Friday, 15 June 2018

Travel Photography Tips

The church in Assisi - St Francis' churchAh summer... Warm weather, sunshine - and travel.

Perhaps you are planning a trip this summer, and of course you are going to take your camera with you. Apart from simply being fun to shoot everything in sight, photos have a way of taking us back to those places long after we are home, reminding us of the good times we had and somehow making the whole experience more "real".

But carrying a lot of gear with you when you travel is simply not an option, and if you are like me, selecting which equipment gets taken along can be difficult.

Recently I had the joy of travelling to Italy for a week and although it rained every day, I still enjoyed creating images. I also made some notes to share with you for your own travels - tips on what to bring and what to do.

1. Make a list: and make sure that EVERYTHING is on it. Don't forget the little pieces that can easily get left behind. It can be expensive to pick something up when travelling. For instance, do you have the little clip that attaches your camera to the tripod? Did you remember your camera strap?

Tourists with their Cell Phones at St Peter's Basilica
2. Pack light: These days, cameras are not as heavy or cumbersome as they used to be, though we can be tempted to take more gear. Selecting the right equipment is important, but selecting a lighter alternative may help you last longer through the days of travelling.

3. Small Cameras: You will be carrying the gear a lot, so small is good. Consider a GoPro instead of a HandyCam, or a Mirrorless Rangefinder style camera instead of a heavier DSLR. Your back will thank you.

4. Don't forget your Cell Phone: Cell phones are important, of course, if you want to stay in touch, but these days they are so much more - use maps for finding places, use the web for information on places, use translation software to communicate. It is also a lot lighter than carrying around a heavy notebook to take notes on places you have been and things you have photographed. You can even dictate notes via voice!. Of course you can also use it as a decent camera. Cell phone cameras are pretty good for landscapes and vistas, and many have automatic stitching for panoramas and 360's that look fantastic on sites like Facebook - making it feel like you are standing back in that spot again.

360 Panoramic View at Assisi


5. Shoot Video Too: Most cameras now allow you to shoot video as well as photos. Don't forget to film some pieces of your vacation. Shoot yourself talking about the places you are in, telling interesting stories of what happened or talking to some of the interesting people you meet.

6. Pick a Flexible Lens: In most cases you will be photographing scenes where a wider angle lens is what you will need, but there may be some instances where you wish to zoom in on something further away. Taking one flexible lens with a good range will save you from carrying many, and if you must choose one end of the spectrum, err on the wider side.

Ah, Venice
7. Smaller Apertures: Again, you are likely to be shooting outside scenes that are wide and bright, so larger apertures are typically not required. That means you can take less expensive lenses which also tend to be lighter. Of course, for that really crisp image you will still need to carry some good glass. If you do want to use a large aperture or are shooting indoors, consider a "nifty-fifty" fixed lens that will be lighter in your bag and take up less space.

8. Sit on the right side: You are going to miss half of the view no matter which side of the vehicle you sit on. So when you are travelling and want to shoot some photos out the windows, sit on the right hand side - or the left side in countries such as England where they drive on the left. That way you won't get the other side of the highway in those pictures.

9. Wear a hat: Not only to give you shade from the sun to keep you from getting exhausted, but with a big enough brim it will shield your camera from the rain without you having to hold an umbrella. It can also help you to shade the view screen on your camera when you want to take a peak at what you have captured.

10. Attach your lens cap: Get a handy strap to attach your lens cap to the camera. It is easy to drop a loose lens cap when changing lenses or simply uncovering it. If you are unlucky enough (as I was) to drop that cap in a place where you cannot retrieve it, you will have to buy another one to protect your lens. If you have a spare, it's a light piece of equipment that can be tucked in the side of the bag, just in case.

11. Stay Organized: Remember, you will get tired on your trip. When you are fatigued, you will start to forget things - not to mention you are probably on vacation and don't want to be worrying too much about anything anyway. So stay organized. Keep things in a certain place and always put them back there - that way you will know right away if something is missing.

Room with a view.
12. Capture the details: You will point the camera in a lot of directions, but there are still things you might miss. Take photos of the front of your hotel, of the bus, of your tickets, and lots of other details. You may find those interesting references when you go through the photos later. When you visit monuments, they usually have plaques or brochures explaining the history or some interesting information - take a photo of these as well. That way you don't have to keep all that paper but you will still have the information recorded digitally. Oh, and you did take a photo of your passport to keep on your cell phone, right?

When you get back, you may be overwhelmed at the number of photos you have taken. Relax, take a break from those for a while and when you've recovered, take your time sorting them and culling them down into the ones you really want to keep - it will be like going on vacation again.

And when you've got them organized, why not create a book? There are lots of sites where you can put together a book showing off your trip. That will be something you will treasure and might even be something you would like to pass on to your family some day.

Sunday, 8 April 2018

Getting Sappy in Elmira

Elmira Maple Syrup FestivalGary's Lens Photography is based in Elmira; a cozy little town just minutes north of the city of Waterloo. Among the many interesting things about Elmira is the annual celebration of Maple Syrup now running for over 50 years - since 1965.

Maple Syrup FestivalIn 2000, the Maple Syrup Festival was recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records as the world's largest single day Maple Syrup Festival with over 66,000 people attending - almost 10 times the population of the town itself.

This year (2018), there were over 2000 volunteers, including entertainers and vendors of all kinds. The scouts set up a log sawing display and brand the piece you have cut from the log with a maple leaf. You can visit the toy display, attend the pancake flipping contest, meet the Mayor, watch a magic show, pet some animals, and of course take a tour of the sugar bush to learn how maple syrup is made.

The Mayor in the Pancake Flipping Contest


Maple Syrup Festival And what festival would be complete without lots of food. There are fajitas, turkey legs, sausages, deep fried mars bars, apple fritters and of course pancakes - most of which you can douse in maple syrup. If you prefer to be more traditional you can have maple taffy - fresh maple syrup poured out on snow.


If you haven't had the pleasure of attending the festival, be sure to look up our little town and come visit. If you aren't able to make it to Elmira, Ontario in April each year, have a look at some of the photos of the festival; 20122014, 2015, 2017, and 2018,