• Andrei Tanase

Scouting for Photo Locations

Updated: Jun 11, 2021

We all hope perfect vistas will reveal themselves in front of us. Reality is, in many situations we find ourselves in amazing places wishing for better light, ideal weather conditions, less tourists or a place to stop on the side of the road when sun rays pierce through and light those mountain peaks.

These are some examples that highlight how important it is for us to prepare as much as reasonably possible. And one of the ways we can do so is to know what subjects to look for and where to find them.

So comes in useful to scout for locations.


Where to Start

More common we find ourselves looking for interesting subjects to take photos of based on the location we find ourselves in or the location(s) we are intending to travel to.

Depending on how familiar we are with the environment, we might find ourselves initially in the situation to do research for finding already known attractions, rather than researching for subjects found off the beaten path.

Although the search for unique stories to tell through our photos is a goal we all tend to pursue, equally interesting can be for us to create context for photographing well known subjects through fresh perspectives.

For both approaches, for their ease of use and almost universal availability, I will recommend a few tools to help scout for locations from any available device with internet access:

  • Any mobile application or website that allows you to determine the relative position of the sun to a specific location on a given date and time. The one source I found provides this plus, in many cases the possibility to preview how light will fall over specific subjects (such as mountains or even buildings of cities that have three-dimensional rendering) is Google Earth.

  • Any mobile application that allows you to save map areas offline,

  • Any weather forecast service that provides cloud coverage information (the more graphical and simple to understand the better).

In addition, for:

a) Astro and/or Aurora Photography I will recommend:

  • Any mobile application or website that provides Light Pollution Information,

  • Any mobile application or website that provides Aurora viewing probability forecast based on location and time.

b) Coastal Photography, where you identify certain subjects are available to photograph from certain viewpoints in relationship to the tide, or are complemented by certain wave amplitudes, i will recommend:

  • Any mobile application or website that provides high and low tide charts for the location(s) and time.

  • Any mobile application or website that provides wave and surf forecasts


What Information to Compile

Depending on the subject(s) we've decided to photograph, and related to the above mentioned resource pools, there are a few extremely helpful pieces of information that will allow us to locate ourselves in the right place at the right time:

Sunrise Landscape | Nature Photography | andreitanasephotography.com

  • Location(s) relative with the photo subject(s) and the source of light,

  • Distance and time necessary to travel from "base" to the required location(s),

  • Weather forecast, including cloud coverage information,

  • Possible hindrances to access the required location(s) and any back-up route(s) and/or alternative location(s).

All these variables will aid or prevent our creative choices and technical abilities to capture the photos we've intended, and they can also bring to light unexpected wonderful new composition opportunities.

Swan | Nature Photography | andreitanasephotography.com

An unexpected cold rain allowed me to create this photo of a swan seeking shelter in the high grass by the lake shore, not far away from home.

Photographing known locations or subjects offer you a distinct advantage to capture scenes as such.

They will allow us to feel comfortable and confident, focus more on creative choices we could take to capture moments that I am certain will have on the long run a stronger longer lasting connections.


Getting Our Boots Dirty

If possible, walking the trail(s) we did our online scouting for, will allow us to refine plans and gain insight otherwise unavailable through our digital scopes.

Even if visited on different times of day or season, the live experience will build up a better sense of scale, accessibility and point of view perspective.

Test photos will allow us to determine possible gear limitations.

For example, we would like to capture a broad vista and for the location chosen our widest available focal length just won't cope:

  • Could we use a tripod and shoot multiple exposures that can later be stitched together in a photo editing software?

  • Do we have the budget to rent a lens with a wider enough focal length for the time we planned to take the photos?

  • Can we recompose and find an alternative location that will allow us to get a similar perspective of the vista with the available gear?

Pilgrims Path | Autumn Landscape | Nature Photography | andreitanasephotography.com

For this particular photo I initially intended to reveal more of the Church Tower in the far center. To do so I had two choices: use my tripod as an extension to my arms to set the camera higher than I could've hand hold it, or take a few steps back, where the path gained a bit of elevation but would've revealed an entry to a farmhouse on the near right side of the composition.

Since I considered the use of a tripod as an extension to my arm combined with the mobile app as a remote trigger somehow risky, and that entry to the farmhouse distracting I decided to compromise and recomposed.

As a second example, we would like to photograph a lake, and we find the texture of the stones on the lake bed close to the shore might provide additional interest to the composition:

  • Can we use a polarizing filter to reduce glare from the water surface so we can include the additional elements to the composition?

  • Will the use of a polarizing filter affect the intended look of other compositional elements? If so, will we have available a tripod to capture two exposures, one with and one without the polarizing filter, blend those two images in a photo editing software to include all intended points of interest?


Going Forward

Although I recommended the reference of certain types of information, I intend to bias you as little as possible in the choice of information provider. Would recommend you to research, try and find the tools that you enjoy using and learn to trust.

As an exercise, I would encourage you to start scouting on the next location(s) for your photos. I am confident this process will allow you to refine your plans and help you enjoy being creative on the field.

  • What point of view will the location(s) offer you towards the photo subject(s)?

  • What type of light and/or meteorological conditions will complement the subject?

  • How and when to access the location(s) based on the light and conditions required?

Thank you for reading, and please do feel free to leave a comment or contact me for questions, feedback, ideas and requests: https://www.andreitanasephotography.com/contact

If you believe this blog is useful for others, please share the link alongside your recommendation to them!



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