Photography in Europe: 2007
Which cameras, film, and gadgets work best for your travel photography. Any tips on getting the best shots? Carry a big 35mm camera or a point 'n shoot? Is a camcorder worth the trouble? What about digital cameras and flash cards?
- Please don't post questions here. Use our Travelers Helpline.
Gorilla pod - It's the NEATEST invention!
I bought the medium size Gorilla pod for my trip to Europe. Just got home, and it was amazing. Not only is it very light, but it works in every single place you can think to use it! I wrapped it around a fence at the Colosseum and got a great shot, used it on walls, etc. This thing is magic. I know others will tell you to take a bean bag, but you still need a flat surface to use that, and you can't angle your camera. The Gorilla pod has bendable legs that conform to any surface. The thing I love the most is it weighs nothing! Much less than a bean bag. I left it attached to my camera for a day at a time, it slips off, no need to screw it on and off. If you are a couple traveling, this is the way to go so both of you can get into a shot!
USA Sat 11/10/2007
If you carry a big DLSR or a point and shoot, the best lightweight tripod that I can think of is a regular bean bag. I carry one that is filled with Pinto Beans and can support the weight of any lens option I use. Comes in handy when you can't take a full size tripod into places like Museums or on difficult hikes.
I just throw it in my backpack and it adds no more than a pound.
San Diego, Ca USA Wed 10/10/2007
Recovery of deleted digital photos
Someone named Rebecca just emailed me and asked about a comment I had posted in April concerning recovery of accidentally "deleted" photos on memory cards. I replied to the email, but delivery failed, so I will post my answer here, hoping she will see it...
My husband used something called Smart Recovery, which is freeware anyone can download from the internet: http://www.pcinspector.de/Sites/smart_recovery/info.htm?language=1
As I understand it, as long as you haven't replaced the old images with new ones -- in other words, you can't use the card once you've "lost" the data -- most of the images can still be found on the card. Some of the pictures may be a little messed up and we were only able to recover about 85% of the ones I lost, but that's better than losing them completely!
He also said that if you have a brand name card, like SanDisk or Lexar, they have software designed specifically for their cards and you should be able to download it free from their websites.
Sacramento, CA USA Fri 09/21/2007
Using Digital Nikon D40
• Photo: This is not a commercial for Nikon, but if you do not have a camera, get a D40 digital camera from them. This thing takes you literally by the hand, and you end up with professional-quality photos. And if you have really no clue about photography, go online at www.nikondigitutor.com/index_eng.html for a "watch and learn" visual course that will bring you up to date. Also buy a 2-gig SD card, or two, for about $20/25 each, depending on the length of your stay. By the way, the Photo Station store at the Rue Cler does not transfer photos from your digital card to CDs anymore. They might refer you to another store, which, according to them, requires 3 days for the transfer. I tried. Besides, nothing happens to your photos as you cross the security area at the airport. Also, buy two extra batteries; each charge is good for 470 shots, or about 2/3 days. You also need a cable (must be made for European cameras; the metal in American cables heats up when subjected to European electricity) for the included charger, but it can only be found at a camera store (in Paris) that deals with Nikon, or perhaps a computer store. It is the same infinity cable (with figure 8 at the end) used for laptops.
• At home you can invite your friend to view your pictures as a timed slide show on a large size TV screen, but it should be LCD or Plasma; otherwise, the photos will have jagged edges, just like the early computer screens. For this you need a EG-D100 video cable, sold for about $11 on www.Amazon.com. Viewing our pictures on a fairly large size plasma TV gives us the impression of being there again. P.P.S. I came back with about 2,400 pictures. I hit many museums and took a picture of each id. tag that is placed next to the artwork. Just to remember. Get the picture!
Staten Island, NY USA Tue 09/18/2007
Container for spare batteries & memory cards
I carry my spare set (4) of rechargeable batteries and extra memory card(s) in an Altoids tin. Cut down the formed, plastic cover from a battery retail pack to create a tray (keeps the batteries from sliding around in the tin). One or more extra memory cards fit underneath the tray.
