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As a travel photographer, you don’t always have the luxury of time. Therefore, you need to plan your trip in as much detail as possible to give you the best possible chance of capturing everything you need to.
As soon as my trip is confirmed I begin to research my destination by looking on the internet for the highlights of that place. I try to find out as much as possible, for example the local customs and traditions, the food, any festivals or special events taking place while I’m there, where the markets are and so on. I also try to familiarise myself with different areas and start to pull together a shot list based on what needs to be photographed. Then I book my hotel so that I can plan my days according to where I am based in relation to where I need to shoot.
By this point I would have done plenty of research and prepared a comprehensive shot list, organised into a realistic timeline of what I aim to shoot each day. The key is to be realistic and not try to fit too much into one day as inevitably you’ll stumble across somewhere that you would feel would be perfect to photograph and so you want to have sufficient time between locations.
For example on a recent trip to Istanbul I planned to shoot the Blue Mosque in the morning and then shoot Suleymaniye Mosque in the afternoon before then heading back to a roof terrace near the Blue Mosque for sunset. This ended up being a perfect schedule as I managed to stop between venues to take shots of street vendors and locals.
With a couple of weeks to go I will spend some more time researching photographs from my destination. I look at image libraries, guide books, photo books, magazines and websites to get an idea what already exists and start to think about how I can make my shots different.
At this point I also take my camera equipment out and start to test and clean everything. If the camera is in need of a service I send it off to ensure it arrives back in good time before I leave.
I will be tweaking my shot list if necessary and starting to monitor the weather forecasts for the coming days and weeks as it might impact my schedule. I also research sunrise and sunset times, the nearest camera repair shop, local tourist office etc, in my diary so that I have everything with me when I travel. Remember, sometimes you won’t be able to get internet access so it is best to have everything written down.
I start by packing my camera equipment first as this is the most important item. The last thing I would want is to get there only to discover I haven’t packed my spare battery or memory cards. I also have one last look at the weather forecast and make any amends to my shot list before printing out a copy of any other documents I will need.
I ensure that I have everything finalised the day before I leave, including a taxi to the airport, travel money, insurance, charged batteries, formatted memory cards and so on. If I have time before I leave I check my camera equipment one last time to make sure I haven’t forgotten anything, but other than that I’m ready to go.