When to shoot and how to organise your time.
Going on a sightseeing holiday usually means being constantly on the move or you have very little down time. So planning a trip before you leave home is essential to picking up some great photographs. We all know the best photos are taken very early in the day, at and around sunset or when it is overcast with clouds, but we can’t plan for that one all the time.

Our holiday to the USA consisted of a lot of driving, so we weren’t locked into any times determined by catching planes or buses. The occasions we did take tourist buses on tours, they were in the middle of the day and the resulting photographs were mediocre at best. Before even leaving home I planned the driving route meticulously to make sure we’d be at our chosen destination at the best times of day to photograph. This was especially important in the mid-west where I’d see some of the best places on earth to photograph.

It was planned in such a way, we’d be driving between destinations during the day which was also good for safety, and arriving at our destinations in the late afternoon. This gave us time to look around, check into a motel or grab a meal. In the cases of the places we would stay, I could get up for a sunrise shoot as well, getting more photographic value out of the place.

Getting there early is something I need to stress greatly. Mainly you are there for a holiday, so rushing place to place just to get a photo is not the way to enjoy a sightseeing holiday. Take the time to look around, take in the sights, scout locations and angles. Sometimes the camera doesn’t leave the bag until I’ve taken a good look around. This always applies to a landscape shoot for me as it calms you down from the walk there and gives you time to visualise your photographs before they are even taken. Some places you will have to battle for the ideal tripod position like I had to do at Monument Valley in Utah. More tripods than a camera store at that place, so it is important not to be rude and sit in front of people’s vantage points and crowd their space.

To assist my planning for a successful landscape/landmark shoot, I even go as far as checking the sunrise/sunset times in that locale on the Internet beforehand and also the direction the sun will rise/set (I carry a compass for this purpose, but you can do it with an iPhone now). These factors can easily make or break a photo, by having too much sun and bright sky in the picture and causing exposure imbalances between the sky and the ground. The sun cross lighting a subject will bring out detail and texture and add some considerable interest to a photo.

The photo above was part luck and also part planning. I new what time the sun would set, in what direction it would set and most importantly how to get to the park. The moon placment was pure luck. Being on Indian land, there was a charge to get in the park, so checking beforehand to see if you need to pay to get in anywhere. I was surprised by the fees associated with Antelope Canyon in Arizona, first a charge to just get into the car park then a huge tour charge on top of that. But it was worth it in the end.

Also in regards to timing a good photo of a landscape for example, some people think when the sun dips below the horizon, it’s time to pack the camera and head off. Hang on people! The best time is the 20 or so minutes after the sun has gone down. The photo above was taken 10 minutes after the sun was gone, well after 80 percent of the people with decent camera gear had taken off to get dinner. It must of been the freezing temperature that evening. The glow on the rocks is not from the sun itself but the glow of the sky from behind me. The long (ish) exposure, a polarizer filter and some careful adjustments in Camera RAW have resulted in a warm, colourful photo with a well balanced sky. If the sunset was in front of the camera it would have resulted in a blown out sky and a dark featureless subject.

To also help plan our time over the trip I created a daily running sheet. This contained our departure time, approximate travel time, a place to stop for lunch, shopping or sightseeing and the arrival destination as well as what time that we would arrive. This was done for every stop we drove to and it proved very valuable, because it also contained the addresses to punch into the GPS navigation.

To offer anymore advice, feel free to add a comment.

If I’m not following my original topics that I’d thought I’d cover, I apologise, so I’m just rolling with what comes to mind. Still to come: Holiday data storage and displaying or showing your images.

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