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Tuesday, January 1, 2008

A Photographer's Guide: Getting Ready To Travel

Follow these tips to help you plan your next photography trip, so you‚’ll be ready to get the shot

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Grand Canyon National Park, ArizonaGrand Canyon National Park, Arizona
If you’re photographing ocean landscapes or shorebirds, track tide and storms. Outgoing and low tides give you the best chance to capture shorebirds feeding, while just after a storm is often the best time to get large waves crashing against shore. Tides follow the moon, so they get later by an average of about an hour a day. Programs like cTide for the PocketPC (http://airtaxi.net/ctide) and Tide Tool for Palm (www.toolworks.com/bilofsky/tidetool) allow you to follow the tides.

Sossusvlei, Namib Desert, Namibia, AfricaSossusvlei, Namib Desert, Namibia, Africa
4 Keep Notes. I keep notes for each site I plan to visit, either in a notebook or on my laptop. With Google Earth, I can get an image of a specific location, export it to Photoshop and print it out at low opacity, making it easy to mark up with notes about viewing angles, sunrise, sunset and subjects.

Be Familiar With The Openings/Closings Of Tourist Spots. Once you have a sense of where you want to be and when to be there, make sure you can get access. There’s nothing more frustrating than waiting at the gate of a park as the sun rises. Sometimes you’ll need to swap sunrise and sunset. Angkor Wat in Cambodia, for example, opens at 5 a.m., so it’s possible to get great sunrise shots with few tourists around.

Learn About Native Wildlife. If you’re photographing wildlife, know the species for the locations you’re visiting. And if they migrate or move around looking for food, make sure you know what time of year you can find them. Grizzly bears follow a predictable pattern of crowding around salmon streams when the fish are running, but spread out and graze for grass and berries for the rest of their waking months.

Scout Your Location. Once you’ve arrived at a location, you can do specific scouting each day for the next day In particular, when the light has become harsh in the late morning, rather than head in for lunch and a nap, grab a sandwich and scout locations for sunset and sunrise the next day.
Palo Alto Baylands, CaliforniaPalo Alto Baylands, California

On my first visit to Burma, I was charmed by the famous teak U Bein Bridge, but our guide had taken us there in the late morning when the light was harsh and the bridge was crowded with tourists. A quick check of my GPS showed that the sun would set through the bridge, and I knew that the monks would return to their monastery. I made sure we changed our travel plans for the day to race back for the setting sun. Then all I had to do was wait until I got the image I wanted with a solitary monk crossing the bridge, and my day was a success.

Become A Local. Once you’ve arrived, ask the locals about upcoming events. The local paper is a good source of information on festivals, fairs and unusual concentrations of animals or other natural phenomena. Some of our most enjoyable photo sessions have been weddings or birthday parties in remote villages. In most cases, the hosts were happy to have us as guests, especially if we donated something to the party.

Professional nature photographer David Cardinal leads photo safaris through Cardinal Photo, www.cardinalphoto.com. He publishes www.nikondigital.org and co-authored The D1 Generation with Moose Peterson.


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