Over the years Susan and I have generally travelled on our own, shunning large groups. We have valued the ability to plan our own schedule, avoiding large groups. We are currently on a 17 day trip to central Europe and this time we are with an organized tour. We were attracted by the chance to spend 8 days cruising down the Danube between Linz Austria and Budapest Hungary, with an extended stay in the remarkably beautiful city of Prague before embarking. Group travel has some clear advantages, including the ease of negotiating the local language and culture with knowledgeable guides. The scheduled side trips allow efficient use of time, and perhaps most importantly, group trips provide the opportunity to meet and travel with some fascinating people from throughout the US and beyond.
|Our Lady Before Tyn Church|
Group travel does impose substantial challenges to photography. First the fixed schedules make it difficult to find the best light in any location. Typically tours are scheduled for the middle of the day with stark light, which always seems to be shining into your eyes. Tours tend to move rather quickly making it difficult to spend the time needed to find and capture the best angles and lighting. Too often I have found myself looking up from my camera wondering in which direction my group has disappeared. I always try to find views without gaggles of tourists blocking the scenery. Unfortunately with group tours, we bring our own gaggle whereever we go
|Vltava River Sunset|
Prague, Czech Republic
|St Vitus Cathedral|
The most important rule I have found to help me deal with these frustrations is to accept the fact that this is not primarily a photography trip. I try to get the best images that are possible, but sanity requires the realization that I can't always control every factor affecting my pictures. When with a group it is often helpful to either stay in front of the gaggle or lag behind. Patience is also key while waiting for that split second when people finally wander away from my perfect composition. I try to anticipate shooting conditions so that I don't spend valuable time switching filters or lens as the group speeds away.It is better not to find yourself in the dark cathedral with your polarizer still stuck to your lens. Poor light is hardest to manage. Sometimes I just have to except that I am not going to capture that golden light or the dramatic misty image and will have to settle for the best bright "postcard shot" I can construct. Since we were in Prague for five days, I considered our group tours as scouting expeditions with plans to come back on free time to look for the best conditions. In particular the evening light is wonderful as it winds it way through the narrow streets of the old city.
All my complaining aside, Prague is a spectacularly photogenic place. The classic buildings which dominate the older sections are marvelously well preserved. This is due in large part to the fact that Prague survived the second world war without extensive damage. Highlights include Prague Castle, including the massive Saint Vitus Cathedral, which looms over the old city. The old city square features a medieval clock tower and the fairy-tale Our lady Before Tyn Church. There are great vistas all along the Vltava River. The classic architecture is everywhere.
St Vitus cathedral
Enough. I have some eating and drinking to do. At this point I will shut up and let the picture speak.