This protects the card and batteries and is easy to find in a backpack, etc.
Portland, OR USA Mon 09/10/2007
REALLY small tripod alternative
Here's a great little tripod alternative I have been using for over 25 years. Attach a sturdy string to a short 1/4x20 (I think this is the right size) bolt. Then attach to the tripod socket on the camera. Let the string fall to the ground, then step on the string as you hold onto the camera. Pull upward on the camera till the string is stiff. This will give you an extra stop or two in low light as well as stabilize the camera! Kirk
Oklahoma City, OK USA Thu 09/06/2007
Tiny camera, big impact
Being a fan of SLR cameras, but a bigger fan of one-bag carry-on travel, I bought a tiny Canon PowerShot SD800IS digital for our trip to Italy (and all my garden photos). I bought it 3 months prior to the trip and tested out all kinds of shots with it.
It has automatic, manual and scene settings, macro and zoom. It has a stitch capability for taking multiple shots to put together a panorama.
I had so much fun with my tiny camera, stowed in my tiny purse. I had a little pouch with extra memory cards and the battery recharger. The recharger is also tiny as the flat body plugs into the outlet without a cord.
I am totally impressed with the quality and flexibility. My travel photos are on my blog www.tourtuscany.blogspot.com.
There are also links to my garden blog so you can see how well it works with macro and the "foliage" setting - www.definingyourhome.blogspot.com
The photos posted are actually the "reduced quality" because the high-quality photos were 1-3MB each in size! The software is a snap for downloading and exporting the smaller photos.
Hope this helps.
Chapel Hill, NC USA Thu 08/30/2007
I have recently bought a Trekpod - a tripod that I use as a walking stick between photos. It has a special attachment for the camera which can mount the camera in seconds. Great - try it!!
Chico, CA USA Thu 08/23/2007
GorillaPod tripods! you gotta get one!
Gorillapod...that's that answer. I just bought one at REI for my trip in November. I'm going with my daughter and we both want to be in the pictures at the same time. This tripod will bend to attach to anything from a park bench to a fence..or stand on it's own 3 little feet.
They come in 3 sizes for camera size. I bought the middle size for $40 to work with my Sony H5 camera. Most people can get by with the smallest at $24 for their pocket sized cameras.
I love that the attachment for the camera screws into the bottom, then you just slip the camera into the tripod when you need to use it...no screwing and unscrewing each time - saves time!
These babies are very lightweight too, so easy to add to your carry on luggage.
USA Mon 08/06/2007
How do you get those jitter free shots at night or in a building interior without a tripod? How about this $1.84 solution?
I worked with a friend who sews to create a "beanbag" pad. This pad should be at least 1.25x the footprint of your camera, and 1" thick. It is made from water-resistant coated fabric purchased at a fabric store (think of the feet on children's pajamas) and is filled with foam microbeads. My pad is triangular in shape to help support the barrel of a lens. Nestle your camera in this, turn off your flash, and use the timer function. This is a great alternative when you don't want the weight of a tripod, or want to be more discreet. The hand's off operation will give you that clear night or interior shot. The pad's adaptable shape and thickness allow you to turn a stone wall, table, chair, or your backpack into a tripod.
Las Vegas, NV USA Mon 07/23/2007
We pick up some larger size envelopes from a drugstore card shop (ask for leftovers!) and used them to mail three postcards at a time to friends and family. It's easier and cheaper.
King George, VA USA Tue 07/17/2007
I used a small digital camera (Sony W200) that fit well in my shirt pocket. It was very inconspicious. I bought a small vinyl envelope at REI for $2 that fit in my shirt pocket and put the camera in that. Sweat wasn't a problem.
I chose a viewfinder camera but never used the viewfinder even once. You can frame a photo quicker and more accurately using the LCD screen (something I did not realize as a DSLR user).
