The first things that made me buy a decent camera were a poor camera and a holiday. I had been on holiday to Scotland (which I absolutely love, someone find me a stable job in the highlands and I'd move tomorrow) and had been trying to capture the gorgeous mountains around Oban on a small point and shoot. The pictures were washed out and grey, rather than the rich purples and blues I could see through the mists around me. After a short chat with my girlfriend, we decided the remedy to this was a decent camera. Would I ever touch photoshop? Of course not, I would be a purist, like my father before me, I would capture perfect images first time in camera and the world would be a wonderful place! So started the most expensive, absorbing and rewarding hobby I could ever have.
As the days turn colder at the moment, it makes us think of warmer times and places we'd perhaps rather be. My first big holiday with my camera was a group holiday through intrepid travel to Thailand (briefly), Cambodia and Vietnam. If you're one to shy away from the group holiday, preferring to go on your own, good for you, I envy you your long holidays and free time. If however you work and have a mortgage to worry about, the level of content you can experience in a short time is second to none with Intrepid. I would highly recommend them, both in terms of coverage, and the competence of their guides. Intrepid use local guides for all their holidays, so you do feel like you're getting an authentic taste of the country you're in. There is also a massive emphasis on responsible travel, leaving no trace and respecting the cultures you're holidaying within.
The reclining Buddha in Wat Pho, Bangkok, Thailand. I'd visited here as a teenager; I was very thankful to be back with a decent camera. Crowds were extensive, so a quick shot in the face worked well. A quick riverboat trip before meeting up with the group allowed for a few quick shots and a necessary nap after having been on the go for over 40 hours.
In terms of photography, we were incredibly lucky to be guided by the charming and enthusiastic Limny, who was himself a keen photographer. This enthusiasm meant a lot of shots and angles could be guided and he was more than willing to get up with us for sunrise over Angkor Wat. It would certainly have been a different, and less photographic holiday without him. Moving around with a group can present its difficulties with photography, and I'm sure there are shots I missed, but with a sizeable group within our group having brought the cameras, there was little argument about taking too long to get a shot. I could easily have spent another couple of days wandering around the Angkor complex, which is where the lone travelling gap student has the advantage, but I had that job to get back to, so the compromise was bearable.
Our group having a strong cadre of photographers meant people were willing to wait until we could get the shot we were after. These statues were at the entrance to Angor Thom, Cambodia.
Limny was quickly able to show us great areas and angles to capture some desired shots we'd spoken about earlier in the day. This was from the Bayon, in the Angkor Complex, Cambodia
If I were going away again, there are potentially a couple of things I may have done differently. Firstly, if you've got mirrorless, ditch the DSLR. Shlepping around temples in 40 degree heat isn't fun with a massive camera in tow. Perhaps with a slower pace this would have been less of an issue, and I will take my set up again, but it's a worthwhile thought regardless (back to the expense of the hobby). Secondly, think about a travel lens. In my effort to save some money on kit, my 70-200 is 3rd party, rather than that lovely Canon L series I've had my eye on. Whilst this has saved some needed cash, it's definitely added on the load of what I'm lugging around (full disclosure: my amazing girlfriend took on many times the responsibility and burden of being by my side with my lens bag, to make it easier for me to crawl around and get shots, I couldn't thank her enough then or now). If I'd had the very reasonable all purpose lens, lens changes would have been unnecessary, meaning fewer shots missed, and that bag would have been very light, meaning a happier girlfriend. This is a very serious contender for next time. Thirdly, I wouldn't bother with the cumbersome travel strap. Whilst before we went, the extra security of steel cables woven into the strap was very reassuring, I can't count the amount of times I got a very stiff strap, refusing to fall naturally, jabbing me in the eye. I was fully insured and swapped cards regularly (take loads of cards, duplicate and back up if possible) so a stolen camera could have been dealt with. Further, my camera rarely left my hand; a snatch from a single shoulder (always wear across the body) would have been more likely than cutting, so I'd go for comfort here and just wear a simple strap.
It's very easy to get carried away with holiday photos, so I've just highlighted some of my absolute favourites. I hope you enjoy and are ispired to share some shots of your own!
Reflected Angkor Wat. In the wet season this 'lake' would be full to the sandbags. As it was in the dry season, this puddle sufficed. I was still pretty happy with the shot, I got this, then ran to the nearby water seller and downed 2 litres, it was about 40 degree C this day!
Limny's dedication allowed us to be back at 4am the next morning, in postion at the front of a crowd of campact cameras and selfie sticks to grab this shot, one of my favourite from the trip.
Limny knew all the best angles. This involved a brisk walk to another part of the complex and clambering up some walls. Indie the Jungle Temple (aka Tomb Raider Temple) the roots looked like something from an alien planet.
The busy streets of Saigon allowed for much panning practice. It was after taking this shot that I noticed the legs! Excellent street photography opportunities in the Old Quarter of Hanoi. This is the early stages of colander production!
We had the opportunity to try casting these nets in Hoi An. It was embarrassingly difficult, but the locals showed us how it was meant to be done.
We were lucky enough to visit Tonle Sap lake during the dry season, producing a very interesting take on the annual change in circumstances for an aquatic dwelling people- hence the colour of the little remaining water!