Saturday, January 26, 2013

Picture Taking Tips on Biblical Site Tours - Part 1

Charles Savelle at BibleX has posted an excellent series on Picture Taking Tips for the Holy Land, Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3. [HT: Todd Bolen at BiblePlaces] You will want to read his full posts, but I'll simply bullet-point them here, and add some additional comments of my own. I'm not a professional photographer either, but I've been working on improving my photography, and I've taken enough trips and photos to have opinions and thoughts on the matter!

  1. Take pictures of signage. This is really helpful.
  2. Look behind you as well as ahead of you. And look up and down and to the sides!
  3. Don’t be afraid of having people in the pictures. In addition to the points that Savelle makes, remember that your trip is not simply a biblical / archaeological tour. It is also a cultural experience. Sometimes people can be the point of the picture.
  4. Decide why you are taking pictures. This is one of the most important points Savelle makes. Are you really going to want to look at all those pictures of rocks and ruins again? Is anyone else going to want to see all your pictures? What do you want to do with your pictures when you get home? Are you simply 'documenting' the site?
  5. Study what others have done. Great advice. It's another way to think about why you are taking pictures. With so many great pictures available for free on the Internet (do always check copyrights, but many really are free), is your time well spent trying to get a picture of something for which there are already hundreds of pictures? Or are you better off just observing and experiencing the site and the moment? People who aren't worried about getting pictures usually are a bit more relaxed and able to enjoy the site more!
  6. Ask the tour guide for suggestions.
  7. Have your camera ready and not tucked in your backpack. Indeed! I'll mention it again in point 11 below, but when I wasn't carrying my camera around, I usually was carrying my smartphone and could use its camera.
  8. Don’t forget to think small. Holy Land trips are basically large-scale affairs. Also keep in mind that the Bible talks about birds and flowers and insects. You might want to include these in your portfolio of pics. And the food! And the colors!
  9. Take more rather than fewer pictures. Yes, but delete and edit before you share them with others! I also recommend taking your pictures at the highest quality your camera allows. Yes, each photo will take up more space as a larger file, and thus you will need more memory cards, but it will be worth it. If you are really serious about photography, you probably know that you should be shooting RAW.
  10. Download and review your photos each night on a computer (if you bring one). This is hard to do when you are tired and have a busy schedule, but it is important. Savelle actually is talking about offloading pics from your memory card (in order to free space on it), but I think you are better off just downloading and leaving pics on the card. This way you will have a backup of your pictures if something should happen to the camera, the card, or your computer. Memory cards have become relatively inexpensive, so you really are better off just buying plenty of memory cards.
    Another option to consider is uploading your photos nightly to an online storage service like DropBox, SugarSync, Google Drive, or Windows SkyDrive. Of course using this option means that you are counting on having regular access to the web and the time to upload a few hundred megabytes of pictures each day.
    How much memory do you need? I probably take more pics than the average visitor, and on a two-week trip to sites in Turkey and Greece, using a DSLR 12Mp camera whose JPEG pictures were each about 5-6Mb in size, I took about 1800 pictures. (I.e., I averaged a little over 100 pics each day.) Total space used was less than 10Gb. A four-week trip in Israel ended up with over 3500 pics and less than 19Gb storage. [2016.11 UPDATE: I'm now using a better camera and shooting RAW pics. These are about 14MB/pic, so I'll be bringing more SD cards, but really my 64GB should be sufficient.] If you are able to back up your photos each day, you should consider just getting a 16Gb or 32Gb or 64Gb card and being able to keep all your photos for the whole trip on one card. If you won't be able to back up your photos, I'd recommend getting multiple 4Gb or 8Gb cards. That way, if something should happen to the camera or the card, you will at least have some photos still saved.
  11. Consider what you will do if your camera breaks on the trip. Yes, it happens. I have two backup plans. 1) I bring along my old 7Mp compact point-and-shoot which still does a serviceable job. 2) I don't use my smartphone for calling, but I can use the camera or video in a pinch.[2016.11 UPDATE: Smartphone cameras have really improved. They are also able to do all sorts of other clever things including easy panorama shots. I do bring a second camera body, but I also now do this because I have my walk around lens on the primary camera and a ultra wide angle lens on the other. I found that if I couldn't get the shot I wanted with my 18-135mm lens {27-207mm 35mm equivalent}, it was usually because I needed wider. When going with a tour group, one just doesn't have time to keep switching lenses.]
In my next post, I'll add some additional points of my own.

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