What is this article about?
You’ll spend quite some time in cities throughout your trip around the world. Here are some tips to get the most out of them.
Check out my other related articles here.
Who is this article for?
This article is not for experts but neither it is for beginners (if you don’t know what exposure, ISO or aperture means, I guess this is not the right article for you). I mainly target enthusiast photographers who wish to hone their skills while travelling for a long time. In other words, those who are willing to invest a lot of time and (unfortunately) money to bring fantastic memories from this once-in-a-lifetime trip.
In cities, I use my 35mm 90% of the time and my 70-200mm to capture details. 35mm is sometimes a bit too long for skyscrapers but I couldn’t carry yet another lens (see discussion here).
Enable profile lens correction in Lightroom before tweaking the perspective.
Use your rain cover to hide your camera in places that don’t feel really safe.
If the place is not safe, bring your compact camera instead. I used my camera at night only a few times in South America when I thought the place was safe (a good example is Cartagena). Otherwise, in most places, I avoided carrying around all my equipment. This is when you’re happy to have a compact camera that get decent results in low light.
Food and restaurants
Carry a compact rather than a big DSLR, which is sometime a bit weird sitting on the table of an upscale restaurant… The downside is that at f1.8, you often blur most of the plate. With smaller apertures, you’ll end up with pretty noisy images. But for me, flash isn’t an option, especially on white plates.
Churches and museums
Use a wide aperture lens to avoid using flash. This is where I find my 35mm f1.4 the most useful. I often remove the polarizing filter and I’m able to get great shots in low light!
Get everything setup before entering the museum. Most museums in South America don’t allow any photography. It turns out that nobody is going to ask you to put your DSLR in your bag. So the trick is to be ready: remove the filter, widen your aperture to something between 1.4 and 2, use the quiet shutter mode if you have one (Qc on Nikon cameras), etc. Be sure to stay at the back of the group and be the last one to exit the room. In China, it’s a different story: there are many guards who will immediately spot you before you can even take a single shot.
Use your 35mm for someone you know and a 70-200mm otherwise. You’ll probably do quite a few portraits of your companion during your trip. I often use my 35mm as it’s not a problem to take a shot 1 to 2m away for her. However, if you’re planning to take shots of locals, go with 200mm unless you’re comfortable enough to ask someone if he/she doesn’t mind being photographed. If you’re as shy as I am, you can also use this recipe: stand, pretend to shoot something, then wait for people to go in front of your lens (it’s a bit like shooting birds 😉
Set your camera to dynamic autofocus since people will usually be moving.
Give someone your compact camera, not your DSLR. Asking someone to take a picture of you is something you’ll end up doing a few times, and that you may stop doing after a while. No matter how I explained how to focus with my DSLR, people would tell me that they know how to use “a” camera and would inevitably miss the focus. I’d suggest to either give them your compact camera or phone, or maybe set a small aperture. Nothing ideal.