Planning and Research for the Trip Ahead - Continued (#6)

 Round Fishing Boats near Hoi An, Vietnam

This is the sixth and final article in a series about Planning and Researching for photography on future travels.  I have put links to the previous articles at the bottom of this one.

Recently I heard from a friend of mine, who is an excellent photographer, that her and her husband had been invited by some friends to visit an exotic location in the Far East where their friends had a time share condominium.  She was of course excited for the photo opportunities she was going to get in this far away country, but when they got their after their friends had shown them a very few of some of the nearby sites they just wanted to spend the rest of their time lounging around the pool and relaxing.  My poor friend nearly went insane and was so disappointed.  Of course being the photographer she is she still managed to get a few great shots, but she felt she missed out on so much of the potential that was there.  In case you ever get such an opportunity, whether it’s to a far-away country or just an interesting part of your country, use some of the tips and tricks I’ve talked about here to make the most of your time and location. 

For this series of articles I’m directing it more toward those who have a preset itinerary and/or schedule whether it is set by a tour company, travel agency, cruise line or friends or family.   

I know how my mind works (or maybe I should say sometimes doesn’t work) when I’m on a trip and especially in unfamiliar territory.  I can look and plan all I want but if I don’t have something to refer to it will mostly be for naught.  I’ve mentioned my spreadsheet several times before and promised I’d include an example in this article.   This only shows two days of the trip, but as you can see I start out with the date and space to put photo ideas.  Below that, crossing two columns, I put an overall description of that day’s events or activities and then break it down by the part of the day.  I’ve mentioned it before and I don’t think I can over emphasize that an awful lot of your very best shots will come early in the morning or in the evening, whether it’s because of the lighting or the  level or kinds of activities or whatever it might be, be prepared to shoot early and late.
Now with that as a starting point I went to work to fill in the activities and events for each part of the day.  Of course the first thing was to go over the schedule provided to determine whether there was a guided group tour/activity or if there was free time to make my own plans.  Without exception I had the early A.M. before breakfast on my own.  In this case I would be able to see if there was a morning activity/tour planned, but I would never know what time that was until a day or two before when we were on the ground and getting the final detailed schedules.   

As I mentioned in a previous article; except for days when travel to the next location was involved, I still had the option of going or not going with whatever was planned.   

I started by going through the itinerary provided and also the optional tours available and using my favorite search engines finding out what I could about each of these locations and areas, and also looking at some available alternatives if I wanted to venture out on my own, or for when there was free time.  I’ve talked about the various ways of researching that in previous posts.

Another thing that really helped me out was that the tour company told us exactly where we would be staying each night with the name of the hotel.  This allowed me to go to Google Earth place it and then take a look at the surrounding attractions. 

This really paid off.  In this image from Google earth I saw that there was a river right across from the hotel, however, when we got to our hotel it wasn’t visible and frankly, if I had not planned using the methods I’ve been talking about I would have missed out on some great photos, like the one at the top of this article.  When I looked at my spreadsheet after we got to the hotel I was reminded that there was a river nearby and found great access to it only a few hundred feet away.
As you can see here, there is quite a difference between the spreadsheet with just the blank headings and the finished version with the detail filled in.  I also used the spreadsheet to remind me to make sure my GPS was set (Which I had a real struggle with getting to work for some reason and ended up being one of the biggest frustrations of the trip.  It finally worked the last day or two.  L  ),  when I should be extra sure to bring along my tripod, notes like N&G People, which meant to get both Native and Group member people, etc.  You may not need or want extra little notes like those, but I found for me that it was better to be reminded than to get so involved in some particular plan that I missed something I wanted to get.  Even with those reminders that still happened more than I would have liked.  Notice that there was one specific item I really wanted to get so I put it in a different color so I wouldn’t forget.  (I did get a photo of it, but I was very disappointed in the photo.  Whatever photo I had seen of it that made me want to get it was taken under much more favorable conditions than I was able to get.)

Whether you use a spreadsheet, a notebook, index cards, voice notes on your phone, have a photographic memory of what you studied or whatever method works for you the important take-away here is that you plan so you get as much as possible of what you want.  I’ve found for myself that planning was a lot of fun and built up the anticipation as well as helped me get so many more of the photos that I wanted to get.  I came back knowing I had done the best I could do within the parameters I had to work under and I’m pretty happy with that.

You can click on the descriptions below to go to the previous articles in this series:

Quick summary of Posts:

Now that I’ve got these articles done I can start posting more of the photos from this trip and others both past and future.  Subscribe to my blog below so you don’t miss any of the future photos and remember:

Your comments and questions are always read and appreciated. Let me hear from you.

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