28 October 2012
The Base Camp
I have sometimes found it a challenging task to book a hotel. The hotel I book is usually in line with what I want to get out of my holiday. Sometimes what I had determined as the ideal hotel has been beyond my budget or sometimes the location is not quite ideal.
As someone very eager to be out and about taking photos I tend to spend minimal time in my hotel room but this does not mean I'm not particular about what I expect of hotel accommodation. General hotel and room security is always important. It is easy to enjoy travel photography but on occasions it does mean I can end up travelling with a lot of camera equipment. Not only that it is always very useful to pack a small lightweight laptop especially as many hotels now offer decent internet connections (and sometimes it's complimentary). Not all the equipment is required everyday so having a decent in-room safe is important. Old hotel rooms have a tendancy to have small safes that are only really good for storing passports, documents and cash. The more modern safes are far larger and can usually accommodate a laptop, DSLR body and some lenses,
When travelling in the tropics there is nearly always a significant change in temperature from the hotel room and outside. It will inevitably lead to the camera and lenses fogging up and rendered useless for at least 20 minutes. I have found a good way to limit this is by is by exposing to equipment to the outside environment before it is actually required. This is where a hotel with a balcony landing that you can go on to comes in handy. Placing the equipment on the balcony for say 30 minutes but in the shade allows adjustment to the climate. When you are ready to leave the hotel then close up the camera bag with equipment. Closing the camera bag helps delay the effects of air conditioning. When you get outside the camera is ready to shoot.
If the hotel room has no balcony an alternative although not as effective method is to reduce the level of air conditioning. In some hotels air conditioning can be set extremely high. At least having the equipment in a lightly air conditioned room will mean less time fogged up when you initially step outside the hotel.
A finally method is to expose the camera to the climate at the earliest opportunity once outside rather than keeping it in the camera bag which would still be cold or cool from the air conditioning.
After coming back from a day out and about I have always found it useful to spend a bit of time preparing my camera (or cameras) for the following day. The chances are that during the days I've had to change swap lenses. Although I always try to be careful some very small specks of dust can sometimes get into the camera whilst a lens has been removed. These smalls specks are not immediately obvious and things may appear fine initially. It is only when the a lens has its aperture stopped down does the dust particles become apparent. Some cameras are better at removing dust particles than others but I have found using a blower invaluable. This is one item that should always be packed into the camera bag (or suitcase).
I always give a hotel extra points if it has a decent number mains sockets to charge from. By decent I mean at the very least two but three sockets is preferable. There are hotel rooms out there where only one mains socket is provided but these are usually rooms that are in desparate need of removation to being them into the 21st century. The camera is of course the main item to keep charged. A single battery is usually sufficient to get through a days worth of casual shooting. More prolific shooting or the use of video can mean a battery is depleted before lunch time or at least before returning back to the hotel. I will always keep a spare battery on hand and in some cases two spare batteries. There is nothing worse than having to worry about battery power when you know its going to be several hours before you can return to the hotel to recharge.
It is always nice to have all batteries fully recharged by the morning but this often meant having to wait around for the batteries to charge if all batteries are charged from a single charger, A dual charger is what is required here. Two batteries can be charged simultaneously to ensure by the morning there is sufficient power to keep your camera operational to tackle the days events.
The other available mains sockets in room may be used to other electronic items like a laptop (or tablet) and a phone. Those with an iPhone may get lucky as an increasing number of hotels provides rooms with an iPhone dock that will charge the phone.
Speaking of phones, if heavy use of a phone or tablet is intended during trip (for taking snap shots, viewing gps maps, and making notes) then an external battery pack is very handy. They are available in various mAh capacities. The larger the capacity the larger the pack tends to be but the more times you can recharge a phone. These packs usually come with a connecting cable with a micro USB, mini USB, or, Apple dock connect. The packs are usually supplied with their own mains charger or can be charger via an Apple mains charger via its USB socket.
I think you cannot beat a hotel room with a great view. Whether its landscape, cityscape or view out to sea out the the horizon. What is of add benefit is having a room with a balcony. Apart from being a great place to relax and take in the view usually makes a great place to take photos. A high floor is essential to get an unobscured and panoramic view. If you are into capturing sunrises and sunsets or just low light photography then a decent tripod is in order. Decent in terms of the tripod able to take the weight of a camera and any one of the lenses that maybe used. A tripod with a poor head can lead to difficulty in locking a camera into position which is crucial for long exposures.
A wide prime or zoom lens (for example 10-20mm) can give very dramatic looking images. Having a balcony view is one thing but its important to have the view facing the direction of interest. It is an easy matter to check a map whilst planning a visit to identify the direction your room must face and put in a request to the hotel when booking. You may not always get the room you want exactly but it's always worth a try.
Whether you intend to book a great hotel or something very modest if you are carrying a significant amount of equipment it is well worth determining how the facilities it has with regards to the security of your equipment (i.e. room safe) and photography (i.e. good vantage point). It is always worth booking a hotel in a location with good transport links. It may cost more than a hotel that is more out of the way but you may actually save on transportation if you are out and about a lot. EA