I had never been out of the country, never even been on an airplane before, and as I packed my cheap little camera (and more rolls of film than I had ever seen), my mind was wild with possibility. The minute we set foot on Japanese soil, I couldn't seem to put my camera down, and when we finally made our way back to the States, I couldn't wait to get my film developed.
When I finally got my prints back, I was crushed. The Japan in my photographs was nothing like the Japan I had seen. I chalked it up to inexperience and the cheap little camera I had so stupidly brought with me, but had I known what I know now, I would have been able to capture a great deal more, crappy camera and all. Sure, Japan through the beautiful glass lens of an excellent camera would have been ideal, but if I had known what to look for and how to frame it, a little bit more of Japan's magic would have shown up in my pictures.
Truth is, if you have a few tricks up your sleeve, you can do a lot with a little. You can capture your experiences with pretty much any kind of camera. Whether you're traveling abroad or just wandering the neighborhood, there are a few things that can help you more fully capture the essence of what you see and the places you experience, wherever you are in the world.
Get all the obvious shots out of your system. This is, by far, one of the best pieces of advice I've ever been given. Sometimes, to get the really special images—the ones that really tell the true story of a place—you need to get all the more obvious shots out of the way first.
You know the ones—the more traditionally composed shots of landscapes, monuments, architecture and the family photographs. Once you've done this, you can relax and shoot whatever you want, take as many risks with your images as you like. The pressure is off.