For us in the northern emisphere, it’s that time of the year when nature changes and landscapes explode with color. Many photographers (especially landscape photographers) take trips in the fall and capture the changing world around them. Before you hit the road, it’s important to prepare, so that you can make the most of your photography trip. In this video, Nigel Danson talks about some mistakes he has made when planning photography trips. As he has learned something from them, he can now give you some useful advice on how to avoid the mistakes he made, and plan your trip perfectly.
1. BRINGING THE RIGHT GEAR
It’s a big decision what to bring on a trip, and we often fall into a trap of bringing too much gear. It’s hard to drag a huge, heavy bag around, and we often end up not using all of the stuff we brought. So, plan carefully and don’t go overboard.
Nigel has been through this and has come up with the best practices for packing cleverly. His top tip for choosing lenses is to analyze your images: go to Lightroom, look at your best photos, and check which lenses were used to shoot them.
As for Nigel, he likes to take three lenses to his trips: a wide-angle, a zoom and prime lens, or a 24-70. If you’re limited with space (like I was back in August on my trip to Zagreb), choose “one lens to rule them all.” For me it was my old Nikkor 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G, and for you, it can be whichever zoom lens you prefer.
When it comes to a tripod, you’re definitely gonna need one if you want to shoot landscapes. Make sure it’s portable and light and that it fits in your carry-on luggage. Don’t forget to bring lens cloths, but also an absorbent cloth for your camera. Bring an external HDD and a USB battery charger to charge batteries on location if you need to. Nigel shares another handy trick for shooting in cold weather: bring some hand warmers along. Put them in your pocket together with your batteries. This will keep them warm and improve their life.
2. TESTING YOUR GEAR BEFORE THE TRIP
Even if you know the heart and soul of all your gear, it’s good to test it out before your trip just to make sure everything works. And if you have a new camera and lenses, it’s clever to get acquainted with them before you put them to work. For example, test the highest usable ISO value, the AF performance, and how all your lenses work when combined with your new camera. Make sure you understand the settings: if you don’t know your gear, you’ll spend time fiddling with settings meaning that you may miss the moments worth capturing.
3. MAPPING YOUR LOCATIONS
Just like planning what gear to bring, do some planning regarding the locations you want to visit. Do some research beforehand to get to know your intended locations, and using Google Earth and Google Maps is a good way to do it. Look at them on Google Earth, so you can plan ahead and visualize the 3D landscape instead of just looking at a 2D map. Also, mark the places you want to visit on Google Maps and sort the locations based on priority.
Keep in mind, however, that landscape photography isn’t just about getting out of your car for 10 minutes and taking some shots. Use a 2D map to plan some walking routes, too.
4. PLAN ON VISITING FEWER LOCATIONS
This is in a way related to the previous point. Although it may seem illogical at first, it makes perfect sense to plan to visit fewer locations while you’re on a photography trip. In beautiful locations, you may want to photograph everything around you. But, as a result, you’ll end up with lots of “touristy” snapshots. I’ve been there: beautiful places overwhelm you with impressions, you want to capture everything, and you just end up with plenty of average photos.
So, instead of wandering around and shooting as much as you can, focus on fewer locations. You’ll get much better photos this way.
5. UNDERSTANDING THE TIME OF YEAR IN DETAIL
This is another important aspect of planning a trip, especially if you’re shooting landscapes. Depending on the season, the sunrise and sunset will be at different times of the day. In order to plan your shots effectively, understand when and where the sun will rise and set at the location you’re visiting. Nigel uses Photopills App for this and it helps him plan the shots before he gets to the location.
Just like understanding the sun, you should think of the moon in the night sky. It affects your night shots, so make sure to take it into account.
Finally, do some research about the weather conditions of the location you’re visiting. You definitely want to bring the right gear and the right clothes with you.
6. RESEARCHING THE HISTORY AND CULTURE
Landscape photography is all about telling the story of the location you’re visiting. You may get amazing light and you might compose your shots properly, but you also want to tell the story about being in that place. To make your photos more effective, it’s good to know the background of the place you’re visiting.
You can do some research beforehand, of course. But when you get there, also talk to the locals and get to know them. You’ll hear some interesting stories about the place, and you’ll experience the locals’ culture yourself.
Nigel advises you to take a local guide if you can. Talk to them a bit before you go out and shoot and ask them all the questions you might have. That person understands the location, they can help you find the good spots for shooting, but they also know the history and culture of the place.
7. EXPLORING SOCIAL MEDIA
Finally, make a good use of social media before your trip and use it to find photos and amazing locations. Keep in mind that you’ll find plenty of popular locations, but you don’t want to just go to the same places everyone else photographs. Use social media to get inspired, to ask questions, and to help you avoid going to the tourist “hotspots” everyone else does.
[7 TIPS for PLANNING the PERFECT photography TRIP | Nigel Danson]