Whether you’re shooting with digital or film, there are few things you need to know before you head out on a photography trip.
One of the hardest parts of taking up photography is knowing what type of photos you want to shoot. Figuring out your style and what you enjoy shooting takes a long time. But while that slowly happens, you’ll most likely be going on trips and taking your camera with you everywhere you go. If you don’t always get the opportunity to drop your things and go on a trip, the idea of packing everything up and containing your excitement (and gear) once you’re out there is especially overwhelming. On a recent trip out to Big Bend National Park in Far West Texas, I found myself massively stressed, mostly due to the pressures I put on myself leading up to the trip.
Here’s what I learned about myself — and about photography.
1. You’ll Never Have Enough Time
It’s just a fact: you’re never going to have enough time to capture everything you want. There’s simply not enough time in the day, and if you’re surrounded by something interesting, you’re going to want to just keep taking photos until you drop. When the daylight is quickly dwindling, it can seem crippling — especially if you’re only out for one day. So, know this going into your shoot: it’s okay to not photograph everything. You can always come back. It might not be tomorrow, the next day, or next year. But, you can eventually return. So always be looking around and thinking about what you want to come back and shoot.
2. Indecision Is Fine
Of all the possibilities involved with photography — whether it’s compositional decisions, exposure settings, or camera options — nothing is as debilitating as the fact that you have to make these decisions. That’s why I’m here to tell you that we all go through this. Which lens do I use? Which tree do I photograph? How do I know I’m making the best possible decision for myself? You’ll never know for sure.
So one thing I tell myself before each outing is Focus on one thing. It can be one object, one type of photo, or one person. Then I make sure to take only that type of photo until I feel really good about what I’ve taken. Then I move on. This way, I always leave a shoot with at least one photo I know I can be really proud of — instead of 40 photos I’m indifferent toward.
3. Bring Extra Batteries and Film
This may seem like an obvious tip, but there’s truly nothing worse than setting up your camera and then realizing it’s about to die and you’re out of batteries. The same goes for film: bring as much as you possibly can. Because you never know when the perfect composition, subject, or lighting is going to strike. You want to be ready.
One option for batteries is to invest in a good portable charger. We were hauling around about nine cameras on this shoot. So we needed plenty of batteries and film. (Because we were in the desert, we made sure to bring solar chargers.)
4. Bring Filters
Again, this might seem obvious, but be prepared for unpredictable lighting. When you’re somewhere new, you have no idea how the light will react to your environment — or how much shade or protection from the sun you’ll have. Even if you tell yourself you won’t need that ND filter or you won’t need a polarizer, bring them just in case. For this trip, I wish I had brought my filter rig for the medium-format camera. I knew it was going to be basically the surface of the sun out there, but I didn’t think I’d need it based on the type of photos I thought I would be taking. Which brings me to my final point . . .
5. It’s Not What You Shoot But How You Shoot It
The biggest realization I came to on this trip was that you should know how you’ll shoot beforehand. I was so stressed leading up to the trip about what I’d be photographing. I knew I was going to in Big Bend, so there would be stunning landscapes and wildlife. So, the question I should have been asking was How will I be shooting out there?
If you can visualize how you’ll be moving around and shooting, then you can get a better idea of what to bring and how to prepare for the trip. There’s nothing like having everything you need quickly accessible. It’s all about knowing yourself and how you’ll want to operate once you’re out there.
Interested in the tracks we used to make this video:
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