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Focus on Right Gear to Enchance Vacation

June 25, 1988|ROBERT LACHMAN | Times Staff Writer

One of the first rules of photography is to be prepared. Anticipate what may happen so you can deal with it when it does. If you're not prepared, you will probably run into problems.

As we move into summer, how to take vacation pictures can be one of those problems. Reader Tahia Lameer of Orange has a problem, part of which many would like to have. Lameer, who doubles as photo editor of her school yearbook, is going to Europe and doesn't want to get caught unprepared. She also needs to buy a photo meter.

So, in the interest of those who plan to go to Europe this summer and those who would like to go to Europe any summer, there are a few things you should remember.

First, it's advisable to travel light. This will make your trip much more enjoyable. Who needs to travel with heavy and cumbersome photo equipment? Using today's small, lightweight, great-quality, compact 35-millimeter cameras and small, computer-driven single-lens reflex cameras with built-in, incredibly accurate exposure meters, makes travel photography a breeze.

Consider taking along only your favorite lenses, such as a 28-mm. wide angle and a 105-mm. telephoto. A zoom lens such as a 35-to-70-mm. might be the perfect compromise. Remember, though a zoom lens might not give you the quality of the fixed focal length, the convenience of carrying one lens versus two or three is an important factor to consider.

Film should be your next consideration. When at the airport, avoid X-rays whenever possible. Ask airport security to hand check your camera bag. Remember, both your carry-on bag and luggage are subject to X-rays. While the signs may say that the X-rays are not harmful to film, most experts agree that continuous exposure is risky, especially if the film will be carried through numerous airports.

A lead-shield bag such as Sima's FilmShield is one way to help protect your film from low-dose X-ray inspection machines. Because airport security cannot X-ray through it, they will probably ask you to open it up for a hand inspection. A simpler and cheaper alternative is a clear plastic bag which you can easily pop out of your camera bag for a hand inspection.

Don't forget a visit to U.S. Customs at the airport before your departure. You must register your camera equipment with them so you don't have pay a duty on it when you return.

And it's usually cheaper to buy your film before you go. It's unlikely that you'll be dropping by the discount film store on some remote island. Also, buy more than you think you'll need. Film is the cheapest item when figuring the cost of the trip. Look over your itinerary and give yourself a daily shooting allowance. It's important to pace yourself because it's likely you will be too eager and shoot more than you want the first few days.

Also remember to include yourself and your friends in the photographs. It's the most important element in the pictures. If you're just shooting scenery, forget the camera and pick up a few post cards.

Don't forget to experiment. The light may look bad or the weather might be dismal, but don't quit--keep shooting. Low lighting or inclement weather conditions may produce your most dramatic photos.

Also be sure to include some signs in the foreground of your photographs. This will add depth to the photos and help in the storytelling when you return.

Don't leave home without fresh batteries. A new set should be put in the camera and flash, along with a backup set in your camera bag or suitcase.

A big trip is usually enough reason to buy a new camera. If this is the case, try it out beforehand. The fastest and cheapest way to try out a new camera is to shoot a roll of slide (transparency) film. Not only is it the best test for your camera, but most labs will turn the film around in three hours. This will be an accurate test of the exposure metering system in your camera--what you see is what you will get. Slide film has virtually no latitude (as opposed to print film), so you will have a very accurate representation of what you shot.

Always make a few test runs on your new camera before your excursion. Always check to make sure the film is advancing through the camera.

Your expensive 35-mm. SLR camera is a valuable item, maybe too expensive to be worrying about all over Europe. Unless you're doing a travel feature for a magazine or newspaper, a compact 35-mm. may be just the ticket. It's much lighter, less expensive--usually in the $150 to $300 range--and comes in models that are weatherproof, have multiple-lens options and are virtually foolproof. You're the one that's going to be carrying the camera about 6,000-plus miles.

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