I saw hundreds of tourists with digital point & shoot cameras but only 3 DSLRs in a month.
Vallejo, CA USA Thu 07/12/2007
Stick with Digital Cameras
Just came back from Western European trip. Used a new Olympus film camera and my pictures were not very good. Would recomend you use a digital camera 7 meg or more. you see results instantly. Also used a camcorder...I think it is definitely worth the hassle of bringing it. It will save your memories when you forget.
Orchard Park, NY USA Wed 06/20/2007
FOR THE LOVE OF ART DON'T USE FLASH!
To Kwong who was concerned about flash photography of the Mona Lisa. Do not fear, it is housed behind special glass that is resistant to the endless flashes.
But this does not mean that I agree with stupid people taking flash photography of any work of art. There is a reason museums prohibit flash--it dulls the surface and bleaches the color form a work of art. Your selfish flash helps rob future generations of seeing a work of art as it should be.
While visiting a monastary in Italy I saw a man taking flash photography in the crpyt of the mosaics there. Those mosaics had survived hundreds of years and a severe earthquake, but here was an idiot participating in their slow death. I asked him to stop (fellow american, unfortunately). He gave me a dirty look and told me to mind my own business. I reported him to the monks, who swiftly escorted him from the property.
Bottom line people, if you must sneak a picture, dont use a flash. You dont really need to use one with digital photography anymore.
Evanston, IL USA Thu 06/07/2007
What to do with all your pictures?!
Like most people, I have taken hundreds of pictures while traveling. Sharing these photos with friends and family, however, can be daunting. When I got back from my last trip, I went to www.photoworks.com and uploaded all of my photos. I made a beautiful hard cover photo book (including my pictures and captions) that is so easy to share with people. The quality is amazing! It was easy, fast and very reasonably priced. Plus, I was able to make my Christmas cards and order prints of my photos!
Seattle, WA USA Wed 06/06/2007
Lens & Camera
I have done some travel in Europe and on my first trip I took a small point and shoot camera and my slr camera with 2 lens 28-80 then a 70-200. I found the point and shoot did not help in areas that a flash could not be used On the slr I was constantly back and forth between the two lens which was taking up too much of my time. I now have a digital SLR and love it. I also take my 18-200. As I know this is a wide area and I give up some benefits of the other lens but on the other hand, I just change the ISO settings and away I go.
I also take large memory cards. I only had one time and that was locally here at home in loosing any pictures. I actually was able to retrieve them with the Lexar recovery. I just made sure that I did not format the disc. I also now have a small storage system - I have the Flash Trak and the CoolWalker in which I store the pictures just in case that I need to write over any of my cards for more pictures.
If only my 18-200 was a macro would be the ideal situation.
La Porte, TX USA Mon 05/14/2007
One tip I learned from a professional: Instead of carrying a tripod, screw a 1/4-20 bolt to the bottom of your camera. Tie a cord onto the bolt. When you want to take a photo, drop the cord to the ground, step on it with one foot, and pull the cord taut. This steadies the camera and helps you take sharp photos. It also attracts attention from curious locals, who will approach you and ask you why you are doing it. I've met quite a few people this way, and none of them seemed to want to steal my camera (or if they did, they were not successful).
USA Tue 05/01/2007
Point and shoot vs DSLR
I own both a digital SLR and point and shoot cameras. After some thought, I decided to only take the point and shoot camera and a "gorilla pod" tripod type gadget.
The big thing for me was idea of having this heavy thing around my neck that I would have to keep an eye on constantly for two weeks straight. It did not sound like my idea of fun.
So I bought a new point and shoot that cost about a quarter of the DSLR and was the same 6.0 mega pixel resolution.
The pictures were great! I got good
night shots using the gorilla pod.
I had a small camera pouch around my neck so I could almost always have my camera with me. And if it got lost or stolen, I would not be as upset as if
something happened to my DSLR.
