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Through the Shutter

Alternatives to Traveling Alone With a Camera

June 08, 1986|ANN PURCELL and CARL PURCELL | The Purcells are professional photographers.

Only a few people prefer to travel alone. Most of us prefer companionship with a spouse, friend or at least a group with similar photographic interests. We would naturally have some hesitancy about being alone in a strange city or country.

Quite aside from the aspect of companionship, there are the questions of personal safety, safety of our photographic equipment and also being penalized for being a single. Most travel seems to be based on double occupancy with a hefty single supplement being charged for lone travelers.

The obvious solution is to join a group. Unfortunately, for photographers, unless you join a group which is similarly motivated, you are too often forced to pass up compelling photographic opportunities because the bus won't stop or because other members complain of the delay.

Don't hesitate to seek out a compatible travel companion in the newsletter of your camera club. It is advisable, however, to get to know your new friends before setting off for a round-the-world tour.

Contact With Partners

Another solution is to subscribe to a service such as the Travel Companion Exchange, a computerized service that will put you in contact with other travel partners who want to share a prospective trip and who have similar interests, such as photography.

Even if you don't share a room or cabin but use separate or connecting rooms, you would still save money on car rental and other such expenses. For details, call Jens Jurgen, (516) 454-0880.

There are other ways to solve the problems of being a lone photographer. Hiring a guide can give you a companion who will know where to go to get the best pictures. Befriending a young couple will provide you with models as well as companions. They will obviously add interest to your pictures of places and provide scale to landscapes, monuments and buildings.

Taxi drivers in foreign countries will often be willing to provide their services by the hour but you should check with your hotel concierge that the driver is both reliable and reasonable in price.

In some U.S. communities and in many foreign countries, there are hospitality groups that were formed to show visitors the area's sights and sometimes even take the visitor into local homes.

An example of this is the Bahamahost program in the Bahamas, which offers a people-to-people encounter for any tourist who contacts the Ministry of Tourism. This might include a sightseeing tour, a tennis game, a few friendly drinks or even a full dinner so that you can meet the friends of your Bahamian hosts.

Incredible Pictures

With the help of your hosts, you will usually come home with some good pictures of people and places. Often lasting friendships are formed and you will find yourself returning the favor if your hosts visit your hometown. Foreign and state tourist offices can give you information about who to contact when you reach your destination.

Protect your equipment when you are unavoidably alone. Keep your camera strap around your neck rather than over your shoulder, keep your camera bag flaps fastened and against your body, be discreet about the amount and type of equipment you carry and have your equipment well-insured.

When either of us travels alone, we try if possible to carry most of our equipment in the spacious pockets of a photographer's jacket or vest and, if we must use a camera bag, we use canvas bags rather than the traditional leather or metal cases.

When checking into a hotel, we always carry hard-sided luggage with combination locks, in which our equipment can be stored out of sight when it is not in use.

It would be a mistake to miss the trip of a lifetime because you do not want to be in a strange place without a travel companion. For the most part, one can avoid being the lone photographer unless you specifically choose it for yourself.

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