Women on the Road NEWS #50

Do you ever walk around with your camera and then smack your forehead when you see someone else's shot - I should have shot that! It happens to me often enough to be irritating. I'm not a great photographer but I pride myself on my 'eye' - until it lets me down.

This edition isn't about formal photography advice; I've provided plenty of that elsewhere at Digital Travel Photography, Beginners' Photography or Travel and Scenic Photography 101.

No, this is much more mundane. As I walked the streets of Genoa happily snapping with my new toy (a Lumix LX5 point and shoot, which takes terrific photos - you can read the reviews on Amazon), I noticed a few things about the way I was taking photographs, good and bad. What follow are just common sense photography tips I put together as a result of that trip.

Women on the Road NEWS: Contents for Issue #50

Common Sense Photography Tips

Turn around
That's right. You're so busy shooting what's right in front of you that you neglect to turn around - and miss what could be the better shot as you see the same thing from a vastly different perspective. This was brought home to me along Genoa's Via Garibaldi. I was unhappy with the light and as I turned around, a brilliant shaft of sunlight illuminated the building right behind me. What a difference that made!

Watch where you're going
This piece of advice flows naturally from the preceding one. If you turn around and start shooting what you just passed, don't walk backwards to do it. You may discover a lampost in the way, not to mention curbs, bricks and people you might not have known were there.

Use the wrist or neck strap, dummy!
That dummy is myself, having managed to lose not one but two cameras because I was so cool shooting one-handed. One of my cameras is swimming with the whales in the St Lawrence River somewhere, and the other is communing with Romans in the Coliseum (bending over to take a shot without tethering your camera is not recommended). This time around that wrist strap was firmly - around my wrist.

Remember, people move
After lining up that near perfect shot, the lovers in the distance had the audacity to move! I had forgotten people do that. So set your camera on automatic and try to learn to 'predict' a shot - if you're in a beautiful location and need people in your shot to give it perspective, don't wait until they're where they should be. Shoot before, during and after. With digital it's easy.

Look for patterns
Patterns through which to shoot can give a blah shot an amazing symmetry and depth. Look for gratings, fences, trees, arches and railings - anything you can look through to shoot your subject. Just be careful of your Auto settings, which might focus on the frame rather than the subject. You may have to do this on Manual.

It's all in the details...
As I learn to take better shots I also learn to get closer - much much closer. I don't take a statue anymore (other than to situate where I am) but I take a curved hand or the corner of a saddle. I often fill the frame with incredibly colorful clothes, textiles, foodstuffs, metalwork - and recently, with a shop windowful of scissors. Just keep shooting closer and be amazed at the texture of your shots. Or be like me during a trip to Africa, bemused at a dot in a sea of green which turned out to be a zebra in the savanna.

Keep your camera handy
This bit of advice may sound trite but you'd be amazed at how many travelers take a shot, then put their camera away in their daypack... only to take it out again minutes later. Moving and removing your backpack isn't a good thing, and not having your camera at hand - or better yet in hand - isn't good for your photography. If it's small, carry it around in your hand. If it's a DSLR, use the neck strap. But don't end up shuffling through your bags as the best shot of the day passes you by.

Don't be stingy
For those of us old enough to remember 35mm (or larger) film which cost a chunk and even more to develop and print, shooting non-stop doesn't feel natural. I still have this ingrained thrifty reaction that pushes me to take only one or two shots but get them as right as possible. Getting the shots right is great, but it's a lot easier if you take plenty of them, experimenting with angles and lighting and distances. Digital photography is free. Keep shooting and don't be stingy. All it means is you'll have to spend more time sorting them afterwards. Worth it, no?

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The Bookshelf

101 Tips for Women Travelers

It's embarassing to admit but I didn't expect much from this little booklet, written by Harriet Lewis of Vice Chairman, Grand Circle Travel so when the hard copy arrived I was pleasantly surprised. Not only are her tips solid - and in several cases unexpected - but the small book is framed by historical anecdotes about women travelers. You can order a FREE copy by clicking the link above. However, at last check you could only do so in the US so if you live elsewhere and want a copy, write directly to Michelle Briand, Web Community Manager at gctforummoderator@gct.com and tell her Women on the Road sent you.

The Art of Solo Travel: A Girl's Guide

If you're getting ready to travel solo for the first time but don't quite know how to go about it, this feisty, congenial and smart e-book that will tell you everything you need to know to get out the door and on the road. Find out how to save for your trip, break the news to your loved ones, take care of those last-minute jitters, and even how to deal with coming home. It's short, light and to the point - no padding like so many other e-books.