Citrus Heights, CA USA Sun 04/29/2007
I love my Digital SLR cameras and have decided to always take a DSLR with me when traveling. Since I can only take one backpack when flying around Europe using the budget airlines, I only take my Canon XTi/400D and a small 50mm lens. I also take a pocket digital 7mp camera.
When I travel by car around Europe I definitely take a lot more camera equipment such as heavier lenses like the 70-200mm (over 3lb). I've never had a problem with anything being stolen, but I know better than to leave any high value item out in plain sight through my car windows.
Heidelberg, Germany, Fri 04/13/2007
I just wanted to say that having a large memory card is a good idea, but actually, having more than one card is an even better idea. While on a trip in the winter of 04/05, I was deleting a couple of obviously bad shots from my almost full card, when suddenly the camera started deleting ALL of my pictures! I tried everything, but I could not stop it from destroying my memories of London, Avebury Circles, Stonehenge, Paris (on New Years Eve), and Madrid!
Luckily, my husband, who is a professional photographer knew what to do. He told me not to use that card anymore and that when we got home he would find a way to recover the images. In the meantime, he lent me one of his extra cards so I could continue taking pictures of the rest of our vacation.
If he hadn't known that, I would have just cried and continued using the card -- making it impossible to recover the lost shots! As it was, when we returned, he found some freeware online that made it possible for him to recover about 85% of my photos! (My hero!)
Memory cards are so inexpenive these days ($20 for 2GB) that it is easy to carry more than one on your trips. I always carry at least two now -- especially since I have a new camera with a different type of memory card than he has!
Sacramento, CA USA Thu 04/12/2007
Photos in Europe
I took a big Nikon 35 mm to England, while my dad took a point & shoot Olympus. We took lots of photo of the same scenes and there was no difference in quality. I also use Kodak throw away cameras with much success. I also have a cheap panaroamic 35 mm which I used and it took great pix of the Eiffel tower and Notre Dame.
Depew , NY USA Mon 04/09/2007
Camera Protection Tips
Polly C: I have a cable lanyard that I've attached to my Camera. Since I have a Rick Steves' Day Bag, I can clip the end of the lanyard to the ring in the bottom of it, so that if any slick thief grabs it, they'll at least have to figure out a way to get it loose from the cable. It's long enough that I can ceep it connected to the bag even when I'm taking pictures. I also have a Creative Vision M 60GB, which I can connect directly to my camera each night and download my pictures to it. I can then keep my MP3 Player in the room safe and not worry about the safety of the pictures I've already taken.
Bellevue, WA USA Wed 03/14/2007
No camera but lots of photos
We've taken 3 trips to Europe-- 42 days mostly Italy, 9 weeks Spain n Portugal and last year, 5.5 months all over. We have never taken a camera but have loads of wonderful pix taken from Internet.
Paul n Sara
USA Thu 02/22/2007
Camera Thieves in Italy
I appreciate all the previous comments on using digital cameras in Europe. We will spend 3 weeks in Italy in May. I've been solely a film-user with point-and-shoot cameras for the past 40 years (amateur), but just opened the new box of my TINY Canon digital with 7.1 megapixels, which we bought specifically for this trip. I'm glad to have several months to practice this new style of photography, and will take to heart the many suggestions for battery, memory cards, and charger usage, as well as the specifics of composition and light in Tuscany. I especially appreciate the comments on keeping a hand on my camera at all times, as I have a frightening vision of a fast-fingered thief grabbing my camera and disappearing with a memory card full of MY MEMORIES. I'm planning to keep the card inside my Rick Steves money belt whenever I'm not taking photos (which is rare when I'm traveling). The recommendation of downloading onto CDs at local photo shops or internet cafes (no matter the cost or time used) will no doubt be the way to go for a worrier like me. If there are any other suggestions for keeping my little camera and card safe from thieves, I would greatly appreciate it.
