How to plan a landscape photography trip

Nothing beats a successful landscape photography trip. Here’s your guide to making sure you get the most out of your adventure.

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Cover image credit Sam Forson from Pexels

If you’re a lover of the great outdoors, breathing that fresh air and exploring far and wide for stunning compositions, then organising a trip dedicated to doing such things is a fantastic idea. However, it can be a daunting task if you don’t know where to start. Hopefully this guide will give you a little bit of direction and the confidence to get out there. There’s nothing quite like enjoying some breathtaking adventures and taking photographs that will forever hold great memories.

Before you start planning

There are so many places in the world to visit, each with their own unique and beautiful landscapes. It can be a struggle to work out where to start. But it is worth considering what you really want to get out of the trip, whether you want to go solo or take friends and how much time you can afford to spend on such an adventure. You don’t always have to travel far to find great compositions. If this is your first trip, maybe consider something on a lesser scale and work up to something bigger. That way you can really refine your skillsets and grow as a photographer before leaping in at the deep end.

Planning a landscape photography trip with a map, notebook and compass

Choose a location

First of all it is a great idea to get inspired and what better way to do this than to look at other photographers’ work. Jump on Instagram, Pintrest and Flickr to see what other people have been up to, the locations they have visited and the types of shots they have managed to capture. Having a look at Google Earth can be a great help too. Many locations will have photographs pinned to them that will give a great idea of what the scenery in that area is like. Doing it this way will also allow you to work out distances between locations and whether or not you will need transport when you get there.

Research that location

Here are some great websites to visit in order to best plan you adventure:

LonelyPlanetThis is a great place to find inspiration on places to travel to and begin your initial research. This site also sells brilliant guidebooks for almost all destinations that are very well researched.

TripAdvisorOnce you have a destination in mind this can be a great place to find out more information and see reviews on accommodation, places to eat and local attractions.

WikiTravelThe ultimate free travel guide where anyone can contribute. This is ideal for getting a very broad understanding of your intended destination without too much hassle. Almost everything is covered from places to stay, to hiking routes, to transport and much more. Definitely one to check out!

Travel IndependentIf you are going it alone and looking to keep to a tight budget then have a quick look at what this site has to offer. There are plenty of recommendations on places to stay and areas to visit that won’t break the bank.

Visa HQIf you are looking to go far afield and step into an unknown land then it is well worth checking the requirements of that country. Visas can hold things up so jump on here as soon as you can and find out what is required based on where you are from and where you are travelling to.

Hiking ProjectIf hiking is your thing and you are looking to combine this with your photography then check this website out. It has great routes mapped all over the world and reviews for many of them. There are also images showing what the routes have to offer and useful facilities marked nearby.

Backpacker Magazine  – Another great website to look at for inspiration. There are loads of articles on this site discussing the best places to go and what to expect. If you are struggling to work out where to go and how to get there then this will certainly be worth a look.

Work out the best time to visit

The time that you visit a location will determine how that landscape will look in your images. If you have been inspired by images of snow capped mountains in the Alps then don’t rock up there during the height of summer expecting much of the same. In some areas of the world visibility, daylight hours and safety levels can vary greatly between seasons. Don’t get caught out!

Use websites such as TripAdvisor to work out the best times to go. Read other peoples comments, posts on forums and look at the weather predictions for the time you wish to go. Knowing the daylight hours is also going to be very important. This will determine how much actual photography time you are going to get. By knowing this you can work out how many locations you will be able to visit during your time there.

Beautiful waterfall flowing during the autumn with warm colours

Choose your accommodation

This is probably not going to be a trip worth splashing out on accommodation for. With any luck the scenery and weather will be so good you won’t spend any time moping about a hotel or bobbing about in some swimming pool. Apart from the fact that you aren’t going for such luxuries, you want to stay as connected to the landscape as possible. This way you’ll be able to react quickly when light suddenly hits.

Small hut in a dramatic mountainous landscape

Hostels are a great idea as these are often located in beautiful spots with plenty of hiking routes close by.. You can be in the heart of the landscape you are photographing and have meet other adventurous people too. By mixing with other adventurers you might pick up info on great spots to visit.

Camping is also a fantastic option for putting you right where the action is likely to happen. Provided the weather is good enough to do so, and you have the equipment you need, then this can be a comfortable experience. Being in a tent means that you will be up and awake moments before the sun rises ready to grab those golden hour photos… sometimes without even leaving your tent!

Use Google Earth to learn the lay of the land

Google Earth is a brilliant tool for photographers as it allows you to explore places all over the world without even stepping outside your front door. In many places the terrain is mapped fairly accurately.  Often Google Earth offers a 3D view of hills, mountains, lakes and rivers which is extremely useful for photographers. Use this to figure out potential viewpoints and estimate the way light may fall at different points.

Look for known walking routes and viewpoints

Getting your hands on a local walker’s map is a great way to find out where the best routes are. These often mark out viewpoints which can be a great help for choosing locations. Many nature parks and places of beauty will have books written about them as well as informative websites. If you are staying at a hotel, hostel or campsite then it is a great idea to ring ahead and ask if there is any information they can share with you.

Photographer hiking along a ridgeline high up over some large lakes

Note down nearby camera shops and places to get supplies

When you are out exploring a new place with your camera the last thing you want is a technical issue, but, every now and then trouble strikes. Batteries can die, cards can fail and gear can break. Hopefully this won’t happen but just in case it does it is good to have some idea of where to go to pick up supplies or get some help. You can do this bit when you are there but if you’re likely to have no internet access then maybe do the research before you go.

Find out if there are any local photography workshops

It may be worth a look online to see if there are any photography workshops or expeditions taking place in the area you are looking to visit. These can be a great way to get access to some great locations, learn from professionals who know the area and meet like-minded individuals.

Some great places to look are:

National Geographic Photography Expeditions

Light and Land Photo Tours

Sea to Summit Workshops 

Photographers out doing a landscape and wildlife photography workshop as a group

Have some objectives

Going to a new place can be a bit overwhelming. Usually there are lots of things to explore and knowing where to start can be extremely difficult. So make sure you have an idea in your head before you go of what you want to achieve. It is important that you have some discipline as a photographer. You’ll need to up for the early morning light and in the right place to get the shots worth taking.

Make a packing list

Figuring out what to take can quickly become overwhelming if you don’t spend time writing things down and prioritising. It is likely that you will be taking more than just a camera. Once you have packed lenses, filters, tripod, batteries, cards, peripheral devices, hard drives, and more, you will probably realise there is quite a lot of kit to keep track of. Not to mention all the other stuff you would normally need for a trip.

Start by writing things down in a notebook or on a spreadsheet and then prioritise it all. This will help you decide what to pack first and ensure you don’t take more than you really need. Once you have figured out what you need, break the list up into groups that will determine where you will pack each item. This way you can quickly find something if you need it.

Use this to check things in and out of your bags

Make sure you print the list off once you have packed everything. You can use this to make sure have everything as you unpack and repack bags between locations. With all of that equipment it is easy to forget to pack something, and in the world of camera gear even the smallest items can be expensive to replace. Take care of your kit and it will take care of you.

If you are planning on camping and hiking on your photography trip then check this article: Everything you need to pack for a photography adventure in your tent.

Final note

So hopefully by now you are feeling a lot more confident in planning your photography adventure. As you can see there are a few things to consider but if you use these hints and tips then you should be able to get out there and start exploring new landscapes without too much trouble. Just don’t forget to pack your camera!

NowPhotographer is an affiliate of Masterclass. All links to Masterclass products are affiliate links.

If you are lucky anough to live in or near the UK then maybe check out this article: UK landscape photography locations

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