One Year of Travel: Just me and my camera...

In September last year I told the story of how my brother kindly entrusted me with the loan of his camera for our first five months of travel. I then subsequently bought the camera, a Panasonic Lumix FZ100, from him once it was clear that the camera liked me more... or something like that. 

However, now, thirteen months later I am finding that in some ways this camera is starting to limit my journey with photography. That said there are still many features of the camera that I've yet to explore or master and I will certainly continue to use it as it is relatively light, reasonably compact and as I've discovered, quite bouncy! In short I completely recommend this camera for anyone who wants to learn how to take photos on Manual before spending a lot of money. Because I bought this camera second hand (thanks bro!) each shot I've taken cost me a lot less than 0.0001p. I would have to take many more photos to say the same thing had I bought a DSLR. I'll also be honest and add that at the time - starting a new business, heading off on my travels, uncertain about the future - it was impossible to think about spending £1000 or more on a camera and lens kit so a bridge camera was a sensible decision that has paid off.

So how did I learn more about photography? Or rather, how am I still learning?

In the beginning, as well as surrounding myself with visually beautiful blogs whose photos made my head swirl and my trigger finger itch, I also Googled countless questions that began with "How do I...", asked for help on this blog and I have shared with you the results. You will know as well as me that there have been good photos and there have been bad photos. I daresay that this will continue.

Two ebooks have also been invaluable to me to specifically learn tips and tricks for travel photography. A year ago I had my head stuck in this ebook written by one half of a travel blogger team, Getting Out of Auto by Bethany Salvon. It was reviewed on a number of the "big guns" of travel blogs like Almost Fearless and Inside the Travel Lab and so I took every word seriously and didn't look back or feel like it failed me. This is the book for you if you don't even know what Manual means and you want to start to take better photos yesterday.

I then, more recently, devoured SkipTown's Travel Photography Field Guide. Another writer-photographer blogging team, I reached out to Jessica to see if I could have a nosey at the book which was compiled based on her super talented photographer partner Sean's vast experience. After feeling a little disheartened with some of my shots recently I needed a revision course and this was exactly what I got with this book. I know I will continue to go back to this guide as a source of reference and inspiration - it's designed so you can print it out and carry with you as prompt cards - as there's a lot of information packed on the pages. I definitely recommend downloading this ebook if you want to be reminded to approach your photography with fun, fresh eyes and to also learn or revise specifics relating to setting your camera up and adapting to certain environments and scenes.

Here are my three tips to you if you're thinking of moving to Manual or would like to take photography a little more seriously:

  • Invest in a camera that has separate Shutter Speed and Aperture modes and take it in turns to master these before coming off Auto completely.
  • Your camera was designed to take photos from virtually any angle so start rolling around on the ground, shooting from your hip and seeing the world upside down.
  • Don't get giddy with the ISO and start whacking it up there as soon as daylight starts to fall. I used to do this and then would be seriously disappointed by the amount of noise ruining an otherwise perfectly good photo.
  • Invest in Photoshop - especially if you intend to use your photos for blogs or public consumption.
  • Don't beat yourself up when you see the perfect photo opportunity but you're not able to get your camera ready in time to grab that moment. Just be impressed that you recognised a good photo opportunity because if you're anything like me, it's possible you were once blind to them. Also in those scenarios I believe it's totally appropriate to drift back to Auto.

I've also learnt from my mistakes and not just technical ones. I now know that my mood and how creative I'm feeling is just as important as my technical knowledge and skills. Quite simply put, if I'm not in the mood to take photos, I'm far better off staying in with another cup of tea. I've learnt that the more freedom I have the better photos I take. I'm not good in a hurry or in a group, which is probably why I can cross wedding photographer or World Press Photographer of the Year off my list of future career choices.

As I shoot into my second year as a "professional amateur photographer" I realise that I need to keep photography from being an onerous task and I should remember that only sometimes does it matter if you get the right shot or not; what matters is that you keep shooting, stay hungry for it and continue to want to learn. As it is with travel, in photography the real joy is in the journey not the destination.

And there have been many turning points on this journey.

A frog.An over exposed magic moment.Seeing what my camera can do in someone else's hands and in the right light.A surprise sunset. Hours spent experimenting with angles, composition, perspectives and trying to make something extraordinary out of the ordinary around the world. And most recently, simply taking photos because I really wanted to, rather than feeling I had to.I realise now that if I'm to take my photography to a higher level a more advanced camera is a necessary investment. As part of my quest to find the right camera for me I have started to develop an online obsession with camera websites but I'm still looking for personal recommendations and affirmations, so please do let me know what you recommend if you have time to leave a comment.

I wrote some time ago that until October last year, photography for me was about capturing memories and people, not something I wanted to be artistic or accomplished in. Over the last twelve months I think I've often lost sight of that and so my challenge for next year is to combine the two.

Either way, one thing is for certain. The journey continues...

Frances M. Thompson

Londoner turned wanderer, Frankie is an author, freelance writer and blogger. Currently based in Amsterdam, Frankie was nomadic for two years before starting a family with her Australian partner. Frankie is the author of three short story collections, and is a freelance writer for travel and creative brands. In 2017, she launched WriteNOW Cards, affirmation cards for writers that help build a productive and positive writing practice. When not writing contemporary fiction, Frankie shops for vintage clothes, dances to 70s disco music and chases her two young sons around Amsterdam.
Find Frankie on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and Google+.

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