I am feeling compelled to share this tip with you before the weekend and my hope is that you’ll find this advice solid, useful, and rewarding. Before we start, I’ll admit I am guilty of skipping around on my blog posts and this one is no exception. As a result, I will continue my last series about sharing your photographs online next week. Allow me to briefly provide you some context for this post and where the inspiration came from. Lately, I have returned to many images already in the archives or previously posted to reprocess in hopes of a better result. So far, I am very pleased with the results. This has been a season of less travel for me, and I haven’t taken what I consider to be a major trip (more than a week in the wilderness) pretty much all year.
Being grounded in society like this really helps provide perspective on my time outdoors; it is something that I cherish, relish, and value very much. Sometimes, when you out there so long (at least for me) one can get a little desensitized to the special meaning of their surroundings. While reworking some of these older images and through feedback from posting them online, I’ve seen once again how incredibly spectacular some of the places are that I’ve been fortunate enough to visit.
That brings me to the topic of this post: Want to be a better landscape photographer? Well, besides enrolling in a photography workshop (another post at a later time, improve your research skills. It dawned on me that I rarely just show up and luck into a great photograph. For me, it is much more than that - it takes time and efficient planning. For your convenience, I am including a list on the steps I go through when planning a trip, and the questions that cross my mind and that I need to answer in order to move forward. (Not all steps will be applicable to everyone)
1. Dates: When are you going to go? How much time can you spend on this trip? This is pretty much my first step in planning a trip. I’ve got to decide when and for how long. We all have extenuating circumstances that help dictate or shape the dates of our trip – so I normally don’t precede any farther until I can confidently answer both these questions.
2. Location: For me, the location is always determined by the date and the amount of time I can spend on the trip. Most of the time, I drive. For instance, if the trip is less than three days, I won’t go out of state. If it is for a week, I’ll drive further to parts of a neighboring state like California, Utah, Nevada, or Colorado. If it is two or more weeks, I’ll consider driving somewhere like Northern California or Wyoming. The second part of this equation is the time of year: Obviously, we aren’t taking any backpacking trips in the Sonoran Desert in July and I am not planning on driving to Wyoming in January either. I generally try to maximize the season. That means go where the going is best….
3. Specifics: The first two steps are pretty obvious. This step is where the rubber meets the road. It’s good to get a little dirty here. I start with maps. Normally, AAA state road maps work best as the wilderness areas are well-marked in green. For instance, if I am going to Yosemite, I might look also at the areas around Yosemite to see if there is any interesting worth checking out. For some parks, like Yosemite, a lot of your options are decided by which way you’ll be driving so I like to determine that first so it gives me a clearer path of direction. (Excuse the pun)
So now you now where you want to go, when you want to go, for how long you are going, and which way you are going to be driving. Now the hard part; what are you going to do when you get there? For the sake of time, here’s a list of recommendations, advice and questions to think when planning this important leg of your journey.
1. What are my physical limitations and what do I feel comfortable doing?
2. If backpacking, do I need a permit and should I reserve one? Where do I get the permits? What are the best campsites? What are the camping restrictions?
3. What dangers do I need to be aware of and educated on? (Wild animals, flash floods, creek or river fording, unmaintained trails, precarious climbs)
3. Which camera equipment should I bring?
4. Where are the best places to stay should I need a hotel?
5. What is the elevation gain/loss of the hike? How many miles will I be traveling?
1. Buy and study the guide books – the more research you do the better.
2. Don’t bite off more than you can chew – don’t be too ambitious in your planning, allow for layover days and for days just to explore the area (just make sure you have the right area)
3. Monitor the weather reports
4. Spending time learning the topography of the land and learn or read about when are the best times to shoot.
5. Get there early and stay late if possible.
6. Schedule layover days for scouting expeditions
7. Make safety a priority & have fun!!