Traveler, Prepare Thyself
When daydreaming about making spectacular pictures at a far-flung locale, it's easy to get lost preconceptions about the stupendous photos you'll come home with. You can ground yourself by continually reminding yourself about two aspects that make most great travel photos – hard work and persistence.
Of course, you always want to have fun on your trip. But great photos don't usually fall into your lap. Sure, those mystical shafts of light that appear magically, as if on cue, right as you enter a lost-long tropical village might make for lovely pictures. Yet the most unforgettable pictures you make might not present themselves until midnight in the middle of a torrential thunderstorm.
That brings us to our next point: Be prepared for anything. Dress for the weather, and then be prepared for far worse. A sudden downpour or big wind doesn't deter professionals. Why let it stop you? Get wet, get dirty and dress comfortably for a long shoot that could go longer than you anticipate.
To keep your energy level high, pack light. Strip your equipment list to its basics so that it doesn't hold you back, weigh you down and make you tired. Toting that 400mm lens all day will be exhausting, especially if you're not even sure you need it.
You'll definitely get tired eventually, because you'll commit to take a lot of pictures. You should always think through your shots when you can, but don't be afraid to shoot hundreds or thousands of images in a search for the elusive, unforgettable picture. Sometimes it takes that kind of persistence.
Similarly, dedicate time to your chosen subjects. The first and most obvious angles and compositions are rarely the best. The longer you spend working on an image, the better it will be.
By committing yourself to the task of really understanding a place, you will better attune your eyes and your mind to the elements that make for superior pictures. Respect the people and the land, tread softly, be kind and you'll find a way to share the essence of a place through the pictures you create. Your reward will be travel pictures that transport your viewers (and yourself) back to the time that you tapped the shutter.