We’ve been living on the road full-time, in some fashion or another, since 1996. The first four years were spent living in a trailer, pulled by our truck, cris-crossing North America, photographing nature as we found it. The last few years have been in Israel, traveling outside the country every three months to explore Europe.
We are one of the four million US citizens living overseas, and among the thousands of Americans traveling on the road every day. We’ve done so much traveling, you’d think we’d seen it all, but every now and then something will surprise USA, catch us off guard, and attempt to spoil what might be a good time.
We hope to help you avoid some of the missed steps and pitfalls of travel in this series of articles called “Know Before You Go”, and help you spend more time concentrating on your camera and pen.
Where to Go and What to See – It Boils Down to Research
Some people travel without researching their destination much, just seeing what they see when they see it. This is fine if you have the time and your vacation isn’t “work” for you, but if you want to pay your rent through your writing and photography while you travel, research before, during, and after.
Before you go, visit websites, pour over tour guide books, read fiction and non-fiction about the location, doing whatever you can to fill your mind with the possibilities there. The old adage “write what you know” is true for writers and photographers. The more you know your subject, the better quality the results of your work will be, as you can anticipate the action and know the story before it’s told. Seeing the real thing in action heightens the experience with familiarity.
As you research your destination and subject interest there, go beyond your main interest. If you are visiting Bosque Del Apache, New Mexico, for the snow geese, consider the reasons the area is such a Mecca for so many birds. What is it about the habitat, weather, and food sources? What makes it a safe place with protection from predators? Then look further.
This area isn’t “natural”. Did you know that? Much of it is manmade, a created wetland. Was it made “just for the birds” or for other reasons? Part of the story, visually and verbally, can include this information.
Go even further and deeper. Over 100,000 people visit Bosque annually. What brings them here? Is it just for the birds? A part of the story is how this area remains protected because area residents, a long way from big towns and industry, enjoy the benefits of the human visitation. Keep pen and paper near you while researching and write down your questions as well as the answers. Examine all the who, what, and where, and then really concentrate on how and why.
Why is this important? Not only will you be able to work faster within the area because you know where to find what you are looking for, you can create more opportunities for yourself.
Compile a list of all the natural subjects you may find there, everything from animals to geology. Don’t forget the various habitats, wildlife and plant life you can find in the diverse habitats. Note the images you need to answer your questions. If part of the story is the number of visitors, make a point of photographing people watching or photographing the birds. Creating a good list gives you something to “check off” as you go, making sure you tell the whole story.
Be careful not to limit yourself to a subject matter like “only birds”. If you arrive and there are few birds, be open to the other possibilities. Different wildlife appears at different times of the day, so schedule your time to take advantage of the full course of the day’s events, if possible, instead of just showing up and expecting nature to “be there” waiting for you.
Weather can make the difference between a good photographic trip and a bad one, but study and learn how to make the weather work for you, no matter what the conditions. We suffer when faced with endless bright sunny days, longing for clouds, but we’ve learned to work with shadows, using fill-flash in shadows where we don’t want them and exposing for contrast when we do want them. Push yourself to work around and through the weather, using rain as a soft filter to shoot through, or allow the wind to blow the flowers around into colorful blurred patterns instead of fighting it. Accept what you find and learn how to work with it. Be ready for anything.
On our website, we have an entire section dedicated to “going” on the road called the Going Zone. Here you will find articles on how to figure out where to go, when to go, and what to see when you get there, and how to maximize your photographic experience while there.
Taking Your Camera on the Road – Know Before You Go
In the next in this series, we offer a wide variety of links and resources to help you with your planning. Here are other articles and information on this site that will help you even more when planning for the road and taking your camera on the road.
- Natural Wanders – Tips on Photographing at Specific Nature Areas
- Taking It With You When You Go
- Deciding Where to Go When
- Personal Safety in the Outdoors
- Traveling Photographers and Flying With Film
- Packing the 10 Essentials
- Taking Camera Equipment on the Road
- Camera Bags – Love to Lug You, Baby
- Packing Tips and Techniques
- Packing Clothing for the Road
- Packing for Camping
- The Ideal Photographic Vehicle
- The Ideal Photographic Vehicle Mobile Platform
- Choosing a Full-Time Recreational Vehicle
- Weather Information and Resources
- Traveling Smoke-Free
- Equipment Lust: The Hunt for the Ideal Camera
- Digital Camera: Tips and Tricks
- Equipment Lust – Accessories Can Make the Difference
- Developing the Photographic Approach
- Splish Splash – Photography in the Rain
- Looking for Landscapes – Scenic and Landscape Photography
- Background Magic
- Wildlife Ethics – You Are a Guest in Their Home
Books on Travel and Photography
We’ve put together some books we recommend to help you with some of your travel planning and research for your next adventure with travel and nature photography.