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on May 8, 2012 in Landscape Photography

Planning Your Trip

“How do you plan a trip when you’re going to someplace new?” This is a very common and VERY valid question I’m asked all the time. In the questions students passed in this weekend for our Photoshop for Shooters, it was the #1 question (what’s the best f/stop slipped to #4). I’m sure everyone has their own methods of doing this, I want to share mine. It all starts with selecting the location itself, how do you do that? Since most of my friends are roadwarriors like myself, word of mouth usually starts the process. Quite often, I’ll see a photo of a location that captures my imagination and that’s how that location gets on the list. However the location is selected, once it is the planning begins.

The first thing that needs to be set for a location is when to visit it. If you’re working a 9-5 job, often you go when you can get vacation time so then timing is predetermined. With the luxury of picking the date, I go with the time when that one classic shot, the photo perhaps I saw that made me want to go to that location was taken. Here’s the problem with that kind of planning, it kind of is an all or nothing proposition! There is no way you can guarantee what the conditions will be when you’re on your trip. For example this past winter. You might have planned to be somewhere when there was snow but for much of the mountains this past winter, there simply was no snow. That’s all part of the photographic adventure.

If you’re planning for fall color, as a veteran of many a fall color trip that ended up staring at twigs, the best planning doesn’t guarantee a thing. How about planning specific locales at your location, how do you find them? Before I leave on a trip, I’ll do my homework online looking for photographs from that area. From that, those photos I see which intrigue me are locales I’ll try to research and make a list to remind me of them once on site. One of the ways we found locations for our DLWS events when scouting was using Google Maps, Hybrid mode. I would look at the topography, its direction and then head off on roads to those places where those elements would come into play. For example, want to shoot sunrise, you need a location looking to the east. If you want water, you need to find water where you can look to the east for sunrise.

The biggest part of planning where I think most photographers fall short is in the photographer themselves. The number one mistake is putting pressure on yourselves that because you have taken this trip, made all these plans, you MUST come back with the photographs of a life time. It don’t work that way. As a veteran of thousands of trips in my years, just because you plan doesn’t mean the clouds come out, the leaves turn red or the critters appear. Even in planning aviation work, I can show up and the plane might have mechanical issues. There simply is no guarantees so you, the photographer must plan on this and have an open mind to go with the flow.

So in a nutshell, look at photographs to find the locations. Look at photographs to plan the timing. Look at photograph to determine the locale at that location. Look at photographs to determine the gear to take, the time to be behind the camera and remember, it is just a photograph. The journey can and often is a bigger reward then the destination!