The most frequently asked questions here are all to do with managing the photographic process while travelling. What camera to take? How to edit on the move? How to keep precious photos safe from the thieves and scallywags?
Last week we had occasion to put our usual advice to the test. We weren’t headed for New York or the Himalayas, just over the border to the state next door. We certainly were not venturing into territory noted for its lawlessness so we didn’t even bother with insurance but it was nevertheless an opportunity to think and plan seriously for photo management.
The camera we took is our go-to travel snapper, the Olympus OMD E-M1. It is relatively small and light but has every feature needed, including the amazing keystone correction in-camera that straightens up the converging verticals of buildings. We anticipated taking photos of a few buildings, and walls leaning in make us nervous.
The Olympus has one of the best WiFi connectivity setups in the business and it is a breeze to connect the camera to a smartphone, in our case the Google Nexus 5X. At the end of the day we backup the photos from the camera to the phone for editing and sharing. The Olympus Image Share app, which also provides for remote control of the camera from the phone, is available for both Android and iDevices and the connection setup is easy and only needs to be done once.
To keep things really simple we took only one lens, the Panasonic Leica-branded 12mm f1.4 which we happened to be reviewing at the time. With a film-equivalent focal length of 24mm this is a wide angle optic that imposed some interesting rethinking of framing and perspective. It is a compact and reasonably light lens that balances nicely on the camera and it is optically and mechanically superb.
We chose not to take a laptop computer or any other device that would add to luggage complications and weight. It was going to be one camera, one lens and one phone. All editing would be done on the phone. We were just a teeny bit nervous about this basic setup but we liked the idea of travelling light with everything fitting into one small Crumpler with room to spare.
If we had an iPhone the choice of image editor would have been easy – the editor built into Photos will do everything you could wish for. With an Android phone the choice is not so obvious because the editor in Google Photos is too limited in its functions and clumsy in operation, so we had to look for alternatives. We considered the mobile version of Lightroom which has the advantage of syncing with LR on the home computer. We tried Photo Director which we like because of its comprehensive suite of functions and some snazzy effects and well designed frames. And we also used Google’s Snapseed.
Snapseed is an austere app that is free for Android and iDevices. It sports a set of basic functions for brightness and contrast, rotation, cropping, spot healing, sharpening and geometric distortion (the converging verticals again). In addition there is a set of filters for effects such as lens blur, HDR, black and white, frames and so on. Editing is non-destructive with Snapseed saving the edited version as a new file. Once the edited image is saved – to Google Photos in our case – it can be uploaded to Cloud servers or social media sites such as Instagram, Flickr or Facebook.
For anyone travelling nervously amongst thieves and bandits (they are everywhere) the Cloud servers are a boon. As long as you have an Internet connection you can backup all photos from the phone to Dropbox, Google Drive, OneDrive or iCloud and you don’t need to carry any other computing or storage gear. Not all cloud services are born equal and it pays to compare the free basic allocation and the fees for additional space. The cloud is more secure than any portable memory hardware and weighs nothing.
And never forget: it has been scientifically proven that the photographer who travels light is the happy photographer.
[Camera: Google Nexus 5x – Image editor: Snapseed]