the joys of travel photography

fountains of Peterhof are one of Russia's most famous tourist attractions

fountains of Peterhof are one of Russia's most famous tourist attractions

I love to travel and have been lucky enough to do so. In the past three years, my husband and I have been to Berlin, Vienna, Prague, Rome, Venice, Saint Petersburg, Copenhagen and Amsterdam. Our family has traveled to Africa, Europe, Central America, Canada and throughout the United States. One of our favorite things to do is to take pictures of all that we see. And we take a lot of pictures! On our most recent trip we took over 1500 shots.

We have a loose system that works well for us. We each have a camera–different brand digital ones–and I have an iPhone. We often take the same scene with all three cameras and almost always take multiple shots of scenes that strike us. We take a few shots of each other in each place we go but the vast majority of our shots are of the places we visit. Taking pictures with the different cameras accomplishes several things. The pictures I take on my iPhone with a program called HDR Pro are ones I can easily email to people and post to Facebook. It’s nice to have the Facebook link because it allows our kids and our friends and other family to see where we are and what we are doing. Also, the iPhone pictures are easy to play with so those shots are often more “arty” looking.

Copenhagen's famed Tivioli Gardens at night taken with my iPhone

Copenhagen's famed Tivioli Gardens at night taken with my iPhone

My husband has a strong aesthetic sense and likes to set up shots. Many of his pictures focus on a tableaux—he will walk around a subject and look through his view finder until he finds the perfect composition. I like to shoot photographic memories—I see my pictures as a visual record of where we were, who we talked to there and what I think we will most recall about that moment. We often have two very different shots of the same thing. Additionally, when one of us takes a blurry or off shot, we have the backup of the shot on the other’s camera.

When we get home, we upload all the pictures onto my computer and then set down and cull them. Out of a thousand shots, we will pick less than a hundred to go into our digital “Best of…” album. I do three things with those photos. First, I give them all a text description. I write where the shot was taken, what it is and any ancillary information I think is interesting. So, for example, in a shot of the new wing to the Van Gogh museum in Amsterdam, I will write when it was built and what the common opinion of the very unusual building is. I often also put in things that happen to us when we were in that specific place.

Second, I upload the entire album to and cut and paste the descriptions onto the shots there. (I use Kodak because my whole family does and it easy to share pictures.) I then send these albums out to friends and family who are interested. Furthermore, having the pictures and descriptions uploaded to Kodak means I can show them to anyone anywhere as long as I have a connection to the internet.  This is nice when we are away from home and people ask us about what we’ve been doing recently.

Third, I make a photo book using Kodak’s easy software. For me, the days of printing actual pictures up and slipping them into slots in an album are long gone. I’ve been making photo books with Kodak for years and I truly love them. I make them for things other than trips. My extended family—we live all over—gathers together for one week a year and, each year, after that vacation, I make us all a book of our time together. It’s so much fun to look at the ones from the past and see how everyone has grown up (and in some cases, out). But my trip books are my favorite.

I spend hours on them, cropping the shots, making sure the information is right, and putting the photos in the proper narrative order. I often get the largest sized book possible and end up with books that belong on our coffee table. My husband, a physician, keeps copies in his office for patients to peruse while waiting. His patients love them and, when they know he’s been on a trip, ask when the next one will arrive! I also order four extra copies and put them away for my children. My grandmother made scrapbooks for all of her children and grandchildren and I see this as the modern equivalent.

my husband and the newer wing of the Van Gogh museum in Amsterdam

my husband and the newer wing of the Van Gogh museum in Amsterdam

For me and my family, our travel photo books are wonderful ways to remember the extraordinary experiences we’ve had in the places we’ve gone. How about you? Do you love to take pictures when you travel? What do you do with them when you’re home?

2 thoughts on “the joys of travel photography

  1. LeeB.

    I love this column Dabney! And I’m a huge picture taker while on vacation. I haven’t done a photo book yet but I have seen co-workers’ books and they are amazing. I use my photos for calendars — I print them up at home and use the comb binding machine at work to bind them. I give them out as Christmas presents to friends and co-workers.

  2. dick

    I’m not much of a picture-taker. My wife, however, takes pictures of everything and anything–while driving along in the car, walking down the street, sitting in a cafe. Sometimes, she makes me stop the car while she hops out to take a picture of a building or bush or bridge or whatever. She has earned, for me, a large number of honks from impatient drivers.

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