Wanderlust.  (n.) A strong desire or urge to wander or travel and explore the world

The dream

Travelling & photography are two things I absolutely love to do and I had been dreaming about this particular trip for some time, nine years to be exact.  When I jokingly told my husband (then newly-wed) that for our ten year wedding anniversary he should take me to Italy I didn’t think it would actually come to materialise.  Ten years seemed so far away.

Well, we blinked and when we opened our eyes we had successfully changed careers, traded the big city life for a more slow paced life in the country.  We had created three little mini-me’s and BAM! it was time to start planning for a trip we promised ourselves a decade before.  Besides the obvious excitement of international travel, I was especially looking forward to the myriad of photographic opportunities that awaited me.

Statue at the Vatican Museum
Mount Etna, Sicily, Italy

Time to pack

I was adamant to travel light, my suitcase and hand luggage was organised neatly, but I still had to decide which photographic gear I was going to take with.  A few years ago we spent a month in the USA and since I was travelling with a toddler I decided to leave my “big” camera at home and travel only with a small compact – a decision I regret to this day.  (I got some pretty cool shots but almost cried when I stood at the Grand Canyon with my CoolPix). So, in an effort to avoid further tears I opted to take my Canon 5D MKII, 24mm -105mm, a UV filter, 2 memory cards & spare batteries, all squashed neatly into a tiny little camera bag I could throw over my shoulder.  I made my husband carry my “real” hand luggage, a backpack filled with 90% of my things and 10% his.  Thankfully he is big, strong & obliging.  So, off we went.

Cathedral in Catania, Italy

Veni. Vidi. Fotografato.

Italy in the summer is hot, not Kate-Moss-hot but you-are-on-vacation-in-Durban-in-the-middle-of-December, hot.  There were many moments I wished I just used my phone for taking photos.  It’s simple and easy when you are pushed for time, just as good as a “real” camera and you can upload it straight to Facebook & Instagram…  however I am eternally grateful that I carried that uncomfortable bag around. Not only making me look like a typical tourist but even with just one lens I was able to capture most of the images I wanted, especially in the “no flash” zones which are so popular in museums. It’s always challenging to photograph famous landmarks & landscapes in a way it hasn’t been done before, so to me, the devil really is in the detail.  It helps you to experience more than just the monument/museum/mountain/structure itself.

Catania Waters Italy
Isola Bella Beach, Taormina, Italy

So, herewith my pearls of wisdom when travelling:

1.  Interesting texture & colour combinations

Interesting textures and colour combinations force you to look attentively at a scene.  Museums especially, can sometimes be a tad drab but there is always some texture, if not colour.  Try and get a good variety because let’s face it, none of your friends want to look at hundreds of photographs of the same statues, monuments or paintings.

Fountain outside the Garden of Oranges, Rome
Inside the Vatican Museum, Italy

2.  Patterns and Different Angles

Previously dabbling in a bit of engineering, industrial to be specific, I tend to find patterns soothing and orderly.  I naturally look out for patterns wherever I go and I find it makes good photographs as well.  Trying a new angle can also help to add some energy to an otherwise bland image.

Photo of the outside of the Vatican Museum, Italy, taken at a unique angle

3.  Ordinary Moments

People tend to look for that WOW- shot but I have come to realise that everyday life can be quite extraordinary too.  There’s something about people going about their business, unaware that they are being photographed, not in the creepy way.  It gives a more authentic view of where you are and even though I try and be in some of my travel photographs (you know, the mandatory “I-was-here” shot) I really do prefer to photograph the locals.

Photo of a street in Italy taken through the window of a restaurant
Fresh food market, Catania, Italy
Two young boys, working in a fish market in Catania, Italy
Men at the fish market in Catania, Italy

4.  Get in Closer

What goes for photographing babies, goes for travel photography too. If you love travel, chances are you know what most world famous landmarks look like. And while it’s good to get your own copy of it, I find that zooming in allows you a more personal look. Zooming is also a great way to cut out the gazillion other tourists also there to take the same photo.

A photograph of grapes on a vine on Mount Etna, Catania, Italy
A photograph of beets at the local produce market, Italy

5.  When in Rome

Sometimes you just have to let everything go and photograph that landmark, like it has been done a million times before.  Forget about the rules!  How the light is not quite perfect and how you should have brought your tripod.  Just take the photo.  It shows you were there and everyone who travels needs that proof.  See it as mandatory documenting.

Majestic statue at the Vatican Museum, Italy
Bustling streets in Rome, Italy

Keeping the above in mind I have always come back with great memories of all my trips.  Of course, when your main goal is to photograph, your gear set will look different, but unfortunately someone has yet to pay me to go and document famous landmarks. Researching the area you are visiting as if someone is paying you is also a good way to prepare and make sure you get great images to remind you of your travel experiences. At the end of the day, don’t get stuck behind the viewfinder, remember to experience the moment too.  In today’s Facebook & Instagram crazy world we sometimes forget to just enjoy the moment and not share it with all your followers.

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