Harpers Ferry, West Virginia
A large portion of my time is devoted not to photography, but to scouting out great new places for photography. Over the years, I've learned a few ways to make the scouting process easier, more enjoyable and more efficient. With spring here, I thought I'd share some of these tips so that you can make the most of your scouting trips.
One of the fastest ways to turn an otherwise promising trip into an unproductive one is to allow distractions. When you plan a scouting trip, plan it around a motif or a goal and stick to it. For instance, if you want to hidden waterfalls, unusual rock formations or other natural areas, don't let yourself deviate into urban or industrial areas. If you give in to too many distractions along the way, you'll end up with a short list of new leads and a memory card full of images that lack a common theme.
Since you don’t know exactly what you'll find on your scouting trip, there’s no real way to know what gear you will need. Choose a small selection of lenses and filters that will cover a wide range of situations, and make sure that you've packed plenty of extra batteries and memory cards.
The same goes for your non-camera gear. It’s hard to say what the day will bring, so make sure you take rain gear, sunblock, bug spray and anything else you think you might need. If you're planning to spend the day exploring the countryside, you’d be wise to bring some bottled water and a packed lunch.
When it comes to scouting trips, mapping is crucial. It doesn’t matter how many wonderful locations you find if you can't remember how to get back to them. In this day and age, mapping apps on smartphones makes it easy to keep a log of your favorite locations. However, this method has one serious drawback – especially if you're venturing out into the wilderness. Cellular service still isn’t available everywhere, and if you’re caught in a remote area with no service, you’ll find it difficult if not impossible to mark your location.
That’s why I recommend taking along paper maps or a satellite GPS system. With either of these methods, you'll be able to mark your favorite locations while they're still fresh in your mind.
If you're planning to visit an area often, county plat map books are an excellent resource. These give you a detailed map of every township within a county, and they include not only rural roads but also listings of public and private property, waterways, railroads, wildlife areas and other points of interest. If you’re interested in a plat map book for a particular county, you can normally buy them at that county’s Cooperative Extension Office.
Few things are more enjoyable than taking a day to search for new places to create amazing images. These tips will help you ensure that your scouting trip is just as productive as it is fun.