By John Virata
What to bring and how to pack it
When you travel with your digital camera and your digital darkroom, there are several things that you have to consider as you pack for your trip. How many memory cards to bring, what cameras and lenses to bring and when to choose the appropriate cameras and lens.
During a recent trip to the Hilton Waikoloa Village to attend the wedding of my aunt, I decided to bring my Canon Digital Rebel with the standard 35-80mm lens, and an additional 75-300mm telephoto for my nature and scenery type shots, as well as a Kodak V550 5 megapixel digital camera for more candid shots. I like to shoot this way because a lot of the times, you want more instantaneous shots, which the Kodak V550 provides, rather than more composed shots, which the Digital Rebel excels at.
Most folks who have a digital SLR camera also have a point and shoot digital camera, so don’t forget to bring both on your vacations, especially if you are going to the Waikoloa Village because the resort is an absolutely beautiful place and you can shoot hundreds of pictures each day.
Packing: What to bring
In addition to my cameras, I brought along a Sony VAIO with 1GB RAM for downloading and editing the images. While some may forgo a laptop computer due to packing restraints or a desire not to bring the laptop, I believe it is one of the most essential items to bring along to document your vacation. Not only can you see pretty instantly what you shoot, but the laptop gives you the opportunity to shoot again if you are not satisfied with a particular shot, and the business center at the Village charges $5 for 10 minutes of computer use, not including CD/DVD burning capabilities. Bring the notebook because it will greatly enhance your photographic endeavors.
Packing the cameras
The Digital Rebel was packed off in a Lowepro TLZ 1 digital SLR bag. The camera with the standard lens fits perfectly. The 75-300mm lens was housed in a Quantary soft case purchased at Ritz for $5. The Kodak V550 was housed in a soft case as well, a Samsonite softcase for compact digital cameras. The Kodak and the lens were housed in a 20 year old Blazing Products camera bag along with the miniDV camcorder, and all the other accessories that I packed along for the trip; a Targus 2.4GHz wireless optical notebook mouse, a Targus Stow and go Keypad, Targus USB hub, and the 40GB Targus portable hard drive. These items, though not essentials, help tremendously when adding USB peripherals on a notebook that has limited USB ports such as the VAIO, which has three; when editing and resizing in Photoshop Elements on the notebook, the Stow and Go Key pad helps tremendously as you don’t have to peck the top row of keys on the notebook keyboard; and the 40GB drive is awesome as a second device to back up to. All of these items were packed into an old QuikSilver Stormproof backpack and carried on, not checked in.
In addition, when I brought the cameras out in public at the resort, I transferred them to a soft sided cooler bag for two reasons. The cooler bag is water and sand resistant and it masks the fact that you’ve got $1000’s in camera gear in the bag. The potential for thievery is greatly diminished when your equipment is hidden away in a bag designed to carry the day’s lunch.
Multiple memory cards are absolutely essential. For this trip I brought along a 512MB PQI Compact Flash card as well as a pair of 256MB Sandisk Compact Flash cards for the Digital Rebel and a 128MB SD card for the Kodak V550. While there are memory cards in 1GB and higher capacities, I tend to avoid these cards for two reasons, the expense, and the inability to quickly back up a full memory card to CD. The 512MB cards are perfect candidates for quick CD backup. The 512MB card was used primarily for capturing in RAW format, while the 256MB did double duty for RAW and JPEG capture. It may sound crazy to swap out the cards when changing from RAW to JPEG, but that is just the way I do it. Most pros recommend to always capture RAW. Since I am not a pro, I don’t subscribe to that practice, but probably should. Another note, don’t forget to install the drivers that came with your camera. I failed to do that on this trip and didn’t want to go hunting around for it on the Internet. And because we didn’t rent a car on this trip, I called my sister on Oahu to stop at the local camera store to get a card reader before she flew in for the wedding.
Photoshop Elements was used to help photograph this trip because of two especially essential features; the capability to review and edit RAW format files, and the price. You can’t beat both. The Photoshop Elements RAW window is virtually identical to that found in Photoshop CS, and the price of the image editor can’t be beat. It is by far the most powerful image editor for the price, and does absolutely killer as a workhorse editor while on the go. Most of the images I captured on this trip will probably not even see the more professional Photoshop CS application.
It offers everything a traveling digital photographer might need and besides you are composing your shots the first time right? Well, at least for me, most of the time the shots were composed right. Hawaiian lighting can be challenging, especially when caught up in the heat of a wedding at sunset. This is where Photoshop Elements will hopefully help to save some of my images. So far, a good 88 to 90 percent of the 5GB of images I’ve captured are just fine and will not need to be tuned up, while the other 10 or so percent will need some serious tweaking.
Shooting the Hilton Waikoloa Village
The middle weeks in August are brutal for the workers at the Waikoloa Village as the resort runs at what one employee said was 200 percent, so when is the best time to shoot the village? It all depends on what it is you are going to photograph and when you wish to photograph it. For me, there were several features of the resort that I wanted to capture, and these features were best captured with minimal people around. So I went with early morning jogs around the resort with the Digital Rebel in tow. Lighting, the most important aspect to consider when shooting outdoors, is almost always good in the mornings and late afternoons. I was able to shoot the sunrise over the golf course as well as shots down the halls and around the pool area when these areas were empty of people. I was able to shoot a lot of the sculptures and art that can be found around every corner of the resort, as well as the tea house that sits on the water. I shot some nice images of the big Buddha that sits on a point, facing the lagoon. All of these shots were attained early in the morning without the thousands of people who crammed the areas just a few hours later.
The next best time to shoot the Waikoloa Village is at sunset. Most Hawaiian sunsets are absolutely gorgeous and the ones I shot were nicely framed with palm trees in the foreground. Sunset is also nice because there is no glare on the water, just soft glows. You can compose some really nice shots and silhouettes, as shadows lose their sharp edge. For these shots I used the Digital Rebel. Shooting the rest of the day involved the V550. This camera really works its magic in more candid situations with family and friends throughout the day. You can also bring the camera on the boats that take you to the different stops on the resort, by the pool, and near the ocean and you don’t have to worry so much about composing the shot. You can just take the shot. I shot several hundred images with the V550 because it was very easy to use, was more inconspicuous and it fit into my shirt pocket.
So how successful were my three days of photographic bliss? For the most part, shooting the Waikoloa village was very successful. With the exception of several sunset shots, most the shots I’ve reviewed so far are good to very good. A few, perhaps 30 to 50 or so I think are really excellent. All the accessories I brought along worked really well, and the weather was perfect. Two things really vexed my shooting capabilities; the absence of a memory card reader on the first day and the lack of a second battery for the Digital Rebel. I was contemplating a second battery purchase before I embarked on this trip and came to the conclusion that a second battery will be purchased before the next trip, whenever that may be. The memory card reader was just a stupid mistake. The Sony VAIO is a relatively new purchase. I just forget to install the drivers, so the added expense of the reader was necessary. The next notebook purchase will hopefully have a built in memory card reader other than Memory Stick. So on the next trip, I am going to remove all the contents of the camera bag and ensure everything is accounted for. A check list will be the first thing I consult.
This article appears on DigitalMediaNet.com