Before I visit any location for a photo shoot the first time, I do my research. I find that with proper research and planning, my probability of having a successful shoot and coming home with photos I’m happy with increases dramatically.
I start with the most important. Where precisely is it? How do I get there? Is it only open specific days /hours? What’s the parking situation? Are portions closed? Are there COVID restrictions? And most importantly, what’s the bathroom situation! Most of this info is readily accessible on the sites website or with a quick google search.
My next step is to do a Google search on the location and view images that other photographers have taken. I’m looking for specific subjects and spots that may be of interest to me.
I’ll then go into the Google Earth app and take a look at the location. I’m trying to get a general lay of the land as well as look at an specific spots that might be of interest.
A view of the area from a recent photo shoot taken from Google earth...
Final step is to go into another app called Photo Pills and check out the site. Photo Site is kind of a Swiss-army knife of photography tools. One of which is a tool that shows the location and the relation to the sun for any given day/time in the future. This gives me an idea of what type I’ve lighting I’ll encounter. Will my subjects be illuminated, backlit, side lit, etc. I can also see where the sunrise / sunset will be and do I want to be at the spot o photograph either.
A view from a recent photo shoot taken from Photo Pills. It shows me where the sun will rise and set and it's location throughout the day.
The day before, I’ll determine what gear I need to bring with me and pack my camera bag. For me, it’s always been a catch-22 in that I want to make sure I bring everything I could possibly bring but at the same time, I want to travel as lightly as possible. I hate carrying around a heavy bag.
If I’m going to be shooting landscapes, the 16-35 goes in the bag. Do I need a mid-range lens. If so, I add my 24-105. Photographing wildlife? Add the 150-600. Flowers? My 100mm macro.
I give each lens the once over and a quick cleaning if necessary. One thing I ALWAYS check before loading it into the bag is that the lens is set to auto-focus and the Image Stabilization is turned on. You’d hate to miss the first shot of the morning because the lens was on manual focus or the IS isn’t engaged.
I pop in a fresh batter and memory card and reformat the memory card IN CAMERA.
I typically have 3 spare batteries in my bag plus 2 spare memory cards. I use 128GB cards and the chances of filling a card are practically nil, so they are truly emergency back ups for me.
I’ll add in my flash if necessary and polarizing or ND filters if I think I’ll be needing them.
In terms of accessories, I verify that the following items are in the bag and in their proper place; platypod/ball head, multiple lens clothes, lens hoods, battery charger for phone, pen/paper, bandaids, small flashlight, a couple dollars in quarters to feed parking meters if necessary, a strip of gaffers tape wrapped around a pen, etc.
Everything in my bag has a specific spot. I don’t want to be fumbling looking for something and risk missing the ‘epic’ shot. I also keep fresh batteries/memory cards in one zippered pocket and used ones in another. This ensures I don’t accidentally load a dead battery or full card back into my camera.
Depending on the type of shoot, I may throw my tripod and/or monopod in the back of my car. I also have a fold up beach chair that I’ll often bring with me.
If I’m doing a wildlife / landscape shoot, I’ll pack a lunch bag the Night before. Typically, a couple sandwiches, granola bars and a few bottles of water. I also throw sunscreen and/or bug spray in the same bag.
If I’m planning to leave early, I’ll lay my clothes out the night before. I like layers that can be added or removed as necessary. A jacket and wide brimmed hat are both musts for.
I also make sure my cell phone if fully charged.
The morning of, I do one final check of my bag and everything I need is ready to go. I’m out the door in search of some epic photos, knowing I haven’t forgotten anything.
Until next time - keep shooting...