Landscape Photography Tips That Have Nothing to Do With Gear (3)

August 19, 2015  •  Leave a Comment

This week, I'm posting a series of tips for Landscape photographers that have nothing to do with Camera Gear which means I get to tell you about one of my favourite things about landscape photography:


 Whether it's scouring maps for interesting formations, searching for ghost towns and neat old buildings on the google machine or justifying a leisurely Sunday drive in the name of "location scouting" I love planning photos.   Potential locations appear on the back of my hand in marker, get hastily recorded in voice notes on my phone, or noted on my personalized google map full of potential locations (aka "The To Do List").  When a concept comes to mind without a location, I have any number of possible places already noted. Once a location is decided,
I use The Photographer’s Ephemeris to help me decide on the best time to visit. 

My biggest reason for stockpiling so many ideas is the motivation a solid plan gives me to get out of bed in the morning.

Sunrise on Upper Kananaskis LakeSunrise on Upper Kananaskis Lake Camping near this location the night before gave me the opportunity to be at the location and ready to shoot before the sun rose.  I had known the sun would hit the mountain face in an interesting way by consulting maps and The Photographer's Ephemeris. Without the research to motivate me, I likely would have stayed in bed.

I can sleep for 13 hours a day if I don't have a good reason to get out of bed. (I went to bed at 6:45 pm yesterday. Party Animal...)  If I’m planning to get a specific shot at a location three hours away and the sun is going to rise at 5:30 am, then it’s a lot easier to leap out of bed at 1 am than if I only have a vague idea of where I want to go or see. 

An additional bonus of having a long list of photos to take is it allows me to keep shooting during the times when I may not be feeling creative. The shot list I have on hand helps spur me into action. Saturday with nothing to do?  Consult the list and suddenly have a good reason to get dressed and out of the house.

So what am I making a note of when I'm searching out all of these locations?  Here's a few things to keep in mind:

1. What direction will your camera be facing in relation to your subject? This will help determine if there's a particular time of day that's better to visit.
Goodbye BlueGoodbye Blue
 When I noticed that this old house faces East on google maps, I knew that the sunrise would be a perfect opportunity to catch the rising sun in it's windows.


2. Is there a particular kind of vegetation or weather pattern that would best suit the scene?  Am I so far north that the sun won't rise during certain parts of the year no matter how much I plead?  This will help decide what time of year to visit. 


Mountains are nice and all, but flowers are nicer.  Hey, wouldn't it be great to combine flowers and mountains in one single photo? Best visit in July.

3. How long will it take to arrive? There's nothing worse than underestimating how long it will take to reach a location and missing out on a pivotal moment. Is the Milky Way going to be perfectly situated in your composition at a particular time, best arrive a bit before that to set up.  Moments like a sunrise or sunset can happen quickly and are highly unlikely to accommodate anyone's schedule but their own. Don't be late.

The MomentThe Moment

The sun is almost here, the sun is almost here!  Better get ready....

4. Often overlooked but important details to note: Where are the bathrooms, gas stations, coffee shops and rest areas suitable for napping? It's not always about the photo.  Remember to look after you.  I've had many a roadside nap in the back of my truck and I find that the best places are a little bit off the beaten path so they're  quiet, but still have a bathroom near by.
Most people think that I spend my time photographing things when I'm out and about, but they're wrong. I'm usually just finding scenic and sunny places to nap.

4. Before you leave, if the option is available check to see if there are road or trail closures due to accidents or nearby aggressive animals.
5.  This is probably obvious, but what's the weather supposed to be like?  Is the cloud cover at the right altitude to create a great sunrise or sunset?  Are the skies going to be clear enough to capture those star trails? Or are you going to drive for 3 hours and get within 10 km of your destination only to be greeted by a ridiculous wall of snow?
Green Trees in a SnowstormGreen Trees in a Snowstorm
Last time I was in the area, there was a rather large mountain and lake behind those trees...

Do you have any other tips for planning a photo?  Leave them in the comments!


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