Plan Your Shots Ahead of Time

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Often times we find ourselves just being wherever we are, taking advantage of what light is available, taking pictures of what sights are available. We use a combination of timing, luck, and skill to capture the depths of what we’re feeling, or the awe of our surroundings. We may think to ourselves, “I’m so glad I was at that place, at that time, to get that shot.” Or, we may think to ourselves, “If only I was here an hour sooner,” or, “I wish we’d stopped here at dawn.”

It really helps to know, ahead of time, exactly what you want to photograph, and how you want to photograph it, for any particular destination you have in mind. Here are a few tips to help you do just that.

Buy the guide book. There is a guide book for just about any destination imaginable. Today, as you read this, I am in Bar Harbor, Maine. I purchased Acadia, The Complete Guide: Mount Desert Island & Acadia National Park because I knew we were only going to be in this stunning, outrageously beautiful area of the country for a couple of days. I want to know where to go, how to get there, what areas will be crowded, which areas will be secluded, what views are easily accessible, and which require a rugged hike. Knowing these things ahead of time helps me to prepare for the shots I have in mind.

Visit the area’s travel and tourism website. Lots of places will mail you an area guide, maps, and brochures, for free. Personally, this is how I prepare for just about every vacation that we go on. When we went to Wyoming, I received the free vacation packet from the travel and tourism site. When we went to Colorado, I requested their travel guide. And, even though I’m a Maine native, I still requested travel brochures in prep for our trip. Here’s a idea – even if you’re not going anywhere at all, request your home state’s travel and tourism guide. You’ll be shocked at how much is in your home state that you didn’t even know about; photographic adventures just waiting to be experienced.

Follow the dawn/dusk rule of thumb. This is especially true for landscape shots. The light is just better at dawn and at dusk. Sure, mountains and meadows are still pretty at noon, but the harsh light doesn’t translate well to a photograph. So get up early, or linger a little longer until sunset, and see a marked difference in the quality of your photographs.

Have the right equipment. Now, far be it for me to advise you to drag every bit of photography equipment that you own around with you. But you’ll kick yourself if you see a herd of buffalo in the distance, but left your telephoto lens behind. Maybe you’d like to get a shot of yourself in front of a landmark, but you don’t have a tripod. Perhaps you strolled along the ocean and got some spray on your lens, but forgot to bring a cleaning cloth with you. Knowing where you’re going and what you’re likely to see or experience when you get there will really help you plan for what kind of gear to bring along.

Talk to the locals. They know where all the pretty little hidden spots are located. They know where the tourist traps are, and how to avoid them if you’re looking to capture the real flavor of the area. They’re familiar with all of the scenic drives, lookouts, landmarks, and points of interest that may not make it into any guide book or brochure. So grab a seat, have a beer, chat with the bartender, and get the inside scoop.

Photo credits (all): Tiffany Joyce.

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  • Trish

    For our trip to Yellowstone in June 2010 I bought a copy of “Photographing Yellowstone Park” by Gustav W. Verderber. Bought it used. It not only helped plan our photos but even helped us schedule our days. My photos of the famous lower falls were taken at exactly the right time of day. Although there was no distinct rainbow that day, the play of color in the mist can be seen. I rented equipment he recommended so, in general, I had what I needed although a few times I wished I had a more powerful telephoto.
    I would encourage anybody to research their trips as the author recommends and also recommend Mr Verderber's book for Yellowstone. PS still editing over 2000 photos we took between the two of us!

  • Tr5sh

    Just wanted to add a tidbit. Mr. Verderber recommends never leaving your vehicle without ALL your equipment, water and snacks. He describes following some antelope for the best shot and ending up a mile from his car. Not heeding his advice one time my battery died and another time I filled up my 4 gig card while off in the geyser fields. I have now learned my lesson, and with the exception of a tripod, I haul it all.

  • WhitneyJ

    At first when I saw the title, I disagreed because I don’t set up photographs. As I read along I get what you are saying. Even though I only have two lenses I always carry them. I completely agree with the ‘dawn/dusk’ thought. Recently I photographed snow and the best shots were the ones when I photographed at dusk.

  • WhitneyJ

    At first when I saw the title, I disagreed because I don’t set up photographs. As I read along I get what you are saying. Even though I only have two lenses I always carry them. I completely agree with the ‘dawn/dusk’ thought. Recently I photographed snow and the best shots were the ones when I photographed at dusk.