Morro Bay, CA USA Wed 01/17/2007
I took a Sony W7 point and shoot 7.2 mega pixel camera for my ETBD Venice, Florence & Rome trip in December 2005. My photos can be found at the following address: www.imagestation.com/members/sivartkram
I used the same camera for the other albums (i.e. Scotland, London, Paris, Africa) at the above referenced site. While I'm happy with the Sony W7 camera, I am going to move up to a digital SLR with a telephoto lens as the smaller point and shoot camera is not well suited for wildlife photography, action shots or low light. But for an all purpose, carry in your pocket camera, this one is great. It also does a pretty good job of taking video.
NJ USA Sun 01/14/2007
It's about the lens size
One important thing to cover is the lens size. the opening that allows the light into your camera.
Too many of the newer digital cameras (read that as compact/pocket size) have a really small lens opening.
With a small lens you are limiting your shots inside buildings without a flash.
No matter what you purchase for a camera pixel size...think about finding a camera with the largest lens opening you can find, this will allow you better shots in all kinds of light.
My Sony H5 is a great camera. it's a big megapixel at 7.2, but I shoot mostly at 5. For the internet, I shoot at 2mp. - but it has a nice larger lens size. I have noticed that my photos come out clearer, sharper.
One other thing to think about when buying a camera for your trip....anti-shake. With the smaller cameras, especially if you shoot inside shots (churches, etc) the anti shake comes in very handy to keep that blur out of the photo. No way can you hold a camera in low light, shooting without a flash and get a great photo!
I'm totally an novice at photography, but I learn by reading, watching, and trying! I've gotten some really great shots. I really don't "overshoot", and don't have to delete a lot of pictures.
A great camera makes the photographer look good!
USA Thu 01/11/2007
My unsolicited recommendations
After many many years taking pics while traveling, I have these comments:
There are two basic types of photographers, those who are pros, semi-pros or view it as a serious hobby -- they want the best technical pics they can get. The other is the traveler who wants very good quality pics for memories.
If you are a pro, semi-pro or dedicated hobbyist, my comments will seem too simple and are not for you. I have my passions and I applaud yours! I was once one of you!
As a traveler I like to make a slide show of my pics so I can relive the trip on my computer, put the pics on my Palm to show friends and maybe print some -- regular size Walgreens or large ones on the camera store DIY machine.
If you are like me you will need a good point and shoot DIGITAL camera with at least 4 megapixels of resolution. The more megas the better but you will not see a huge increase in quality as the megapixels goes up. You simply are not going to use the extra as your pics/monitor are not large. More megapixels means better pics for 11 x 14 prints or murals.
Go to the camera store and ask lots of questions. Spending more $$ or getting more megapixels is not always the best way to go. Go to several stores. Look at all the cameras. Ask the old guy for recommendations. Take some pictures in the store and outside with the store camera and then ask them to burn them to a CD. Take it home and look at them on your monitor. Print some out at Walgreens. Do you like the camera and the pics? Now go to Steve's Digicams (http://www.steves-digicams.com/)and look at the review of the camera you like. Rugged and reliable? Doesn't break down? Do the pros outweigh the cons? Battery life OK? Can you live with the cons?
Do not buy the camera on Ebay unless it has a US MANUFACTURERS warranty. This is important. I usually pay an extra 10% by buying at the camera store but I get the US warranty, someone to answer questions and get advice. (I do not work for a camera store) Buy accessories (storage cards, cases, polarizing filters, etc.) on Ebay.
Get a camera that has an OPTICAL zoom that will go from 28mm (best) or 35mm (wide angle for landscapes) to maybe 100mm or more (slightly telephoto) Most pictures of people are best taken at 80mm to 90mm. Makes you move back which shows more of the sides of their faces and bodies which is better.
Look at the battery charger. Get one that says 120 volt to 240 volt. It will work on US 120 and Europe 240 volt. For Europe you will need an inexpensive adapter as the prongs you stick in the outlet are different.
