How do you avoid the dreaded ‘identikit’ landscape image problem? You know, when you think you’ve found an epic location and then check Instagram and discover hundreds of almost the same but possibly better images?
What you need is a new method of location scouting, and in this video photographer, Dave Morrow walks us through a few ideas on how he finds amazing locations that aren’t already all over everyone else’s feeds.
Dave says the biggest game-changer for him was when he committed to doing more hiking and overnight hiking trips and also when he learnt how to read topographic maps. The other important aspect that Dave mentions is the ability to read weather maps well. “If you can read topographic maps and weather maps really well,” he says, “then you can just go out for day hikes and find great locations.”
The other important aspect is to be really honest with yourself about your skills and equipment, and what time of year it is (or will be when you’re planning a future trip). A desert trip is not going to be a good idea in the summer for example, and if you don’t have solid mountaineering and survival skills and equipment then a winter mountain trip may have to either be postponed or scaled back to something within your scope. Here are some of the other useful tips from the video:
Dave says to download the actual software because it’s a lot more useful than just using the web-based version of the app. This is his first point of call when finding a location. Figure your basic parameters. How do you want to get to the location? Will you fly? Drive? Does it need to be within a day of where you live? The other advantage of Google Earth is that you can actually look at specific landscapes from any vantage point so you can see any potential great views before even going there. You can also preview the lighting on a specific landscape at different times of the year and day so that you can see which direction you will get the best views.
The next port of call is to use a more detailed GPS map or app, such as Gaia GPS. Not only does this app contain all the paths but it will allow you to overlay the terrain to see if it would be possible to go off-trail without risk. Without a doubt Dave says that his best images come from deviating off-trail, however, you need to be confident in your outdoor skills to do this without putting yourself in danger.
Get into the wilderness
Moving on from this off-trail theme is to actually not camp in designated campsites. Instead, Dave recommends camping in wilderness locations. Be sure to check the local rules before doing this as you may need extra permits or there even may be locations where this isn’t allowed.
Finally the last piece of the puzzle is to have a really solid weather app and use it continually. Dave recommends Windy. This app is particularly good because it allows you to see whole weather systems as they move through so that you can better predict what level of cloud cover will be optimal for your images.
What are your go-to tips for finding more interesting locations?