  • WhitneyJ

    At first when I saw the title, I disagreed because I don’t set up photographs. As I read along I get what you are saying. Even though I only have two lenses I always carry them. I completely agree with the ‘dawn/dusk’ thought. Recently I photographed snow and the best shots were the ones when I photographed at dusk.

  • WhitneyJ

    At first when I saw the title, I disagreed because I don’t set up photographs. As I read along I get what you are saying. Even though I only have two lenses I always carry them. I completely agree with the ‘dawn/dusk’ thought. Recently I photographed snow and the best shots were the ones when I photographed at dusk.

  • WhitneyJ

    At first when I saw the title, I disagreed because I don’t set up photographs. As I read along I get what you are saying. Even though I only have two lenses I always carry them. I completely agree with the ‘dawn/dusk’ thought. Recently I photographed snow and the best shots were the ones when I photographed at dusk.

  • WhitneyJ

    At first when I saw the title, I disagreed because I don’t set up photographs. As I read along I get what you are saying. Even though I only have two lenses I always carry them. I completely agree with the ‘dawn/dusk’ thought. Recently I photographed snow and the best shots were the ones when I photographed at dusk.

  • WhitneyJ

    At first when I saw the title, I disagreed because I don’t set up photographs. As I read along I get what you are saying. Even though I only have two lenses I always carry them. I completely agree with the ‘dawn/dusk’ thought. Recently I photographed snow and the best shots were the ones when I photographed at dusk.

  • WhitneyJ

    At first when I saw the title, I disagreed because I don’t set up photographs. As I read along I get what you are saying. Even though I only have two lenses I always carry them. I completely agree with the ‘dawn/dusk’ thought. Recently I photographed snow and the best shots were the ones when I photographed at dusk.

  • WhitneyJ

    At first when I saw the title, I disagreed because I don’t set up photographs. As I read along I get what you are saying. Even though I only have two lenses I always carry them. I completely agree with the ‘dawn/dusk’ thought. Recently I photographed snow and the best shots were the ones when I photographed at dusk.

  • WhitneyJ

    At first when I saw the title, I disagreed because I don’t set up photographs. As I read along I get what you are saying. Even though I only have two lenses I always carry them. I completely agree with the ‘dawn/dusk’ thought. Recently I photographed snow and the best shots were the ones when I photographed at dusk.

  • WhitneyJ

    At first when I saw the title, I disagreed because I don’t set up photographs. As I read along I get what you are saying. Even though I only have two lenses I always carry them. I completely agree with the ‘dawn/dusk’ thought. Recently I photographed snow and the best shots were the ones when I photographed at dusk.

  • WhitneyJ

    At first when I saw the title, I disagreed because I don’t set up photographs. As I read along I get what you are saying. Even though I only have two lenses I always carry them. I completely agree with the ‘dawn/dusk’ thought. Recently I photographed snow and the best shots were the ones when I photographed at dusk.

  • WhitneyJ

    At first when I saw the title, I disagreed because I don’t set up photographs. As I read along I get what you are saying. Even though I only have two lenses I always carry them. I completely agree with the ‘dawn/dusk’ thought. Recently I photographed snow and the best shots were the ones when I photographed at dusk.

  • WhitneyJ

    At first when I saw the title, I disagreed because I don’t set up photographs. As I read along I get what you are saying. Even though I only have two lenses I always carry them. I completely agree with the ‘dawn/dusk’ thought. Recently I photographed snow and the best shots were the ones when I photographed at dusk.

  • WhitneyJ

    At first when I saw the title, I disagreed because I don’t set up photographs. As I read along I get what you are saying. Even though I only have two lenses I always carry them. I completely agree with the ‘dawn/dusk’ thought. Recently I photographed snow and the best shots were the ones when I photographed at dusk.

  • WhitneyJ

    At first when I saw the title, I disagreed because I don’t set up photographs. As I read along I get what you are saying. Even though I only have two lenses I always carry them. I completely agree with the ‘dawn/dusk’ thought. Recently I photographed snow and the best shots were the ones when I photographed at dusk.

  • WhitneyJ

    At first when I saw the title, I disagreed because I don’t set up photographs. As I read along I get what you are saying. Even though I only have two lenses I always carry them. I completely agree with the ‘dawn/dusk’ thought. Recently I photographed snow and the best shots were the ones when I photographed at dusk.

