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Photographic follies and taking better pictures

Rather than flash, I used a railing to steady the camera and get this shot inside the cathedral in Malaga, Spain

I take a lot of photos as I travel around the country, explore our parklands and embark on ever more esoteric cruise itineraries. In fact, I have over 50,000 digital images on my laptop computer. Although I’m pretty good at it, I’m certainly not in a league with topnotch professional photographers.

But considering the amazing technology built into modern digital cameras, taking good photos is not a difficult task. For decades I have amused friends with Hoelscher’s First Law of Amateur Photography: The amount of time required to take a photograph is inversely related to the sophistication of the equipment being utilized.

First, it is important to note that digital cameras on the market in 2012 are much, much improved over models sold less than a decade ago. As a result, if you happen to use a camera more than just a few years old, it’s high time to bite the bullet, junk the old clunker and get yourself a more technologically advanced piece of equipment.

Every week I encounter people striving mightily to see the dim viewscreen of an older digital camera in bright sunlight, which is virtually impossible. If you are not satisfied with the pictures you can take with your cell phone, do yourself a favor and resist the temptation to buy an “el cheapo” camera on sale at Walmart. Cameras with excellent features are now available for $150 to $200, while spending around $300 will get the average casual photographer as much flexibility as he or she is likely to require. Personally, I have found the selection and prices at Costco to be particularly attractive.

Yet I see people all the time who have spent $2,000 to $3,000 on expensive, frequently bulky (and, yes, top quality) Canon or Nikon equipment, apparently because some camera store salesperson saw them coming, deduced that they had money to spend and sold them a lot more capability than they needed. Most will likely never even figure out how to take advantage of a fraction of all they have purchased. Many of them don’t even know how to turn off the in-camera electronic flash. Please note that my remarks here are most certainly not geared towards many serious amateurs or those with professional ambitions.

Back in the 35mm film days, I had cases filled with numerous camera bodies and an assortment of very flexible lenses, but I missed shots simply because I had tired of toting all the paraphernalia around. Now I have four very portable digital models.  Even my publisher friend of The Group Travel Leader seemed surprised that I get some pretty decent results using relatively modest equipment. These days I seldom even get my tripod out of the box, simply because I have learned to use whatever might be available…posts, poles, railings, rocks, fences, fire hydrants, church pews, etc., as camera braces to steady my low-light shots. Believe me, this really works!

Finally, digital photography allows you the opportunity to take numerous shots without spending any additional money. The more pictures you take, the better you will get at doing so, so I’ll let you in on a little trade secret. All successful professional photographers experiment and take many shots, but only show only their best images.                      

Bob Hoelscher, CTC, CTP, MCC, CTIE, is a longtime travel industry executive who has sold his tour company, bought a motorhome and is traveling the highways and byways of America.  He is a former chairman of NTA, and was a founding member of Travel Alliance Partners (TAP).

Well-known in the industry as both a baseball and symphony aficionado, Bob is also one of the country’s biggest fans of our national parks, both large and small.  He has already visited more than 325 NPS sites and has several dozen yet to see.  He is currently traveling the country to visit as many of those parks as possible.  His blog, “Travels with Bob,” appears periodically on The Group Travel Leader’s blogsite, “Are We There Yet”.  

Bob is available for contractual work in the industry and may be reached at or by calling (435) 590-1553.

Take multiple images of your subjects in order to be able to choose the most interesting facial expressions

Find a post or fence to steady long telephoto shots, like of this one of a Mount Rainier glacier

Position yourself across from where the parade turns a corner, and you can get both ‘head on’ and ‘side’ shots