Capturing memories on vacation

by Diane - June 10, 2024

As I write this blog I’m in the process of packing for my upcoming vacation to Scotland and England.   I love to travel and capturing my travels through photos is my favourite thing to do.  Having photos as memories of my trips can transport me right back to that vacation spot every time I look at them.  Taking photos is a given when I travel but what I struggle with is whether or not I should take my DSLR camera on the trip with me.  Should I pack it and lug it around or, should I just rely on my startphone to capture my memories?  I also have a small point and shoot with a good zoom.  Maybe that’s the camera I should take. 

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Do you struggle with what type of camera you should take on your travels?  It’s not an easy decision to make, is it?  Here are some things you might consider. 

Cell phones improve with every new version. The phone’s camera has come along way over the years.  They can take great photos and they’re portable so there are a lot of advantages to traveling with just it.  You have it with you all the time so it’s handy and allows better opportunities for capturing spontaneous moments.  It’s unobtrusive and is a great tool for street photography.  You can take photos of people without them even being aware.  Some cell phones also allow you some flexibility when it comes to setting your shutter speed or aperture. 

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I always seem to lean towards taking my DSLR when I travel.  However, it is heavy.  Add in my favourite lens (my 24-105) and the weight pretty well doubles.  I’d love to be able to travel with a carry on only but carrying my DSLR takes up a lot of space in my backpack.  This makes it almost impossible to limit my packing to a carry on.  Fortunately for me, when I travel with Brian, he’ll carry my backpack for me when we’re out and about.  I grab my camera from him when I want it and put it back when I don’t.  He acts as my sherpa which makes carrying my DSLR much easier.   

I do use my cell phone when I travel but I primarily use it for taking selfies.  I found that I was rarely in my travel photos so I bought myself a selfie stick and take it with me everywhere when I travel.   I have taken my  point and shoot as well on a few trips but I found that I rarely used it.  I would defer to my phone more than it.  I usually just leave it at home these days. 

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Every trip I take I struggle with whether or not to take my DSLR.  Life would be much easier if I just left it at home.  But, I worry that I’ll miss the perfect photo if I don’t take it.  I worry I’ll be disappointed with my photos.   As such I always seem to lean towards bringing it along.  It may not be the most practical choice but I’ve yet to convince myself otherwise.  I was hoping that writing this blog would help convince me to leave my DSLR at home and rely on my cell phone only.  But as I work through this I realize that I’ve only convinced myself that I will be disappointed if I leave my DSLR at home.  Maybe some day! 

The advantages with  DSLR or mirrorless camera are that it gives you the flexibility to use different lenses.  The quality is always going to better than your phone’s camera.  A DSLR gives you  more creative control over all aspects of the shot.    It allows you to shoot in raw giving you more flexibililty when editing.  However, they are heavy, take up a lot more room and require extra care.  Not only are they heavy to pack and carry on the plane, they are heavy to lug around every day. 

DSLR cameras will give you better image quality but if you’re capturing photos for posting on social media only, quality may not be a main consideration for you.  If you plan to enlarge your photos  or print them, then the quality offered by a DSLR may be the better option. 

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If you decide that travelling with your DSLR is the choice for you, here a few tips to ensure you do it carefully.  DSLR cameras are not cheap so keeping it safe while you travel is paramount. 

 Tips for traveling with your DSLR 

  1.  Separate the lens from the camera – decide on what lens or lenses you want to travel with and pack them individually.  It’s safer if your lens is detached from the camera when you’re travelling with it.  Ensure you have caps on both ends of your lenses to protect the glass and the contacts. 
  2. Pad well – Keep your lenses in separate packing sleeves or materials ensuring they are well padded so that they are protected should they jostle around in your backpack.  Also make sure your camera itself is well padded. 
  3. Carry your camera and lenses with you in your carry on – You pay a lot for your camera and lenses so keep it within your eyesight at all times.  Do not pack it in your checked luggage.  It is more difficult to protect it when it’s in your suitcase.  Also, it’s too expensive a piece of equipment to trust that it won’t get stolen if out of your sight. 
  4. Lenses – If you can, pick one versatile lens to travel with.  Limit the amount you have to carry.  A lens with a wide zoom is always a good choice.  I travel with my 24-105 lens.  It gives me lots of range and is versatile enough to capture all the shots I hope to take.  It’s also wise to minimize the accessories you pack with your camera.  If you can, leave your tripod and flash at home.  This will help limit the weight you have to carry. 
  5. Don’t forget your battery – Make sure you have your battery with you.  If possible, having a backup battery is always helpful.  Take more than one SD card with you and switch them out every few days.  This way if you lose a card or one happens to corrupt for any reason you won’t lose all the photos of your trip.  If you have just one, should you lose it, you’ve lost every photo you’ve taken to that point.  This happened to me on a cruise a number of years ago.  I was travelling with my point and shoot camers and on the last day I left it in the store on the ship.  I went back within 10 minutes and it was gone, SD card and all.  Every photo I had taken was gone!  As it was the last day of our trip, I ended up having no photos whatsoever from that trip.  It was a hard lesson to learn! 
  6. Invest in a good camera strip – Having a good, solid camera strap will ensure your camera stays secure when you’re carrying it around.   
  7. Think about a rain cover – Weather can be finicky and there is no guarantee that you will not see rain when you’re travelling.  Don’t let the weather prevent you from taking photos.  Rain covers are fairly inexpensive and well worth investing in.   
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I purchased a mirrorless camera recently and I’ve decided that it will come with me on this trip to Scotland and England.  I’ll pair it with my 24-105mm lens.  I’m looking forward to seeing how the mirrorless camera compares to my previous DSLR.  It’s supposed to be better quality and I can’t wait to see if I can actually notice a difference. 

Someday I may decide to leave my big girl camera at home and travel only with my cell phone.  It will make life easier and will be less cumbersome.  That’s a selling point for me.  However, this trip is not it.  I know the scenery in Scotland is amazing and I want to capture it in the best way possible.  To me, that means bringing my camera with me.   

What decision will you make the next time you travel? 

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