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Photo by Frances Gunn

Tips on travelling to Australia as a photographer

January 25, 2016

Going abroad can be a daunting experience for a photographer. There is a lot to think about – you have to make sure that your equipment arrives safely and undamaged, and that you have the right insurance when you get there. Then you need to capture images that make the trip worthwhile, especially if you are not flying out as part of an assignment. Each country has its own particular quirks and things to look out for, and this week we are taking a look at Australia.

The following list of tips are essential for those who are traveling to Australia, either with the purpose of photography, or as a holidaymaker planning to take their DSLR with them.

1. Plan your shoots

Australia is a very big country, with vast distances in between cities and landmarks in many cases. This means that a lot of planning is required. If you have certain places that you absolutely want to photograph, then you should plan out an itinerary that includes them in order to avoid missing out. Research how you will get there, how long it will take, and how long you will be able to stay.

If you are shooting with models then you also need to arrange their transport. Don’t assume that they will be able to easily get to the nearest landmark simply because they live in a close by city. It might require special planning to get everyone to the set at the same time.

2. Look for local art

If you want to take photographs of local culture, then Victoria is a great place to visit. Particularly in Melbourne you will find lots of weird and wonderful sculptures around the place. You can research their locations online, or simply walk around to see what you can find. It’s a great idea to find out where local markets and art galleries are, as well as looking for handmade goods from aboriginal communities.

3. Keep your camera charged

If you are flying from the US or UK and keeping your camera in your hand luggage, be sure that it is fully charged. Why? Because airport security measures may require you to turn on the device and prove that it is in working order. If it does not turn on, it could be confiscated or you may be prevented from flying while they investigate. This is because of fears that electronic devices could be used to smuggle contraband or weaponry aboard flights. It’s also possible that you will not be allowed to take your camera in your suitcase, as checked luggage may not permit lithium batteries. Don’t take the risk of having a camera that won’t switch on – but do keep it turned off while travelling until asked otherwise.

4. Get a carnet

If you are travelling with a full shoot production kit, particularly if you are using film cameras as well, you should get an ATA carnet before you fly. This is kind of a passport for your equipment. It proves that you are not shipping the equipment over just to sell it for a huge profit and avoid paying duties or taxes. It’s also good for keeping your camera safe: it’s proof that you own it and travelled with it, which could prevent crime or make it easier to recover stolen items. It also allows you to get through customs much quicker on the other side.

5. Take the right equipment

Let’s think for a moment about the big sights you might want to capture in Australia. You’ll see that each one requires its own equipment. Sydney Opera House at night? Bring a tripod to keep the shot steady. Uluru? A long lens is good, but if you’re walking around in the heat you may want to compromise for a short lens that is easier to carry. Great Barrier Reef? You’ll need a camera that is designed to work underwater alongside your dry DSLR. Don’t miss out on a great photo opportunity because you left half your gear at home.

6. Know your wildlife

Getting off the beaten track and exploring the outback can make for some of the most stunning photographs you will ever take. But wait – is that snake a harmless bush snake, or is it poisonous? What about that spider – should you risk getting near it for a macro shot, or is it a venomous jumping spider? How close can you get to a kangaroo in the wild? Research these topics or, better yet, take a guide along with you from the local area.