Some moments on the road can't be captured with just a picture, as I discovered recently in Switzerland's Ticino canton when a herd of goats surrounded me with their cacophonous cowbells. I wanted to share the experience, so I pulled out my iPhone and -- for the first time -- shot a video and uploaded it to Facebook.
Videos have become one of the fastest-growing segments online, with 48 hours of new footage uploaded to YouTube (www.youtube.com) every minute. The 6-year-old service receives more than 3 billion views per day -- and that's not including all the videos that people post on other social networks such as Facebook and Twitter.
Travel lends itself easily to video, if you're willing to take the time to learn. "While pictures can be flat, video brings life to your experiences," says Laurel House, who videoblogs about travel, fitness, and more at QuickieChick (www.quickiechick.com). "With video, you can share your adventures -- and relive them again when you come home."
You don't need fancy equipment to make a simple travel video; your iPhone or smartphone will do. And though Flip Cam devices were recently discontinued, brands like Kodak (www.kodak.com) and Samsung (www.samsung.com/us) still make solid pocket camcorders for about $150. You don't even have to edit if you don't want to (although free video editing programs such as Windows Live Movie Maker aren't too hard to learn).
Keep these seven things in mind if you're ready for your close-up.
1. Get personal. A good video will require something more than stringing your travel photos together into a sequence. Consider adding narration. That way, your friends will understand why you chose the shots and what the experience meant to you. Your script doesn't have to be wordy or intricate -- you just need to sound natural.
If you want to put yourself on camera, the same advice applies. Be yourself, perhaps with a little more animation. Use natural hand gestures and tone of voice. Stay friendly, not fake -- and don't forget to laugh and smile.
2. Tell a story.Footage of whales breaching in Alaska can be breathtaking but it can be more compelling if you vary shots of the whales with images from your ship or the reaction of the people around you. Suddenly you have a story, not just a sequence of shots. No one is expecting your Facebook video to win an Emmy, but you should at least have a beginning, middle, and end.
3. Keep it short.Think about it: Most filmed segments that you see on TV are less than two minutes. After a minute or so, your audience will get antsy, no matter how incredible your travel footage is. Stay snappy and stick to a single subject.
4. Think about your viewer.Focus on filming experiences and moments that are actually fun to watch. An unusual activity such as zip-lining or Zorbing lends itself to video, as does something interactive like a chocolate tasting or slipping down a waterslide. Imagine scrolling through your Facebook feed. What topics would entice you to stop and watch?
5. Borrow photography tricks.Your travel video will stand out if you incorporate the same simple tricks that you'd use if you were taking a still photo. It's especially important to keep the camera still when recording. "Your video will be 100 times better if the image is not shaky," says Cailin O'Neil, who videoblogs at Cailin Travels (http://cailintravels.com). Prop your arm against a wall or rest your iPhone on a table or ledge. Cailin also recommends shooting away from the sun to prevent glare and silhouetting.
6. Use your ears. Nothing is worse than a video where you can't hear the person talking. "What makes video unique from photos is that people can actually hear the ambience of a place," O'Neil says. Try to film in a location where you're protected from the wind, but try to pick up some unobtrusive street or nature sounds while you push record.
7. Loosen up. Video requires a certain ability to drop your inhibitions, especially if you step in front of the lens. Don't be afraid to appear a little silly. "No one likes the way they look on camera, so don't judge yourself," says House of QuickieChick.com. "So don't stress too much -- and have fun."
Travel journalist Chris Gray Faust dishes up travel tips on her award-winning blog, Chris Around The World. She's also the author of the Philadelphia Essential Guide, an app for iPhone and iPad. Follow her at @CAroundTheWorld.