Planning and Researching for the Trip Ahead

Sunset over the fisherman's family boat and home in Ha Long, Vietnam

How important is advance research?

Recently I took my very first “Escorted Tour”.  We were headed to the beautiful country of Vietnam.  Since the trip was as much for my non-photographer wife as it was for me, we wanted to see as much as possible within the time allotted. Whether you're headed to a nearby National Park or to the other side of the world, thorough research ahead of time will pay great dividends.

I love to view the beauties of an area, the beautiful mountains and waters, the cities and farms, the history and lifestyle.  But mostly I love to see the people.  To me, Travel Photography is an excuse to do Street Photography in an exciting new place.

The advantage of an Escorted Tour is that almost every minute is planned out for you; the travel, the places to visit, even many of the meals.  You get to see a lot in a compressed amount of time and when you get home and you see the famous places in the movies, in magazines or on social media you can tell your friends that you have been there.

If you are a photographer, the disadvantage of an escorted tour is is that almost every minute is planned out for you; the travel, the places to visit, etc., but by necessity you get to a lot of those tourist-popular and tourist populated places that appease the broad spectrum of people going on those kinds of tours. 

 As I mentioned above, this was our first escorted tour and so I can only speak for it, but I have strong suspicions that our experience is not too different from most of the others. 

When I said above that almost every minute is planned out for you, that may have been a little bit of an overstatement.  Escorted tours, like cruises, have several “Optional” tours, at extra cost of course.  So if you didn’t take the optional tours you could have had quite a bit more free time to get to those places where you can get the best photos.

I believe I should be entitled to one big assumption, and that is that you are going to some place that you do not know your way around.  I was going to say “you are going to some place that you had never been before”, but in my case I had been to Vietnam before, but it was 50 years prior and under very different circumstances, as I was then serving there with the U.S. Army.  Returning now, 50 years later was certainly like visiting a place I had never been before.  I make this "one big assumption" because I would guess that if it was someplace you did know your way around you would create your own trip and free yourself from the rigid schedule on both times and locations that come along with the escorted tour.

Over the next few posts I think you’ll understand better what kind of research I’m talking about and how it will make your photography adventure so much better.

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