By P. Dale Ware
If you’re thinking about a photo vacation, you have some important decisions to make. What kind of pictures do you want to take on the trip? When and where do you want to go? And, not least important, how much are you willing to spend?
My wife, Pat, and I have faced these demanding but delightful challenges every year, so maybe I can give you a few tips that might make things easier.
Weather is one of the most important considerations in selecting an area to visit. If it’s too hot or too cold in a place you’re going, it may take the fun out of the adventure. Pick the time of the year when shooting will be a pleasant experience.
Another bit of advice: don’t go on your trip during the peak travel season if you can help it. You’ll pay more money for everything, and you’re likely to encounter a lot of tourists. Go during the off-season. It’s less expensive, and fewer people will walk through your shots.
Next, select the kind of trip that fits your budget and your photo preferences. If you’re a landscape photographer, guided tours and cruises may not be your best choice. Everything is very regimented and rushed on these. Besides being hurried, you never really get in close enough to the scenery on a cruise ship or in a bus. You have to get your shot quickly and move on with your group, or you’ll get left behind. A better trip for you would be one where you drive yourself. It’s less expensive than a cruise or a tour, and you’re not on a rigid schedule. You can take your time setting up a tripod and linger with your shooting as long as you want. There are no worries about getting those “sweet light” shots because time isn’t a factor, in most cases. You can scout your shooting locations in the middle of the day and go when you want to capture those beautiful sunrises or sunsets.
Triple A Auto Club is a good place to call when you’re planning a drive-yourself getaway. They have helped Pat and me immeasurably in putting together the few road trips we have taken over the years. We tend to lean toward cruises and bus tours. You get to save your energy on the way to a location and enjoy the scenery. Also, if you’re a people shooter like me, there are all kinds of photo opportunities on one of these trips. You can get great candids almost anywhere. Landscape photography is possible, too, if you adapt to the situation.
If you’re going on a cruise, pick onshore excursions that offer landscape possibilities. You’ll have to use a small tripod because it’s easier to carry and set up. Then, you’ll have to move fast when you see the shot you want. As for bus or train tours, try to pick one that has stopovers for two days or more. That way, you can rent a car and get off by yourself for some landscape shooting. Another type of trip we’ve taken is where you go somewhere and rent a house and a car. Pat and I did that for a week in Killarney, Ireland, a few years ago for about $1200. Using the house as our headquarters, we explored out in different directions everyday. There was no regimentation, and I took as much time as I wanted with photography. Because Ireland is a small country, driving distances were not great, and, at night, we returned home to the comfort of a three-bedroom, fully furnished house.
Making a decision where you want to go is always the hardest part of planning a trip. I’ve found that some useful tools are just as close as your computer. To find out information about your destination, enter its name and location in your search engine. You’ll probably discover more details than you’ll ever need about a place, including plenty of pictures.
If you’re driving, use the free Mapquest program (available on AOL), or its equivalent, in your computer to get mileage between the different points on your planned trip. Also, you’ll find tips on nearby parks, zoos, monuments, and places of interest along the way. When you’re ready to buy a ticket for a bus/train tour or a cruise, try using www.Expedia.com, www.Travelocity.com, www.CheapTickets.com or www.BestFares.com. You can’t beat these online services. If you surf the net a lot, or you’re a longtime traveler and computer freak, you probably know all of this stuff, right?
That’s OK. You’ve just practiced your reading skills a little more. What’s wrong with that?