Travel Photography | The Right Camera Gear Does Matter

Istanbul | Turkey

© 2009 Wazari Wazir | Istanbul | Blue Mosque | 1/30 | f3.5 | ISO 800 | 18-70mm

Some photographers will say, gear doesn’t matter, it’s the person behind the camera that matter. A camera is just a tool to take a photograph, a camera is just an idiot box which can’t take a picture itself. Depending on who you ask that question you will get a different answer. If you asking that question to professional photographers who make a living with photography you will get a different answer than those who take a photography just as a hobby.

I want to talk about travel photography here, let’s just say that the only lens that you have is just 50mm lens. Yes you still can take a picture with that lens but you will miss a lot of photo opportunity. For an example the picture above, I took that picture inside Blue Mosque in Turkey, If the only lens that I have is just 50mm, I simply can’t show to the viewer how big the place is, I’m not using a full frame camera, so if I use 50mm here, my point of view will be like I’m looking through 75mm lens which is not wide enough to show what’s inside here. Even though I’m using 18-70mm lens here, I really hope that I have UWA lens or Ultra Wide Angle Lens, something like 10-20mm lens.

Another thing is, this place is quite small, because the center of that place is reserved for the people to pray, this is a mosque and not a museum. So if the only lens that I have is 50mm, I have to move far back to include everything which is not possible because there are a lot of tourist behind me. I can tell you, it was very pack with people, so having the right lens will make my job easier.

Travel photography is all about people and it’s surroundings, people and place. Having a wide angle lens is a must for every travel photographer and having a fast lens and a camera that can shoot at High ISO but still maintain it’s sharpness with low visibility of noise is a big help here. About the picture above I’ve to take few shot just to get it right, even though I set my ISO to 800, I still can’t use fast shutter speed to capture this picture. Using a shutter of 1/30 prone to camera shake, that’s why I’ve to take few shots just to make it right.

If I have a camera that can be push up to ISO 5000 and yet still maintain low visibility of noise, I can  use very fast shutter speed and confidently know that I will get the shot and not have to worry about camera shake. Gear does matter, it will make your job easier otherwise you will have to work a little bit harder which is no fun.

If you like landscape or architectural photography, taking picture of beautiful beach and beautiful landmark for each country, the right gear does matter also. Apart from having a good camera, another must have item for landscape photographer is a sturdy tripod and few extra filters like ND Neutral Density Filter or Grey Graduated filter.

So why travel photographer need those gadget, those filters and tripod? simply because if you want your picture to be beautiful, to have great quality, that’s the only way. It is hard to keep a balance between foreground and the sky without having a Grey Graduated or ND filter. ND filter will help to create a balance between the sky and the foreground so you will get a beautiful, almost perfect exposure. Without ND or Graduated filter, we have to sacrifice the sky if the foreground is the main subject and leaving the sky to be burn or washout.

I don’t want to write long post about Graduated or Neutral Density filter here, my point is having the right gear does matter depending on your photographic endeavor. If you like to learn more about ND filter, you can visit Singh Ray Blog.

Travel photographer rarely use flash to take a photograph of a people on the street and most of the time, they do take a picture indoor, inside a mosque, temple or inside someone house and most of the time also the light wasn’t so bright, dimly lit and having a camera with High ISO capability and yet still maintain low noise is a big help. Why don’t use flash you may ask?

Usually when travel photographer photographed people on the street they don’t want to get people attention other than the person they photograph. If you shoot with flash, the light coming out from the flash will get people attention, and they wanted to know what’s going on, this happen if you travel in third world country or less developed country. You really don’t want that kind of attention.

Same goes if you photographed inside a mosque or a temple where you don’t want to disturb people concentration praying or chanting their ritual there. You want to take a picture “silently” if possible. Using flash is a big No-No here. Another thing why most travel photographer rarely use flash even though in certain circumstances they can is because they want to maintain the environment there, they want to maintain the ambient light there, they want to maintain the mood that being presence there.

Sometimes the light that coming out from the flash can kills the mood. The picture may be brighter, well lit but the mood is no longer there. I’ve attend one of  Steve McCurry Travel Photography Workshop here in Kuala Lumpur and he said that almost 90% of his travel picture is taken without flash.

If you want to be a travel photographer, choosing the right gear does matter, we spent a lot of money traveling, a lot of money buying plane tickets, train ticket and definitely we don’t want to come back home with “average” kind of a picture. We want a very good quality picture that we can be proud of. Even though we take a picture as a hobbyist, a serious hobbyist will still need a great camera that they can depend on and I know many hobbyist photographer have a great camera than what the professional have.

The right gear does matter, it will give you more freedom to be creative, it will definitely gives you more photo opportunity and most importantly is to make full use of your camera capability. Having the right gear alone is not good enough if we don’t know to use them properly or utilize them fully. Just because every travel photographer use ND or Graduated filter, we must know why they use them.

Other than that, it’s up to you to make full use of it. The right gear does help in term of technical perfection but it all comes back to you about the composition, about your communication with the people you photographed and  the moment captured, but knowing that you have the right gear does open many photo opportunity.

Related Post : How To Choose a DSLR Camera


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