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Vacation Photography on a Budget, Plus Shooting Tips

It’s almost time for my annual Spring vacation. As I’m starting to sort out what gear I’ll take with me, I remembered how I experimented last year in travelling light. On my trip to Cuba, I packed very light. Traveling with Sunwing gives you a very small amount of luggage allowance, so I decided to travel with bare-bones photo gear. I brought my Canon 7D II, the kit lens (18-135mm IS STM), my 50mm 1.4 as a backup lens and my Yongnuo 565EXII.

I have a lot of lenses and several bodies to choose from, so here’s the reasoning behind my choices:

-The 7D II offers dual-pixel auto-focus, high-resolution and a pop-upflash. The flash can be used as a master for the 565 EX II. The built-in flash is the worst choice in most situations when used by itself, but it sure is handy when it’s the only one you have with you.

Canon 7D Mark II (image copyright

-The 18-135 IS STM is paired with the 7D II to complement the body’s video capabilities. It has a really useful zoom range, the aperture isn’t too slow (3.5-5.6) and the image stabilization is really effective.

Canon 18-135 IS STM (image copyright

-The 50mm 1.4 was basically just there for backup, in case something happened to the other lens. I never used it. It was my choice for a backup because of its diminutive size.

Canon 50mm 1.4 USM (image copyright

-The Yongnuo 565 EX II was my choice because of its cost to replace…about $120. I left my 5 Canon 600EX-RT’s at home, because of their $600+ price tags. I figured that if I dropped it after a few too many rum punch and it broke, I wouldn’t cry over simply throwing it away. These flashes aren’t worth sending back to China for repair. Treat them as consumables: when they break, chuck ‘em!

Yongnuo 565EX II

Another valuable piece of gear that I purchased for this trip was a Circular Polarizer. It was in a set of three filters in the Polaroid Optics 3-Piece Filetr Set from Amazon and cost @$25. The only filter that I used was the CPL. This filter greatly increases the contrast in scenes, makes the sky much bluer and the trees and grass greener. I have other, much more expensive filters but purchased this one again for one reason: price. I could also treat this as a disposable filter, but thankfully didn’t have to.

Polaroid 3-Filter Pack

Results using a Circular Polarizing Filter (CPL):

Cuba 2015 ~
Cuba 2015 ~

My usual settings for outdoor photos in sunlight are:

F11, 1/200th, iso 100.

If you use a circular polarizer, you may have to open the lens up to F9 to make up for the reduced light coming through the CPL.

Shooting Tips

When shooting portraits outside, I always use flash. (This is for planned portraits of course). Have you ever wondered why your little pocket camera seems to take better pictures of people outside? Because on Auto-mode, pocket-cameras almost always use fill-flash. This little touch of flash puts a nice highlight in the subject’s eyes and fills in shadows on the face.

Cuba 2015 ~

This photo was taken in open shade using fill flash.

Canon 7d Mark II, 18-135 STM IS, F4, 1/200, iso 400, 24mm

I usually bring along a pocket-camera, point-and-shoot if you will. I purchased a Canon D30 last year and returned it right after I returned. I felt bad about returning it, but the picture quality was abhorrent. It was invaluable for snorkeling shots and movies while swimming with the dolphins.

The only problem with it was that the sensor was very noisy. Even at iso 400, it was super grainy. In low-light shooting at iso 1600, the pictures were basically useless. I recently purchased an Olympus Tough TG-4. It shoots RAW and I'm a staunch supporter of shooting this format. The noise is much ore manageable while using the RAW converters contained in both Adobe RAW converter and Lightroom's RAW processing is, in my opinion, second to none.

For more information on Shooting RAW, head over to . Jared Polin has a huge amount of information to give to you including free guides on photography and general discussions.

If you can fit it in with the weight restrictions, try to add a small backup hard drive. I use an EYE FI MobiPro wireless SD card and upload images to the cloud from my iOS device as soon as I get back to the hotel internet. If all else fails, at least I'll have some JPEGs to work with. A Travel Router may be a good choice also, since you don't have to pay the hotel for numerous devices.

If you purchase the Adobe Photographers Plan, you can get Lightroom CC and Photoshop CC for @$20.00 USD. The only other program that I use is Portrait Professional 15.

I found a really cheap, light aluminum tripod in my old gear pile. It weighs about two pounds. It went into my checked luggage. Wiggly, but did the job. It's all about weight-saving. The crappy tripod, Chinese flash and a wireless trigger made photos like this possible.

Cuba 2015 ~

I had to use a super high iso on this shot as well as a higher-than normal shutter speed. You would normally drag the shutter and allow more light from the sky into the photo, but a storm was moving in and the winds were brutal, thus, the relatively high shutter speed. Not even close to one of my best shots, but I got the memory and that's all that matters.

Canon 7d Mark II, 18-135 IS STM, f4, iso 8000, @19mm

The Canon D30 was useful underwater, but I'm hoping that the Olympus Tough TG-4 will be leaps and bounds better.

Cuba 2015 ~

Cuba 2015 ~

The Olympus TG-4 is supposed to be able to get better skin colours...we'll see.

Lightroom Corrections:

Lightroom is my go-to software for my business. It has numerous tools, like Vertical and perspective corrections that are invaluable to me.

Here is a photo showing the before and after. Notice that since I'm shooting in manual, there's not a whole lot of correction to be done. Here, I used the lens and distortion correction on these, as well as a few contrast tweaks.

The trick is here is to get as far away as possible and zoom into your subject, losing as much lens distortion as possible. The cheapie CPL was used here also. I was almost all the way across the square when this was taken. The worst thing that you can do is shoot looking up at a monument or any architecture. The converging lines will be almost comical in their appearance.

That's all for now, next update from Jamaica!


Jeff / Prestige Photo

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