When the chance comes, are you ready? Are the batteries full on your camera? Are the memory cards empty and ready? One of the most important landscape photography tips is to be ready for action whenever the chance comes.
I have written a blog on landing the big picture and the value of scouting, preparing, and planning for landscape photo trips. This sort of planning accounts for 80% of my portfolio.
But 20% just happens when it happens. This week a buddy’s wife got injured in Bozeman and he needed a quick ride to get to her and bring her and their car home. I got in the car, but I also knew Bozeman is close to Yellowstone and threw a backpack full of lenses and a tripod in the car and some yak traks for my shoes (they make walking on snow ice so much easier) and headed out with him on I-90. Spontaneous need, spontaneous trip. Even if Yellowstone were not nearby, I would have carried my gear. If you aren’t ready, it won’t happen.
A quick look around the Internet will tell you much about a location. If you are reading my blog, you’re aware. But just in case, you can get great landscape photography tips by looking at the photos posted on Google Earth for a given location and also by simply typing the location on the search bar and searching images on Google. In this case, I was already well aware of Yellowstone since I’ve spent weeks in the park on previous visits over the years. But, a quick Internet search hooked me to the snow coaches and I made a last second reservation to go to Norris basin. In winter, we’re dependent on the park for transportation since they close the roads due to deep snow. I had only the 1 day, but I took advantage of that day. So though the trip was spontaneous, I had previously scouted the location and planned by packing the right clothes and making the reservation. That took 15 minutes all together, but without that 15 minutes it would have not been the same trip.
In the morning upon arrival at Mammoth Hot Springs I took pictures there and hiked those trails. Then I grabbed a quick lunch. As a tip, you can make a park service employee really happy if you see one in line at Taco Tuesday and pay for their lunch anonymously before they get to checkout. They likely deserve a $10 raise. Then we loaded into the snow coach and off we went to Norris Geyser Basin. A longer tour of 3-4 days would be much better, but this is the time I had, and it still pays to go with the flow. Our guide said that in 8 years of doing it he had never had a group cover so much terrain in one afternoon. I admit I was guilty of going straight instead of left because I wanted a shot that was not going to come back to me any other way. They followed and we all had fun. It was a good group of people who had some hiking experience. I would have simply turned around and caught up if I had not swayed the pack. Our guide (Jim from Montana) was very cool and OK with changes of plans. Spontaneity was the rule of the day.
And I guess there’s the other tip, be determined to get the shot when it is in sight. One of the most important landscape photography tips is to go get that shot when you can see that it’s there. Hike to the right camera angle. Hike to the higher vantage point that puts it in the frame the right way, or closer to fill the frame, or get the big telephoto out and bring the shot closer to you. So yes, I was hiking with a tripod and with my lenses so I had choices once I was on the trail. It is not safe to approach a bison, so you need a telephoto, right?
So keep your batteries charged and you’ll be ready to take that landscape photograph that makes the day special.