Details of locations and subjects are, in the longer term, as important as the images themselves. At the moment of exposure you may be quite clear about what you are photographing, but a few months or years later many of the details will have been lost. It is therefore nothing less than a fundamental requirement of travel photography that relevant details are accurately recorded. No one will buy your work without them.
Notebooks and pencils, pocket dictation machines or digital audio recorders, are obvious tools for recording information while on the move, and may be conveniently supported by a GPS facility is available. Paper and pencil constitute the cheapest approach, and work well in many situations. However, there are difficulties. The process of writing on a notepad requires both hands, pencils break at critical moments, and writing on paper in strong wind or heavy rain is not practical. An alternative is therefore to speak into a portable dictation machine. Top-of-the-range models feature hands-free operation, with a lapel microphone and voice activation, but even cheap models can be operated with just one hand. These pocket-sized products are available in analogue or digital form. The analogue machines use small cassettes of magnetic tape and cost the least. Their digital counterparts need no tapes and can store several hours of notes. Both types can be made more or less rainproof but gusts of wind in the microphones can render recordings unintelligible.
Aim to record place names together with their correct spellings if necessary. Local pronunciation is one thing, but trying to write the name down when you get home is another. Also note the general location, for example “five miles from the city”, and the date and time of day. Then add details of the subject such as the date of construction of an historic building, a person’s name, age or occupation, species of plants and animals and so on. It is also worth including the number of each roll of film or the range of filenames to be used, and where and when films and memory cards are changed. Finally, I like to add approximate figures for latitude and longitude. This can be done at the end of the day or during a journey. The two figures are later transferred to my image database where they become invaluable search parameters.
Other ways of accumulating useful information include photographing signs and information displays, and collecting leaflets and brochures. Some may be of a general nature and not very helpful but others provide detailed information. For instance, at a bird reserve the principal species are often named and described, and even identified with small pictures. Some travel guides also make good notebooks. Simply underline relevant place names and add notes in margins as appropriate.