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Traveling is one of the most exhilarating experiences for any photographer. The idea of exploring new locations, cultures and going on adventures with our camera ignites our creativity. But preparing for a photography trip can also be a daunting task. Lugging heavy gear, scouting locations and tackling logistics can diminish our morale. And most importantly: it can make or break our goal of capturing that special shot.

When dealing with new challenges, preparation is key to a successful photography trip. The perfect example? A trek I embarked on to photograph an active volcano in Stromboli with La Sirenetta Park Hotel and Stromboli Adventures. I had never captured an erupting volcano before. That’s why having a plan of attack was essential. Curious on how you can do the same? Embark on a journey with me (pun definitely intended) to discover how to best prepare for a travel photography trip.

Bring the Essentials

An important decision when packing for a photography trip is how to choose what gear to bring. While there is no definitive answer, some key questions to ask are: “What kind of trip am I embarking on?” “What do I want to shoot?” and “How much of this gear will I need to carry on my back throughout the trip?”

Generally, the extent of your project determines the gear you should bring. For a professional assignment, always take the “better safe than sorry” route. In contrast, a casual photography adventure provides you with a little more leeway.

The lenses, tripod, and accessories you pack depend on the type of photographs you intend to shoot. Various scenarios requiring different gear may include: a multi-day landscape trek, cave diving excursion, ice-climbing adventure, camper van road trip, or a hotel stay. Generally, I am a firm believer that over-prepared is better than under-prepared. Yet, travel photography is much simpler when you only bring what you need (your back will thank you later). Having said that, you can never have enough batteries, SD cards, chargers, or disks to backup your files. So, make sure you get those in that camera bag!

For my trip to Stromboli, I packed my gear for the thousand-meter trek up the island’s volcano.  That’s why the main focus was on keeping my gear light, yet functional. To expand my focal range, my equipment included three Fuji zoom lenses covering a total focal length of 10mm-140mm. For long exposures of the eruption and the island’s seascapes, I also brought a travel tripod, a range of ND filters, an intervalometer, and a sturdy backpack with a belt buckle to support me during the trek. 

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Test Your Equipment

One of the set-in-stone rules of any trip is to always test your gear before departure. Thereby, you can make sure that your technology is in tact and no components are defective or missing. 

If you are purchasing or renting gear for your trip, make sure to get it well in advance. This way, you to be able to go out and shoot before traveling.  Especially when renting a second camera, make sure it is from a brand that you have had experience with. Different manufacturers have different ergonomics, button placements, menu designs and playback responsiveness. Learning a new ecosystem during a trip is frustrating. Even worse: it may result in missed photo opportunities.

Before jumping on the plane to Stromboli, I had purchased new ND filters from HAIDA for my long exposures. Testing them out may seem trivial to some of you compared to purchasing a camera. Even so, it was important to see their function in different lighting conditions, apertures, and shutter speeds. This way, I ensured that there was no vignetting, tinting, or light refraction when taking long exposures. 

Do the Research

Researching a destination before traveling is vital to creating successful content. By noting down locations of interest, you can create a daily shooting schedule and decide on what gear to pack. Discovering local festivals, ceremonies, and celebrations that are taking place during your trip is an added bonus. Some research sources that I’ve used in the past include:

  • Documentaries

  • Guidebooks

  • Online research (Google image search, Google Earth)

  • Travel forums

  • Local guides

  • Social media

Studying up on your destination is also an effective way to learn about any permits, visa requirements, location access restrictions, and cultural customs you need to pay special attention to. For my trip to Stromboli, I discovered I could only access the volcano’s crater with a professional guide. That’s why I collaborated with Stromboli Adventures to ensure safe (and legal!) access the volcano.

Explore the Hidden Corners

With all the planning involved, it’s easy to overlook that exploring a destination can often result in the best photographs. This was the case during my stay at La Sirenetta Park Hotel, which provides luxury accommodation for adventurers. 

The white suites located on the black sand beach offer many hidden corners. For example, little alleys, stairways, and passages for curious photographers. Particularly the hotel’s architecture, accessible landmarks and friendly culture made the experience worthwhile. The view and access to the Strombolicchio is especially exciting. Moral of the story: preparing is key, but exploring brings unexpected surprises.

So, (begin drum roll!) are you ready for your next photography adventure? If the answer is “yes!”, see my post about 5 Stunning Photo Spots in the Bavarian Forest and pack those bags right now!

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