Question & Answers #5

Posted: December 9, 2010    Categories: Q&A

It has been a long time since I’ve done a Q&A, so I figured now would be a good time to take a break from my photo editing and answer some questions. Questions came from my Facebook Page and from Twitter.


This photo always bothered me. I felt if I had a better camera or a faster lens, I could have taken better photos of Notre Dame in Paris

This photo always bothered me. I felt if I had a better camera or a faster lens, I could have taken better photos of Notre Dame in Paris

I had several people basically ask the same question. Dana Byers, Lou Lauer, Maureen Billingham from Facebook and Erin De Santaigo from Twitter all want to know what sort of camera gear I use.

For the first 3.5 years of my travels, I used a Nikon D200. About two months ago I upgraded to to the Nikon D300s and so far I’m pleased with the purchase. The low light performance is much better than the D200, which was my biggest complaint with the camera. I was tempted to get a Nikon D3, but I couldn’t justify the cost, in addition to having to replace all my lenses with full frame lenses.

I carry three lenses with me:

  • Nikon 18-200mm VR. This is my all purpose lens. If I only can bring one lens with me as I go out for a day, this is what I will use. It is not a perfect lens, but it does most of what you want a lens to do. I’ve been using this since the day I purchased my D200 and I am probably due to replace it soon. It is showing a lot of wear and tear.
  • Nikon 12-24mm wide angle lens. This is probably my my second most popular lens. There is a lot of fun stuff you do with wide angle lenses and considering much of what I shoot is landscape photography, having this lens makes a lot of sense.
  • Nikon 50mm f/1.4. I got this lens last year for two reasons. One I wanted a very fast lens for low light situations and, two, I wanted a lens with a very narrow depth of field to play around with. I don’t use this that often, but I really should play with it more.

I also have a Nikon SB-900 flash that I carry with me. I haven’t used it that much, but now that I have the D300s, I can use the built in flash as a controller and use the SB-900 as an off camera remote flash.

My tripod is a Manfroto carbon fiber tripod with a Manfroto ball head. It is by far the heaviest and largest thing I carry with me. In fact, the most recent bag I purchased I got because it could fit my tripod.

Other photography related things I carry with me include: shutter release cable, backup memory cards, micro fiber cloths to clean my lenses, a leatherman tool and an allen wrench.

SCUBA Diving

Me trying my hand at underwater photography in the Great Barrier Reef

Me trying my hand at underwater photography in the Great Barrier Reef

Chris Mitchell of asks: Where is the next place you’re going to go specifically to scuba dive and why?

I first learned to SCUBA dive in Maui at the beginning of my trip in 2007. Since then I’ve been diving in Fiji, the Cook Islands, Micronesia, Palau, Australia (east and west coast), Thailand, Papua New Guinea, Egypt, Cayman Islands, Aruba, and Curacao.

Believe it or not, I didn’t visit any of those places expressly to SCUBA dive. I view diving as something to do while I’ve visiting a place, but not necessarily a reason to go somewhere. Even a place like Palau, which is heavily dependent on diving for its tourism, I found there are things to do and see above water.

That being said, there are places I would love to go diving: Sipadan in Borneo, Tubatha Reef in the Philippines, Bikini Atoll in the Marshall Islands, and Chuuk Lagoon in Micronesia. I’m sure there are a bunch of places I don’t even know about that would be great.

Given how I travel, I can’t really carry around my own SCUBA gear nor can I carry around an underwater housing unit for my camera. If I had an underwater housing for my camera, I suspect I would seek out more diving opportunities just to take photos.

Why Haven’t I Been There?

Mariellen Ward of ask: “Why haven’t you been to India yet?”

I probably get at least one question like this a week. Why haven’t I been to X? or Have I been to X?

The honest answer is that despite how long I have been traveling and the number of places I’ve been, the world is an enormous place. The number of countries I have visited is still smaller than the number of countries I haven’t visited. There are some very big places I still haven’t been to: India, China, Russia, Brazil, Central Africa, Central Asia or Antarctica.

In the particular case of India, I was planning to go in 2009, but I had set a deadline of being back in the US for TBEX in Chicago in July. India is an enormous country, so I didn’t want to just go see the Taj Mahal and leave, so I left it to a later date.

I was going to visit mainland China in 2008, but when I was ready to go they stopped issuing visas before the Olympics.

It is actually possible that I might visit India briefly in 2011 for a special project, but I’ll talk more about that when I have details.

2011 and the Future of Travel Blogs

Kash Bhattacharya of asks: What do you see as the key emerging travel trends for 2011 + where you do see bloggers role in travel industry?

We are still in a transitional period for media and travel media in particular. Despite declining ad revenues, companies still spend more money on television and print than they do online, even though that is where people spend more time now. Baby boomer managers nearing retirement have no incentive to change, and there are ad agencies which have large, multimillion dollar incentives to keep selling ads they way they always did.

That being said, things will change and are starting to change. It will just take time. Consider my humble blog. I have about 20,000 subscribers and that number is constantly growing. In the last 12 months I’ve had 1,500,000 unique visits to my blog and almost 4,000,000 pageviews. The cost of this operation is my backpack, a camera, a laptop and food/lodging/transportation for one person. I spend less than the average New Yorker does just living in Manhattan.

Now consider a big magazine like Conde Nast Traveler. They have expensive offices in Midtown Manhattan, some of the most expensive real estate on Earth. They have an enormous staff of people who they have to pay to live in New York. The cost of a single full page ad in one issue of Conde Nast Traveler can go for $100,000. One page, one issue, one magazine. Conde Nast Traveler has a circulation of about 800,000 people. Of those 800,000 people, how many will even notice the ad, let alone take action on it?

For that $100,000, you could easily fund my entire operation for a year. I dare say, any independent travel blog could operate on half that amount. The money wouldn’t be spent on expensive real estate, Manhattan salaries, or support staff. It would be spent on TRAVELING! My audience obviously isn’t the size of Conde Nast Traveler (yet :) but the difference between their reach and mine is much less then the difference in our cost structures. I could get by on $50,000/year, and they probably lose money bringing in $50,000,000/year.

Now ask yourself, what the impact would be of flipping a single page of a single issue of a single magazine be versus sponsoring a popular blogger for an entire year? What would be the impact of that in terms of direct traffic driven to a website? I would wager that you would get several times the impact working with a blogger for a year than you would on the single page flip of a single magazine. Not to mention all the creative marketing things you can do with an individual blogger that you can’t do with a company. (I don’t mean to pick on Conde Nast. This analysis can just as easily apply to any major magazine. Everyone I’ve met from Conde Nast are great people, and I’m not saying that just to be nice.)

My relationship with Gap Adventures is an example of this trend. I expect to see more of this in 2011.

Companies will eventually wake up to this reality. Your marketing dollar can go a lot farther if you don’t have to pay for expensive offices, enormous staffs, and glossy paper.

I am very bullish on the future of travel blogs in the travel industry.

Golden Age of Travel

Michael Robert Powell of asks: Do you think this is the golden age for absolute freedom travel? Or is it approaching the end as the world changes fast?

Excellent question! I think there has never been a better time to travel than today. More of the world is accessible at a lower cost than ever before. We have more information than ever before and we can community with people around the world in an instant and at almost no cost.

Don’t believe the naysayers who think that the golden age was some time before the rise of the internet. Everyone has nostalgia for the past.

The time to travel is now!

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