The best way to get a great photograph is to find a beautiful location and then show up at the right time and place, prepared for the shot.
And the only way to show up prepared is to have done your research beforehand!
Let me elaborate…
The Photo Vacation
So, a little about me. I work full-time as a firmware engineer – that’s a software engineer for things like cars, tvs, fitbits, and other such physical things. I also work in the United States.
If you happen to work in the United States, you’ll know that means we get a measly 15 days a year off.
And on those 15 days, I like to travel! And shoot some great photos!
I’m hoping that’s what you like to do too.
Those days are much-awaited and so so limited. So before I go, I research places for months, driving my husband crazy as I change my mind about this or that.
Use That Precious Time Well
The thing is that just like you, I want to go take great photos, but I’ve got a lot of everyday constraints.
- Time – I’m not going to be able to spend 5 hours or 5 weeks at one spot hoping for the perfect light or weather, because well, this is also my precious vacation.
And the aforementioned husband is usually right there, carrying my camera bag (thanks honey) and checking his watch. Know that feeling?
- Weight – I’m not going to carry 5 lenses, a tripod, some flashes, two bodies. I don’t want to check a bag solely for gear, I’m not insuring any of this gear, and I’m also not capable of carrying that much on me at any one time anyway.
Hence the husband with the camera bag.
- Access – I’m also not a pro so I don’t have any special passes, or sponsorships that are going to get me places or access that regular people don’t have. So I need to find out if I can actually be at the pier in the morning when the surfers are out.
Why do I Research Photography Locations?
I’m trying to find the answers to the following questions.
Which locations have a lot of great visuals and imagery?
I love to see some examples, because everyone has different tastes. Birding? Not so much my thing.
Can I access these locations easily, legally and affordably?
Let’s be honest, I’m not currently capable of a 10 hr hike into the wilderness to achieve a shot.
At this location, is there a specialized technique or skill I could learn before i go?
What can I learn to shoot the Milky Way?
Is there some gear I could take or buy that is necessary for the type of photography at the location?
Always a fun reason to get something new! I’m going to Burma soon and just got a GoPro since there will be a lot of river and lake excursions.
These questions and concerns might differ for you. But they’re probably along the same lines.
Boy, Research is Hard
What I’ve found is that this stuff is tough! And not fun!
The information is limited and scattered everywhere.
Most photography blogs are basically travel porn, showing beautiful imagery for you to ogle, but keeping all the useful information secret.
Some list a set of locations but that’s it, no maps, no techniques, no gear.
Just a few provide good information and as I find them, I will share them here.
But Research is Still Important
Well, you would show up at 8pm, sad to find that the garden closes at 6pm, and in fact that most places in Golden Gate Park are closed at that time.
You just wasted your evening. Possibly your last evening? Oh no!
And that’s why the research is important. Because we’re regular people, with limited vacation time, and we need to make the best of that precious time.
Enter Sidecar Photo
So that’s what I want to pull together here.
For every place I’ve gone to and come back with good shots, I’m going to provide a heap of info.
Mapped out locations? You got it.
Camera settings straight from the EXIF? Right under each shot.
Gear, Technique, Weather suggestions? In the Nitty Gritty table at the top of every post.
I’m even going to categorize each post so you can search for “nature” or “urban” depending on your fancy.
I’m only one person so I can’t review every single location so I’m also planning on writing an article on what tools and websites I have found useful.
If you know of a good tool or website to research photography locations, do post in the comments below!
This post contains affiliate links.
If you enjoy this article, please share!