I love to get out and explore, which often includes travelling to new destinations. And one of the best things about travelling is having new places to photograph. The adventure of visiting a new place is one of the most refreshing and inspiring aspects of my photography!
Being able to get out and visit new places requires some planning, though. I have learned from the mistake of just winging it and ending up someplace totally unprepared or without cell service and just feeling like I had no idea what to do. The lessons I’ve learned have led me to have even a minimal plan in place prior to hitting the road. I’m a planner, so it’s easy for me to over plan – but I try to find a sweet spot of having some guide, not a schedule. This works well for keeping my trips stress-free. The planning is always a team activity, so my spouse and I both know what to expect and can pitch in on the ideas!
Where To Go:
We mostly learn of places to visit by seeing things online or by seeing where other people are going. We follow a lot of other photographers and travelers on social media, so we often learn of places from seeing where others are going. Upon seeing something that looks interesting, we jump right to whether we can drive or fly, and then go from there. Of course, we have our own “bucket list” of places to go and we plan those out, too!
How To Travel:
We love road trips and can often be found stuffing our car full of gear. The benefit of driving is that we can take much more gear, which is good when camping is involved. The drawback is that it can take much more time to reach some destinations. We use an airline credit card to rack up points for flights, which makes it a bit easier to afford air travel. When camping is involved, we get much more creative with packing gear, but it is definitely possible and we’ve had some great trips by flying to national parks!
How To Plan:
This is where things get fun. We like to have a meeting and sit around the kitchen table and get the ideas going. With some input from websites and travel books, a plan quickly starts to come together. We plan out flights, drives, rentals, and places to stay first. Within the structured schedule that flight times and rental timing provides, we can make a list of what we want to do – and that list is usually long. For instance, we planned a multi-day trip to Rocky Mountain National Park, and within a few minutes, had what would easily fill a full week or more with hiking around the park. We tend to research the details of hikes, so we know timing and what we would need to pack, then pick and choose our top places to hit!
Where To Go:
I like to have an idea of good restaurants around where we visit, so we have an idea of where to go when we get hungry. I don’t plan where to eat each meal, as that can create a tight schedule that can backfire. But having an idea does help! We also like to know the details of hikes we plan to do, or of the things we want to see in a city. Often, this is just a list of places with details like addresses, so we know easily what to go see or where to eat. We don’t always mark everything off the list, but it helps to have some suggestions in hand.
When To Go:
We try to avoid very popular (crowded) places, but sometimes, those places must be seen. When we know we’ll be hitting a popular spot, we try to plan the timing. Early morning is often best, to beat crowds. Knowing sunrise and sunset times helps to be sure the lighting is best for where we are shooting. If hiking is involved, timing can make or break it. Early is almost always the best answer for when to hit the trail – beat the crowd, beat the heat, beat the dark! Watch the weather, too!
What To Take:
This is perhaps our favorite part of getting ready for a trip – packing is always exciting! We pack appropriate clothing and necessities, but then the fun starts. Planning for the photo aspect of the trip! Sorting through our stash of film and choosing what we feel works best for the environment. Plotting what cameras to take and how to pack them – and often struggling to fit them all (I’m an over packer when it comes to camera gear, every time). I love medium format film, but when I’m planning several days of hikes in the mountains, it may not be best to lug around a big, heavy camera. When facing possible adverse weather, I make sure my gear fits and doesn’t triple the weight of my backpack. It’s always fun to pick cameras and pack them up for an adventure!
Places To Stop:
When I’m visiting a park or a city where I have specific things to see, I make a list so I know what to try to hit. For instance, on my first trip to Yosemite National Park, I made a list of the places I wanted to be sure to see, and then checked them off as I went. This helped me with not missing anything I would have regretted, but also gave me a sort of structure for how to go through the park. It allowed some time to get off that beaten path, too. Some of my favorite landscape photos have come from places well off the roads, and the change of viewpoint can give a unique perspective of what may be a frequently photographed place.
When The Day Comes:
Finally, the big trip comes and we hit the road or jump on a plane, having some idea of what to do and where to go helps us to fill the days with fun and to not missing anything that is important to us. We try not to over-plan – we don’t make schedules or itineraries. Some of the best times for photography and enjoying a trip are when we just have time to relax and enjoy where we are. It’s a fine line for us between detailed and relaxed, but over time, we’ve found what works best – lists and ideas. Having these things written down is important, too, because we often end up in places without cell service. These lists and plans keep our days full, but also allow for flexibility to explore places we may not know about until we arrive!
That’s how we take on mapping out our travels, along with trying to be prepared for just about anything (weather can just take an entire plan and throw it up in the air!) Sometimes we do a lot of research beforehand, other times maybe not as much. Having plan is always helpful though! The most important thing is just getting out there to see what we can find, having fun photographing new places, and having stories to tell when we get back home!