Photography trips are in full swing here at Photography Workshop Company and Charleston Photography Tours. We just finished off an amazing trip with some great people for our ‘Spring In The Smokies’ adventure, and we’re now preparing to head to the Canadian Rockies for a 7 day excursion that hits Banff, Jasper and everywhere in-between. Before we pack our passports we are heading to North Carolina for some intense scouting of waterfalls in the Nantahala National Forest. Because we’re in scouting mode, I thought we would share with y’all some of the things we do to prepare for a scouting trip.
1) Location Research
Know when to go! Specific research of the area of interest including the best time of year to go for blooms, rain, water levels for waterfalls, foliage color, and critter activity is time spent that will go a long way to planning a successful trip.
Having an expectation of what the weather patterns might look like is also an important tool to have in your back pocket.
Before we even pack a bag, we’re pouring over maps of our destination. Water, mountains, land structures are all a matter of interest for us and we’ll mark them on the map. Depending on the amount of time we have to be able to wander, we’ll jot down areas in order of priority for us to explore.
Most vital to our scouting workflow is apple maps. A recent upgrade allows us to set a mark of where we are (if we have signal) and the app will retain that information. It’s great to have that information handy so we can quickly reference what’s near us on a future trip.
If technology is not to our advantage, we’ll have our old school maps, (you know, the paper kind) marked with locations that we plan on covering.
2) Stay Organized!
Apple notes allows you to take a screen grab of your location on the map, and jot down whether the location is best for sunrise or sunset. Any important details or compositional reminders can also be made in scouting notes. For our Banff trip, we have notes from each trip we’ve ever taken and the new locations we find each time. It’s tough to remember every location, and staying organized with a place to keep pictures captured with our phones for future reference along with notes we’ll need to remember is vital.
3) Be Prepared With A Scouting Pack.
You never know what you’ll encounter when you’re scouting and being prepared can sometimes mean breezing through a difficult scenario, or having your trip ruined. It’s a great idea to keep a pack in the back of your vehicle that is filled with a first aid kit, bear spray, rope, fire starter, zip lock bags, gloves, a knife, and extra bug spray.
4) Talk To A Local
Some of our best finds have been through the knowledge of a local. Stop at a small general store, a parks office (if one is available) and speak to a ranger, or a small gas station. Strike up a conversation with your waitress about the area and find out where they like to go. Regardless of whether or not they have an interest in photography, they may be able to point you in the direction of a favorite spot of theirs.
5) Prepare Mentally.
A scouting trip requires a different frame of mind. You aren’t going with the object of landing that next great shot. An open mind, relaxed, ready to get out and stretch your legs are all requirements of a successful scouting trip. Leave the laziness at home. Road side photography will get you the popular destinations, but getting out into the wilderness and hiking into the interior will be your greatest reward.
Enter your new location with eyes open, and an appreciation for the surroundings. When you approach a new location with a desire to be present, rather than a hunting trip for what you can take from the location, you’ll find the experience is much more fulfilling.