, 2011 02:33 am
great advice - one of the things that I learned was that one needs to have a permit to shoot "Artistic Pictures", at least in Rome. The No tripod Cops will be nice and give you a warning, but after that, who knows. Try to use natural stabilization, like trees, rocks, ledges etc! Works pretty good even with HDR. Or buy a Joby Gorilla Pod, pretty dicrete and effective as well!
November 10, 2011 02:33 am
Please, dear foreigner who come to my country as tourist, please: do not ever in the world buy water bottles in bars around the centre of the cities. Go to a minimarket (I think you call them "grocery") and buy them there. With 3 euros you can buy 6 bottles of 1.5 lt. There are minimarket all around, just ask some locals if you cannot find them. Italians normally cannot speak a good english but are very kind with tourists.
November 10, 2011 02:31 am
Thanks for the interesting article.
I would like to warn you about one thing though : 2.) Don’t Check Your Tripod.
Two times now I was refused to keep my tripod during the security check (both times in France, Nice... where I live) :
First time it was a standard tripod, I had to go back and check it in.
The second time it was a mini tripod with extensible feet, here I decided to have them store it until I come back (still had the large one- in my suitcase this time).
The security guy told me that these are the current regulations, but that they would probably be changed soon (to allow tripod on planes).
Maybe it is specific to France... anyway beware, if you are short on time, it might be annoying to have to go back to the checkin counter.
November 10, 2011 02:27 am
Jim, great article. Italy is a wonderful place to visit and take photos. If you only need a phone, Verizon will lend you an international phone for free. You only pay if you use it and for the shipping to have it sent to your house. You transfer you wireless number to the phone and thus if anyone calls you on you wireless phone you will get the message. About the internet, check with your local provider to see if you can receive your email in Italy. Our local email provider was blocked and thus we could only receive our gmail. Another alternative is to have your email forwarded to your gmail account. 2 weeks in Italy and we had no problems. I used a money belt and always keep my camera close to my body. Thanks for the helpful tips.
November 10, 2011 02:26 am
Really great tips for photographers in Italy. Thanks! But just to reiterate the point Carold made above: water in Italy should not cost you 3-4 euros!! In Rome and many other places it's completely free and delicious at the many communal water fountains. In Rome, the water comes directly from the old aquaducts and is safe and delicious (just remember to carry an empty plastic bottle).
November 10, 2011 02:12 am
James i forgot to tell you that you have been lucky to see 5 Terre that is one of the nicest places, because i don't you if you know what happened in this day in italy.
A big flood submerge all.
Try to do a search on youtube writing 5 terre. It's amazing. You are lucky.
November 10, 2011 02:09 am
Thanks Marco, will do! Don't worry though. I felt very, very safe 90% of the time there. The only places I had to be on guard were the train stations and any form of public/mass transportation. Milan was the worst though as there were groups of thieves trying to 'help' us buy our train tickets. One person would come up and ask if we needed help and then his buddy would come from another angle and things could have gotten bad quick. We had to be very stern with them and tell them to leave us alone immediately.
November 10, 2011 02:05 am
I'm italian and i'm very sorry that you and your camera didn't feel safe in my country.
I can tell you, that sometime also if i0m italian i have the same sensation. :-(
Next time i suggest to find someone using one of the many social network that live in the country you are visiting, so he can bring you in the best not touristic places, and in the best place to have dinner and pizza :-)
Next time you come to Milan, contact me.
November 10, 2011 02:00 am
Mooniak - I think maybe you need to smile more often. Don't be so grumpy :-). In no way, shape or form did I convey in my article that people in Italy should speak English to cater to my needs. That's ridiculous and absurd. I simply stated that it would have been very difficult (almost impossible) to walk 45 minutes through the streets of Venice without a map. You're right, can't believe I don't learn the language of each country I visit ;-)
Jorge - Never have run into any problems with my tripod as a carry-on but I have heard similar stories. I think it's all in how you act with it. I don't ask if I can bring it on the plane and I don't act concerned as to whether or not I can carry it on. I just walk onto the plane and stow the tripod in the overhead compartments. The tripod I used on my trip is a Manfrotto carbon fiber tripod (3 section) with a pistol grip ball-action head.
