Trying to pack too many photos into too little time can result in photos of everything but few, if any, terrific shots. To document your vacation as well as taking some great shots for Dreamstime, you need to plan ahead. It's not just about getting the best airfare and hotel for your money. I'm going to write several blogs on vacation photos over the next month as we enter prime holiday time. You'll see that a lot of the information isn't about photography. It's about planning to maximize your photographic OPPORTUNITIES.
Don't neglect the standard research in guidebooks and newspapers. www.travelandleisure.com and www.budgettravel.com serve up the best tips from those two magazines. Many newish Internet sites are springing up to help you figure out not only where to go but also what to photograph. And in some cases, they connect you with others traveling to the same place or to the locals.
Beyond the huge booking sites such as Orbitz and Expedia for finding airfares, don't neglect the economy airlines such as Southwest in the US and the many European based value priced ones that aren't listed on the big sites. Visit www.etn.nl/lcosteur.htm for a list of all economy airlines in Europe.
My favorite for finding hotels is the old standard: www.tripadvisor.com combined with www.hotels.com. I find the hotel on Hotels.com and then jump to TripAdvisor read the reviews and get comparison pricing from five or more travel sites without leaving TripAdvisor. Before I book I go to the hotel site directly in case they have lower rates or specials. Nothing worse than spending your first few precious days in a location trying to get out of a bad hotel or trying to book a new one rather than taking pictures.
How to decide where to go and what to photograph? There is a plethora of sites to help you decide. Many of the following are either in Beta or don't yet have the critical mass of members to be useful for more than the most popular destinations but I report on them as they offer the possibility of giving you more than the standard fare. I have used either Seattle or Romania (and have used skylines and important building images from these places to illustrate this piece) as target destinations to find the best of the new sites for information important to photographers. I steered clear of all but one of the purely socially networked sites. Research is one thing but reading through hundreds of blogs that may or may not be pertinent to your trip is simply a waste of time. A full list of the sites I reviewed is courtesy of www.mashable.com/2007/06/22/travel-hacking/.
www.tripbase.com is in 'alpha' but I still found good information about Seattle. The site suggested The Pink Door as a dining spot. It's a favorite for the hipsters and young professionals in town and a good place to dine with a view. The site gets you started with a slide bar to indicate what you like: you can rate your intended plans by five categories including "nature" and "attractions". I noticed that more than just the tourist spots were highlighted. In fact one can eliminate "popular destinations" by checking a box. Images of popular destinations are important but remember everyone takes those shots so off the beaten path might yield some unique images.
www.matador.com has the most promise of the sites because of the depth of its coverage. It bills itself as people interested in travel, music & art, writing & photography, sports, and positive global development. But it failed both the Bucharest and the Seattle test. I did find out about the 2nd Annual Tattoo Festival in Borneo, however. Keep your eye on this one though because if they succeed, it will be a valuable resource.
Idealist.org suggests trips and opportunities to do good and travel at the same time. As a world traveler that has pretty much never taken a travel vacation, I highly recommend any trip that puts you in touch with the people and culture of a place from the inside. You'll hear about places and events that the tour buses will pass right by. (Although the best introduction for your first day anywhere is often the standard city tour.)
Traveling with children? Check out www.parentography.com but only if your destination is within the US.
Remember the best light is not during the heat of the day. Use that time for museum visits, naps or spotting around town to return at best light. Sunrise and sunset times worldwide are here www.cmpsolv.com/los/sunset.html. (Geez. Seattle on the 4th of July will have 17 hours of daylight. No wonder we have time for so much fun!)
Go back to the guidebooks and maps for a final review. Nothing like going past something that is visually significant just because you didn't know it existed.
How many times have you discovered an event that you would have loved to photograph but it occurred the week before you arrived? Do your event and holiday research at www.travelnotes.org/Events/07-jul.htm to avoid that disappointment.
Once you have made your reservations or plans, its difficult to do much about the weather. But you can try to determine the average temps and weather before you lock in dates. A very cold and foggy two-week summer house rental on the Northern Coast of California comes to my mind. 'Oh, said the locals when we asked why it was so bloody cold and dark, "its always this way late June. We call it June Gloom. You'll have to come back later in the year or go inland to get the sun". So we packed up everyday and went to the Napa Valley and environs instead of playing golf and swimming at our vacation house. Here's the best bet for world weather in several languages: www.worldweather.org/
Next time: How to plan to get great shots from a short trip to visit friends or relatives.