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GET THE PICTURE WHILE VACATIONING: MAKE SURE CAMERA, FILM ARE READY

Vacation time, the time of the year we've all been waiting for, is finally here.

If you're like most folks, you'll soon be packing your jeans, T-shirts and sporting gear and departing for popular vacation destinations around the globe. While you're making your travel plans, you should be making your travel photography plans, too.Let's start with the basics. First, if you have not used your camera in the past few months, it's a good idea to change the battery. A dead battery in a place where there is no corner drugstore means no pictures. I also recommend taking a cloth to your camera and giving it some TLC. Dust and grime can adversely affect your camera's controls, so a once-over is well worthwhile.

Film should be the next item on your checklist. Most vacationers overshoot and have to buy more film, at a higher price, on location. Therefore, estimate how much shooting you'll be doing and double it. At worst, you'll just bring the unused film back home.

I'm often asked if airport X-ray machines damage film. My reply is: "Better safe than sorry. Always have your film hand-checked." Although X-ray machines are not supposed to fog (slightly expose) film, there is a chance that the machine may be out of calibration. When it comes to your valuable (and expensive) memories, it's worth the inconvenience to ask the security guard to hand-check your camera bag. Don't take "no" for an answer.

If you do want to put your film through the X-ray machine, you must place it in a special lead-lined pouch, available at most camera stores. As long as it doesn't have a hole or tear, this inexpensive X-rayproof pouch will protect your film.

If you plan to travel to a foreign country, I strongly recommend that you register all your camera gear at the airport customs office. If you don't, you may have to pay duty on your own equipment on your way home.

Once you get to your destination, keep your camera handy. This may sound elementary, but many people neatly tuck their cameras away in a camera bag and miss those once-in-a-lifetime shots that happen in the blink of an eye.

My favorite vacation photos are those of people. Often, a close-up of a face not only captures the expression of the individual, but of the country as well. For "people" photography, I suggest following three basic rules: Be friendly, ask if you can take a picture, and say "thank you."

There are two kinds of people photos: portraits and environmental shots. For portraits, get as close as possible. "The name of the game is to fill the frame" is a good rule to follow. For environmental-type photos, move back and include some of the surrounding area in the picture. These pictures will "tell a story" and put the viewer into the scene.

For both types of people shots, I like to use automatic fill-in flash (available on most point-and-shoot and SLR cameras). By using a flash in daylight, you'll brighten up your subject's face, especially the eyes.

Landscapes and cityscapes should be included in your personal photo travelogue. The main guidelines here are to keep the horizon line level and shoot with some object, such as a tree, railing or fence, in the foreground. This will add depth and dimension to your picture, giving those who view it a point of reference.

Finally, one of the main ingredients for good vacation pictures is color. If you shoot in the early morning or late afternoon hours, you'll get pleasing pictures with a warmer tone. You'll also avoid harsh shadows caused by direct overhead sunlight. It's worth the extra effort to plan your day so you're in a good location for sunrise and sunset.

These pictures will undoubtedly be among the favorites in your photo album or slide show and will bring back that special wanderlust that so many of us share.