November 10, 2011 01:54 am
I have always carried my tripod with me on the plane
I just wonder if you had any problem at airport with the security checks? Because I've heard many stories of people not being allowed to travel with the tripod as it would be considered a "weapon".
What kind of tripod have you travelled with? And that includes the tripod head?
November 10, 2011 01:52 am
"had we been forced to rely on locals trying to understand our language."
... how about next time, you try to learn some of the local's language, instead of assuming that when you go to a foreign country, everyone is supposed to speak English to cater to your needs?
November 10, 2011 01:52 am
It's a threat in Europe and Italy especially! Don't ever take your wallet out in a crowded area and then proceed to show all the pickpockets where you store it. Also, keep only the $ for one day in your wallet, and keep the rest in a safe place such as a money belt under your clothes. Keep your bank cards, credit cards and $ in different areas so if one is stolen you are not completely without.
A great tip for travelling to Italy is to take one of these with you: http://vapur.us/
the .5 litre size is perfect. It folds up when empty and there are water fountains all over Rome and most other places in Italy where you can fill up on the go. My guide was taken with this bottle because you can't buy it in Europe so make sure you buy it here.
November 10, 2011 01:44 am
nice compilation of tips James. I have to agree about Madrid's airport, I was there earlier this year without my tripod and took a bunch of snaps, but all handheld. It's a fabulous spot for sure. I also just upgraded my backpack to a Think Tank Streetwalker Hard Drive, and I love it. Looking forward to using it on my trips to Europe next year. Great tips, thanks! GReat shots, too, I especially love that first one.
November 10, 2011 01:37 am
I spend quite a bit of time in Abruzzo, Italy, sometimes travelling around using a rented car and sometimes using public transport.
I read your article with interest and I think you make some very valid points, especially when you suggest time without the camera – you have to smell the roses!
I think being able to keep your valuables in sight wherever you are is a good policy and in unfamiliar environments you should plan ahead to achieve this. I’m not familiar with travelling around the US with camera gear so I expect I’d be as wary there as you were in Italy. Crime exist the world over and in the same way you can be unlucky with your valuables you can also be very fortunate. I think of the time I left a bar in Italy forgetting my camera, returning later to find it waiting for me.
Not checking in the tripod could backfire. Again in Italy, I tried to carry the tripod on as part of cabin baggage and security felt it was too dangerous an object to allow through. I had to go back to check-in and try to get the tripod placed in the hold which they wouldn’t allow unless I shrink wrapped it. This happened in 2007 and security may have relaxed since then, but it’s worth considering. Oddly on the way to Italy I had no problem bringing the tripod on board.
On the subject of smart phones unlocking is crucial, but failing that doing research on available Wi-Fi spots might get you over a hump. There are plenty of apps and sites that can give you listings of public Wi-Fi spots in your area. Obviously that doesn’t work if you are on the move.
Thanks for the post, I enjoyed reading it and I really like the photos. The Cinque Terre/Genoa/Liguria region has been hammered by rain in the last few weeks with Monterosso and Vernazza particularly badly hit.
For those of your readers with fond memories of the region be aware that there is a relief effort set up and you can find out details here http://italychronicles.com/cinque-terre-floods/
November 10, 2011 01:15 am
True Andy, but it happens more frequently in crowded areas of Italy and other parts of Europe as compared to the rest of the world. No none of these images are HDR, can't a picture just be nice without having to figure out if it's HDRish or not? :-)
Damian, just get a camera in her hand too and then she will be hooked. Then you can stop to take a photo and she will stop too!
November 10, 2011 12:45 am
Great article James, and I particularly agree with No. 8 'spend some time without your camera'. Earlier this year I visited New York and Boston and whilst I loved wondering around taking shots, I found that my brain was always switched to photography mode so I don't think I relaxed or took it all in as much as I would have liked. Also, it drives my girlfriend crazy when we have to keep stopping. I end up having to rush a shot, then run after her to catch up :)
November 10, 2011 12:30 am
"Getting pick-pocketed in Europe is a very real threat [...]"
To be fair, I would say this was a threat anywhere, not just in Europe...
But anyway, nice article with some handy tips, and some nice photos (they look kind of HDR-ish?)
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