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Tricks of the Trade: The 5 Best Travel Photography Tips with David Alan Harvey

June 2, 2014
Filed in: Travel, Tricks of the Trade, Way of Life

 David Alan Harvey for Filson 1

David Alan Harvey‘s photographs spark the human psyche. His books Cuba and Divided Soul capture the blood and sweat of a cultural migration. He shot 45 photo essays for National Geographic magazine, from the world of hip-hop to French teenagers. His 2012 award-winning book (based on a true story) broke new ground in photo book form and design. Harvey is the founder and editor of Burn Magazine, which features and funds the work of emerging photographers. Today, he shares 5 of the best travel photography tips he has collected throughout his years in the field. 


Photos courtesy of David Alan Harvey and Magnum Photos. All rights reserved.


1. Travel light.

Almost every photographer I see has way too much gear. I am very minimalist and can shoot any magazine assignment with one camera and one prime lens. Too much gear gets in the way of actually seeing pictures. Unless you are shooting sports or wildlife, do not handicap yourself. Use your eyes and your feet, they’re the best “gear”out there.

David Alan Harvey for Filson 2

2. I always make friends with the first person I meet when going to a foreign country.

It just sets the mood right. So, it could be the baggage handler, could be the shoeshine boy or could be a taxi driver. By making friends with the first person, you get an instant feel for the culture, and if you are smiling with person #1, you will most likely be smiling with person #2, and so it goes.


3. Always take a warm jacket to the tropics and a swim suit to the Arctic.

First off, every trip is an adventure. You really do not know for sure where it will take you. You might meet somebody in the jungle who talks you into heading for Canada. Pack light, yet take one of something for a climate where you do not think you are going. Serendipity is the spice of life!

David Alan Harvey for Filson 3

4. Never leave home without duct/gaffer tape.

Next to your camera, this is your most valuable accessory. The uses are endless. You can fix holes in leaky boats and tents, repair broken windows and mark your luggage for fast I.D. off the belt.


5. Don’t look or act like an unwary tourist.

Appear confident yet not arrogant. Wear solid white or black or beige when you are out on the streets. Do not carry a camera around your neck with a big zoom lens. Have “situational awareness” and know where you are going before you go there. Do not open up large maps on busy street corners, it’s a dead giveaway that you are from out of town.

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We combined the craftsmanship used to develop our rugged luggage with the experiences of award-winning Magnum photographers to create photo bags made at Filson, USA: weather-resistant fabric, rain-diverting gutter flaps, an understated appearance to deter gear theft, and modular padded dividers to keep items organized and accessible. Find more information on the Filson + Magnum Photo Bags here:


  • Great advice not only to photographers, but every tourist with the camera:)

    Posted by Danuta | June 3, 2014 at 11:47 am
  • which prime lens are you referring?

    Posted by nel | June 3, 2014 at 12:44 pm
  • Opens up an exciting world of opurtunity only where my dreams live,thanks for Sharing

    Posted by Kelly white | June 3, 2014 at 3:07 pm
  • nice advices from the most expert tourist in the world, hope i can be like him, working and travelling :)

    Posted by Tourist With Camera | June 3, 2014 at 4:58 pm
  • Never tried tip 4. only carry cello tape. guess that is not enough. will try duct from now on. thanks.

    Posted by Dipanjan mitra | June 3, 2014 at 7:53 pm
  • “Wear solid white or black or beige when you are out on the streets.”

    What does that mean? Sounds strange to me, but maybe you intended to say “don’t wear a combination of hawaii shorts and hawaii shirts”? That would make sense of course, but why limit your clothing to three specific colors?

    Posted by rayray | June 4, 2014 at 3:39 am
  • @Rayray photographers, especially wedding and event photogs, wear black or very muted colors to remain the background. if you wear a nice bright blue shirt people look at the shirt, even if just for a moment. then again, refer to rule #5 and ‘situational awareness’ when it comes to clothing as well.

    Posted by DAvid | July 8, 2014 at 4:16 pm
  • some great tips for photographers – especially making friends since you never know how they can help you down the road.. Found some other good tips from the passport lifestyle the other day too.

    Posted by Melanie | September 11, 2014 at 12:03 am

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