Spend the money for a huge storage card. I just bought a 4 gig SD card on Ebay for about $50. I can take about 1,800 pics with this at a moderate (5 megapixel) resolution. Forget trying to transfer your pics onto a CD at an internet cafe. Expensive and takes too much time away from sightseeing. Been there done that. Also, if you get a camera that will take short videos, the large card will allow you to take some of these and still have room for lots and lots of pics. While the quality is not as good as a camcorder it is still acceptable.
Hope this helps.
Charlotte, NC USA Wed 01/10/2007
I've finally gone digital...
I also have given up on my 35mm cameras. I posted a very long and detailed essay abot a year and a half ago on this site that film photography is not dead and is of better quality than digital. That may be true for larger format film sizes but the digital cameras today are superior in many ways than film.
I brought both a high end film camera and older high end digital camera with me on my last trip to England. I didn't realize it at the time but I only took 40 photos with the film camera and the digital had hundreds on it. With the low cost of high speed memory cards now and the quality of digital I would not go back to film. The quality is as good or better than the finest grained 35mm film and the results can be viewed instantly.
For a nice point and shoot digital I would recommend the Canon SD series of cameras. I believe they go up to SD 600 at this time. For a more expensive digital camera that has the capability of switching lenses I would choose the Canon EOS 30D.
New York, NY USA Tue 01/09/2007
35mm vs digital cameras
I never thought I would let my 35mm SLR camera sit on the shelf for many months. I love my old camera because it's so versatile and brings out my creativity.
A few years ago I bought a digital camera just to have access to instant results of my photos. That's when the 35mm began its hibernation in my closet.
I still had good reason to use my 35mm for those shots that required special settings such as f-stops and shutter speed manipulations. With it I use a couple of zoom and wide angle lenses and special effect filters with starburst and gradient colors.
Since I don't want every photo made into a print, the digital camera is a great device to take photos and instantly weed out the non-keepers, so I print only a handful every now and then. That saves money over the long run since the film and printing expenses add up quickly to my photography hobby.
This past summer I wanted better resolution with more pixels in my digital photos for greater clarity, so I invested in a 6 mega pixel camera.
It has a lot of advantages than the older digital. It's very lightweight and compact and the photo is saved in a second or less, compared to several seconds for the older digital. In addition to the LCD monitor, the new digital has a viewfinder which really helps to frame an image when the sun obliterates the LCD.
One of many features in this new digital that the 35mm does not have is the option to change from a color photo session into a sepia tone or black and white tone. These two settings are very useful for taking the humdrums out of some photography sessions and actually can enhance the appeal of the photo.
A word of caution to anyone who plans to buy a digital camera and wants to download photos, yet has an older computer. I discovered this too late--my new digital software and the computer's operating system were incompatible. My old computer had an old version of MS Windows that didn't support the camera's download requirements. Therefore, I had to invest in a new computer rather than go back to square one.
There are many travel experiences I have captured with my 35mm camera and accessories. I wonder if I would have felt as satisfied using a digital camera for these photos that my trusty old 35mm captured:
* Zooming in and out on WWII aircraft at the Warbirds Airshow in Tulsa, Okla. * Telephoto of Big Ben in London, England * Wide angle of the Civil War battlefield at Gettysburg, Penn. * Polarizing filter for the Hot Air Balloon races in Reno, Nevada * Fast shutter speed for horse races in Hot Springs, Arkansas * Self-timer for a self-portrait at Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs, Co. * Time exposure for a night shot of the lit canal streets in Amsterdam, Holland
For my future travels, I plan to use my new digital camera that has similar features to my 35mm. But I don't want my old 35mm to gather dust any longer, so I'll take it as a back-up for the lens and filter choices.
My old 35mm camera may become a dinosaur someday, but one that has produced a lot of fun and creative photos!
Port Orchard, WA USA Mon 01/01/2007