Road Tripping with your Camera

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My husband waits patiently in the truck for me to take a picture of something, in Wyoming.

(Hover over the pictures for descriptions – these were all taken during some of our many road trips.)

To say that I am a big fan of road trips is to utter an understatement of epic proportions. A road trip is my ideal vacation, and even if my husband and I are flying somewhere, I still manage to work at least a day-long road trip into our final destination. What I appreciate the most about a road trip is that you actually travel the miles. You experience the world on the way from Point A to Point B. You actually get to SEE what’s between here and there. You discover so much more about the country you live in, and the world you live in, when you’re driving it and not flying over it.

By its very nature, a road trip provides ample opportunities for photography. I am constantly pestering my husband (who is the one who usually drives) to pull of to the side of the road so I can take a picture of something. Like the photo above, which was me taking a picture of him, while he was waiting patiently in the truck while I took a picture of something or other.

On the road between Flagstaff and Sedona, Arizona.  The obligatory self-shot in the rear-view mirror.

There are the out-the-window road trip shots, which can be tricky because you’re moving and thereby creating a difficult environment from which to get a clear photograph. My recommendation is to roll down the window so you remove the risk of glare, have the driver slow down as much as is possible under the circumstances, and use a very fast lens and/or shutter speed. Keep the camera’s strap around your neck if you have to lean out, and don’t point the lens directly into the wind so that you don’t get dust (and bug guts!) on it. Make sure your lens is affixed with a UV filter and hood, to protect it.

The Old Port, Portland, Maine.

When pulling off to the side of the road to get a shot, make sure you choose a safe spot, without any blind corners or turn-offs. Get well off the road to put some distance between you and the passing traffic. Always pay attention to your surroundings. Ideally, use lookout points or rest areas, or other sites purposefully built to provide the opportunity to pull off the road.

Exploring a short hiking trail at a rest stop in Oregon.

Keep your gear handy, not packed in the trunk or in the “way back” of your SUV. Things come up on you, and pass you by, at great speed when travelling by car. The use of a telephoto lens is great to pull in subjects that the road doesn’t take you directly toward. Make sure the windows are up and the air vents are pointed away from you whenever you change lenses, to minimize the amount of dust that gets into the inner workings of your camera.

Fellow road trip enthusiasts, please share your tips and your photos in the comments!

Photo Credits (all): Tiffany Joyce.

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  • corina

    Rule #1…don't distract the driver or maybe it's 'don't forget your camera' :)
    If you're going to be in the vehicle for hours, don't snack or drink with the camera in your lap…hit a bump or suddenly stop or turn and you could be trying to clean up soda or crumbs off your camera.
    Fast shutter speed, means there has to be enough ambient light…take a few test shots as the the light changes throughout the day.
    You can see my road trip photos that I posted on my blog during the month of March 2010.

  • Heidi Morris

    Hi there, my name is Heidi

    I love road trips too! I have exactly the same shot of me hanging out the car window :O).

    Here are some shots from our recent road trip to the US.

    It took us from Denver to Seattle across to Maob and back to Denver. Highway 50 “The loneliest Highway in the World” is really something to see. 5000 photographs and approx 4000 miles …wow, it was so much fun. We met so many wonderful friendly people.

    Have you heard of Roadside America? A superb website for gathering info on where to visit in the USA. They are on Facebook too….!/roadsideamerica?ref=ts

    Have a great day, Heidi :O)

    p.s. i even take pictures of the radio display in the vehicle (if it has one), when a song is playing that ive not heard before – that way i get to look it up when i get home and “relive” the moments of capturing the shots while i listen again
    (its a bit tricky with the telephoto on though, i almost end up in the back seat because i don't have time to change the……:O) good times :O)

    Tip – I also use a polarizing filter when capturing images through the car windscreen, it gets removes the reflections from the glass and makes the skies look fabulous!!!!

  • Rich

    Sometimes when I'm traveling I keep my camera on my lap so that I can quickly take a snap out the window.

    Here's an example I took out of a bus window when in Korea: