Photography tips: bringing it back home


Steve Davey has travelled to almost 90 countries around the world, so this renowned travel photographer and author has a lot of experience in keeping his gear and pictures safe. Of course there have also been a few incidents, but fortunately back-ups and insurance have prevented them turning into disasters. Steve shares his valuable tips to help bring your photos back home…

“Travel photography is about a lot more than simply taking pictures. It might sound obvious, but you have to sort the travel before you can get to the photography part. Travelling with a camera and lenses throws up a number of unique issues that you will have to deal in order to protect your equipment and the pictures you have taken.

Many guidebooks will regularly say to keep valuables out of sight when you travel, which is good advice if you are talking about a diamond ring or a Rolex watch. If you are talking about cameras then it is not so helpful, as if you leave a camera in your hotel room you won’t have any pictures at all.

To avoid issues you should make sure not to walk around on your own in places where theft could be an issue; be aware of your surroundings, and always keep your camera away from the road side of pavements. Thieves often ride on mopeds ready to grab gear and make a getaway. Be very careful of sneak thefts, and don’t leave the camera on a table in cafes etc whilst you eat. Put it in a bag on the floor by your feet, with your chair leg through the strap.

This most important thing though is good insurance. Get a replacement, or so-called new-for-old policy. This means that if the worst happens you will get a new camera, not just the value of your old one. Check the terms of the policy, what you have to do in case of any incident and that you have all of the necessary receipts etc. Then try not to worry, after all you have paid someone else to worry on your behalf! Make sure that you have some sort of back-up equipment – even a compact camera, so that any loss or damage won’t mean that you can’t shoot any more pictures.

Arctic walrus photography by Steve Davey

Cleaning your camera
Many people worry unduly about changing lenses and getting dust in their cameras. In reality, unless you are in very dusty or windy conditions, you are unlikely to experience significant dust on your camera sensor, and if you do, it is relatively easy to remove. Many cameras have a dust removing facility where the sensor shudders to shake off dust. This is often very effective.

To test your camera, switch to manual focus, then focus a plain, light coloured wall or sheet of paper, with the camera set so the scene is completely blurred. Take a picture and then zoom in on the camera screen to check the whole image for dust. If you notice anything, then you can often remove it yourself with a simple blower. These aren’t expensive and are great for blowing dust off lenses and cleaning sensors.

Take the lens off the camera, set the exposure to Bulb, where the shutter remains open for as long as you keep the button held down. This will exposure the sensor, and all you have to do is give some puffs with the blower to blast anything clean away. Be careful not to actually stick the blower inside the camera in case the camera closes on it, always use a fully charged battery and never use cans of compressed air, as this will damage the camera.

One advantage of a camera with a fixed lens is that dust will never get on the sensor, although you should still clean the outside of the camera and lens to avoid things working their way into vital moving parts. I use a domestic paint brush to clean the outside of the camera and lens.

To clean the front of the lens, use your blower to blast away large bits of dust and grit, then use a washable micropore camera cloth to gently wipe the glass. This will lift off any smudges and smears. These can be picked up from camera shops and if washed regularly they will work for ages. Always keep a clear UV filter on the lens to protect the actual glass element of the lens from scratches and damge.

Backing up
If your camera is stolen or if you have a technical issue, then all of your precious pictures can be lost in a heartbeat. A memory card can corrupt, or a computer disc can crash. That is the scary part: the good news is that you can make unlimited copies of digital images, making sure that all of your pictures are safe, whatever happens.

The secret is to make sure that all of your pictures are backed up, and that you store the various copies away from each other. If you have three back-ups and they are all in a bag in a hotel room, and can get stolen in one hit.

You should have at least two copies of everything. If you don’t want to travel with a laptop, you can buy a backup device like the Hyperdrive Colorspace which has a card reader, screen and hard-drive and allows you to copy pictures from a memory card. If you have one of these and enough cards so you don’t need to reuse any, then you can have a back-up copy.

If you don’t have a back-up drive then often an internet cafe will burn back-up DVDs or allow you to copy them to a simple external hard-drive. You can buy one of these relatively cheaply, but make sure to carry a card reader too.

If you are only shooting JPEGs with your camera then you can use cloud storage or image sharing sites to back up your pictures, but you will need access to a fast internet connection to make this a practical back-up solution for all of your pictures; especially if you have a high resolution camera, or shoot in the RAW format.

With a little care and planning, you can take you camera to some of the most stunning and exotic parts of the world without worrying about loosing any of your precious pictures; or your camera!”

Jordan photography by Steve Davey

Steve Davey leads his own unique range of travel photography tours with land arrangements provided by Intrepid Travel. Steve’s next available trip is to Jordan, in April 2014, where you will have plenty of chances to photograph stunning people and places, and also opportunities to clean your camera! More information on

In June 2014, Steve is also escorting an exclusive Arctic with the Experts photography tour to Svalbard. There are still limited places available on this special Spitsbergen Explorer!

Photos: © Steve Davey

About the author'
Steve Davey - Steve Davey is a photographer and writer whose work has been published in magazines and newspapers all over the world. Steve has launched a unique series of travel photography tours with the ground arrangements provided by Intrepid Travel.

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