Video 101: Tips and Tricks for Awesome Visual Storytelling

If you love moving pictures and want to make travel videos you can be proud of, maybe you need some advice from THE expert: that would be my friend Lisa Lubin, a television journalist and producer who has won THREE Emmy Awards for her broadcast work. Her book is incredibly straightforward - no fluff at all, just the facts: figure out your story, make it human, plan your video ahead of time, use interviews, write for pictures and edit it all together... it's all in the book. So are some priceless checklists to make sure you don't forget a thing. Best of all Lisa traveled around the world on her own for several years and she knows what it's like to share brilliant videos with friends and family back home. I'm about to embark on video myself so I'm busy rereading her great advice.

Volunteering Opportunities

Once in a while I receive requests to publicize volunteer opportunities. Many of you are looking for them, and organizations out there need you. I'll publish them here occasionally but be aware that in no way do I endorse these organizations, nor have I vetted them in any way. I am simply publishing their contacts so please do your own research online if you want to volunteer with them.

Zigma Cultural Institute in Brazil is looking for volunteers who can teach children and communities English, sports, arts and other activities. Contact Jose Enrique in Belo Horizonte.

ChangeStream Media is a Seattle-based nonprofit that produces media with grassroots development projects and entrepreneurship worldwide. They've put together a few packages and projects for interested voluntourists. Contact Laura Brewer.

Volunteer Latin America provides free and low-cost volunteer work opportunities in Central and South America, as well as referrals to good Spanish and Portuguese language schools. Contact Stephen Knight.

Volunteer4Africa is a nonprofit organization with a database of opportunities to volunteer in Africa - emphasis on low-cost volunteering. 

For more on volunteering, read Volunteer Work Overseas.

Travel News from across the Web

7 Common Travel Guide Euphemisms and What They Really Mean
NYT Travel Show: Best Travel Tips
8 Great Alternative Budget Vacation Ideas
10 Ways Technology Will Change Travel by 2020
7 Travel Gadgets to Pack for a Solo Trip Abroad
20 Ways to Cut your Expenses, Grow your Bank Balance and Have Money for Travel
Solo Travel in the Caribbean
Customs to Know Before Visiting China
Fun, Food and Friends
How to Travel on a Special Diet
7 Worst International Aid Ideas

For food lovers...

Chocolate Addict Meets Master Chocolatier in Ecuador
Learn to Make Pho from Locals
Top 10 Bars in Seville
Delicious Vegetarian Food in Turkey
Jiro's Legendary Sushi Bar

...and lovers of other arts

The 20 Most Beautiful Bookstores in the World
15 of the Best, Small, Quirky and Unusual Museums in the US
A Poem to the People
Sea to Shining Sea: A Tapestry of American Music

Destination Travel

Cambodia's Sweet Spot
The Search for Culture in Cusco, Peru
10 Reasons to Visit Ghana
The DRC You Don't See in the News
Solo Travel to Sri Lanka
6 Truths and a Lie About Belarus
Chamonix and the Majesty of Mont Blanc

If You're Visual

The Train from Zagreb to Belgrade
Istanbul Through a Pinhole
The Canals of Amsterdam
Photographer of the Month: Gary Randall
China, Pagodas and Photography
Get to Know Jamaica Through Little Ochie
Finding Oregon: Through Six Months of Time Lapse

And finally...

How Not to Welcome Tourists

Cause of the Month

The Sahel: One million children at risk

More than one million children in Africa's Sahel region are at risk of dying from severe acute malnutrition. The region, in West and Central Africa, faces a triple threat of drought, expensive food and political instability but UNICEF believes they can still be saved with enough funding - about US$ 120 million - and quick action. So far only 32% of these funds have been raised.

UNICEF has launched a social media campaign to raise awareness and funds to save these children's lives.

Drought is not new to the Sahel, a belt of arid land that stretches across Africa below the Sahara Desert. This latest crisis affects eight countries, from Senegal on the Atlantic to Chad. The rains have failed, people are hungry, and they're beginning to sell what little they have just to eat. Parents are taking children out of school and are selling their cattle.

The million children are part of the ten million people now endangered by the crisis.

To find out more and take action:

Donate to UNICEF to help
Sounding the Alarm: UNICEF TV
World Food Program: FAQ on Hunger in the Sahel

Next Month in Women on the Road NEWS?

Spiritual travel - meditation, yoga, and many other ways to become zen on the road


© Leyla Giray. All rights reserved. Women on the Road News is published monthly. Reproduction of any material from this newsletter without written permission is prohibited.