  • WhitneyJ

    At first when I saw the title, I disagreed because I don’t set up photographs. As I read along I get what you are saying. Even though I only have two lenses I always carry them. I completely agree with the ‘dawn/dusk’ thought. Recently I photographed snow and the best shots were the ones when I photographed at dusk.

  • WhitneyJ

    At first when I saw the title, I disagreed because I don’t set up photographs. As I read along I get what you are saying. Even though I only have two lenses I always carry them. I completely agree with the ‘dawn/dusk’ thought. Recently I photographed snow and the best shots were the ones when I photographed at dusk.

  • WhitneyJ

    At first when I saw the title, I disagreed because I don’t set up photographs. As I read along I get what you are saying. Even though I only have two lenses I always carry them. I completely agree with the ‘dawn/dusk’ thought. Recently I photographed snow and the best shots were the ones when I photographed at dusk.

  • WhitneyJ

    At first when I saw the title, I disagreed because I don’t set up photographs. As I read along I get what you are saying. Even though I only have two lenses I always carry them. I completely agree with the ‘dawn/dusk’ thought. Recently I photographed snow and the best shots were the ones when I photographed at dusk.

  • WhitneyJ

    At first when I saw the title, I disagreed because I don’t set up photographs. As I read along I get what you are saying. Even though I only have two lenses I always carry them. I completely agree with the ‘dawn/dusk’ thought. Recently I photographed snow and the best shots were the ones when I photographed at dusk.

  • WhitneyJ

    At first when I saw the title, I disagreed because I don’t set up photographs. As I read along I get what you are saying. Even though I only have two lenses I always carry them. I completely agree with the ‘dawn/dusk’ thought. Recently I photographed snow and the best shots were the ones when I photographed at dusk.

  • WhitneyJ

    At first when I saw the title, I disagreed because I don’t set up photographs. As I read along I get what you are saying. Even though I only have two lenses I always carry them. I completely agree with the ‘dawn/dusk’ thought. Recently I photographed snow and the best shots were the ones when I photographed at dusk.

  • WhitneyJ

    At first when I saw the title, I disagreed because I don’t set up photographs. As I read along I get what you are saying. Even though I only have two lenses I always carry them. I completely agree with the ‘dawn/dusk’ thought. Recently I photographed snow and the best shots were the ones when I photographed at dusk.

  • WhitneyJ

    At first when I saw the title, I disagreed because I don’t set up photographs. As I read along I get what you are saying. Even though I only have two lenses I always carry them. I completely agree with the ‘dawn/dusk’ thought. Recently I photographed snow and the best shots were the ones when I photographed at dusk.

  • WhitneyJ

    At first when I saw the title, I disagreed because I don’t set up photographs. As I read along I get what you are saying. Even though I only have two lenses I always carry them. I completely agree with the ‘dawn/dusk’ thought. Recently I photographed snow and the best shots were the ones when I photographed at dusk.

  • WhitneyJ

    At first when I saw the title, I disagreed because I don’t set up photographs. As I read along I get what you are saying. Even though I only have two lenses I always carry them. I completely agree with the ‘dawn/dusk’ thought. Recently I photographed snow and the best shots were the ones when I photographed at dusk.

  • WhitneyJ

    At first when I saw the title, I disagreed because I don’t set up photographs. As I read along I get what you are saying. Even though I only have two lenses I always carry them. I completely agree with the ‘dawn/dusk’ thought. Recently I photographed snow and the best shots were the ones when I photographed at dusk.

  • WhitneyJ

    At first when I saw the title, I disagreed because I don’t set up photographs. As I read along I get what you are saying. Even though I only have two lenses I always carry them. I completely agree with the ‘dawn/dusk’ thought. Recently I photographed snow and the best shots were the ones when I photographed at dusk.

  • WhitneyJ

    At first when I saw the title, I disagreed because I don’t set up photographs. As I read along I get what you are saying. Even though I only have two lenses I always carry them. I completely agree with the ‘dawn/dusk’ thought. Recently I photographed snow and the best shots were the ones when I photographed at dusk.

  • WhitneyJ

    At first when I saw the title, I disagreed because I don’t set up photographs. As I read along I get what you are saying. Even though I only have two lenses I always carry them. I completely agree with the ‘dawn/dusk’ thought. Recently I photographed snow and the best shots were the ones when I photographed at dusk.