Making Plans

EWR > SFO > DIA > JAC > DIA > EWR

No, that’s not some secret code.  But the time for me to travel is close at hand once again, and that’s my flight itinerary in “airline speak”.  After a few days of visiting home (San Francisco) where I’ll be eating sourdough bread and watching my nephew graduate from grammar school, it is off to Jackson WY for a week in the field, creating images for my website.

My photography trips have, until now, been primarily educational experiences, or my only intent was to get out and capture images with no specific goal in mind.  But with this trip, I’ve planned to create some specific imagery that I need to fill out portfolios on my website.  I’m primarily in need of Adventure images, so that will be my main focus while in Jackson.  I’d like to get some wildlife images as well, but they are harder to plan for.

But this leads me to a bigger question: Just how much can you “plan” a photo excursion or shoot?

The answer, I suppose, depends on what your photographic goals are for the day.  For my upcoming trip to Jackson, creating the mountain biking images I’m looking for should be fairly straightforward.  There are plenty of great trails in the area, and I’ve got three or four athletes who are willing to spend a little time with me as I photograph them. As long as the weather cooperates (i.e. it isn’t pouring down rain) there shouldn’t be any issues.  The biggest concern I will probably have has to do with other riders on the track, and how to shoot around them.

If your plan is to create landscape images, well you’re also mostly in luck.  Once your subject has been selected, your plans are almost complete.  All you need to do is frame, focus and squeeze away.  For the landscape photographer, a bit of bad weather can actually create just the drama your image needs to make your viewer take notice.  Clearing or approaching storms, the reds and golds of a setting sun on a mountaintop or undersides of clouds or other weather events can provide just the drama to take your image to the next level.

And if your plan is to capture wildlife, you may as well not plan at all! OK, that sounds harsher than I intended, but the plan should be to put yourself in the best position possible and then react as you can to what Nature provides you.  Research helps, so understanding the season, or food sources or water holes can be beneficial to putting yourself in the right place.  Prior experience, or scouting your location ahead of time or even hiring a local guide with knowledge of the region can also give you the best chance of capturing the critter you are after.

In all reality, planning ahead and defining some specific goals for your photo trip are key to the success of that trip.  But be sure to pack your patience and be ready to react to whatever Mother Nature provides, as you may only get one opportunity to capture the moment unfolding in front of you!

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