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Travel Photography without the Travel – Going Local

Many photographers love to travel. They love the thrill of being in a new place, of capturing new scenes and experiences, and of coming home with quality images. But landscape and travel  photography do not need to be confined to weeks-long trips to far-flung locations. This article will explore how to get the most out of a weekend (or even weekday) local photography outing (all photographs in this article were taken within a few miles of where I live).

city, urban, night, lighttrails, reflection, traffic

Before: Planning and Packing

Making a plan or having a bucket list of photography wants is a great place to start. Always wanted to photograph a slow, silky waterfall? Looking to capture candid street photography shots of interesting people? Want to bring home that idyllic sunset shot over open water? Now is the time.

Start by spending a little time evaluating the photographic potential of what is already around you. We often become so accustomed to our day-to-day that we forget to recognize the possibilities of the familiar. Challenge yourself to find and seek out a nearby or local photography opportunity. Try browsing on Flickr for waterfalls and streams in your area or make a plan to spend some time in an older part of town watching for street photography opportunities.

waterfall, silky water

Urban waterfall

Want to catch that sunset or sunrise? Plan for the light. Look up sunrise and sunset times for your date(s) and location, and decide where you want to be shooting during the blue hour and golden hour in the morning and evening. You can even use programs like the Photographers’ Ephemeris to determine the timing and angles of sunrise, sunset, moon rise, and moon set, which can help you capture dramatic photographs of these events and their relative surroundings.

sunrise, tree, silhouette, reflection, morning

Now that you have a plan, create a packing list. Consider creating a ‘basic’ packing list for any photographic excursion that you can reuse for future trips. At a minimum, be sure to bring your camera body and any extra lenses, extra memory cards and batteries, your battery charger, a camera case, and basic cleaning supplies (blower, brush, and cloth). You may also wish to add a tripod, remote shutter release, and any additional filters or flash units, depending on your anticipated shots. Also do not forget about basic travel or emergency supplies like a flashlight or headlamp, cell phone, and snacks. Finally, I always stash a gallon sized plastic bag in my camera case or purse as well, which makes an impromptu rain or snow cover (cut out a corner to keep shooting) or just easy protection from unexpected weather.

During: Follow Your Plan, Amend Your Plan, and be Flexible

Getting the most out of a quick photography outing requires using your time wisely. This is where you will reap the benefits of your pre-trip planning and research. Give yourself extra time at each location to scope out the scene before you start photographing. Minutes spent walking around without your camera raised will help you zero in on the shots and angles you want rather than simply trying to capture it all and hoping something turns out well. Avoid the temptation to ‘lock’ yourself down once your tripod comes out. Be sure to consider alternate views of your subject. Read more about the importance of Perspective in Photography: don’t just stand there, move your feet!

street photography, black and white, B&W, urban, city, decay

As with any photography, you should also be prepared to amend your plan as necessary. Weather, crowds, unexpected building closings, and innumerable other factors can interfere with even the best laid plans. Consider having a backup indoor plan for your outdoor day or an alternate location nearby, just in case. The benefit of exploring a nearby photography location is that it is much easier to return again if your first time does not work out the way you had planned.

After: Workflow and Reflection

fog, foggy, morning, railroad, tracks, black and white, B&W

Once you get home, be sure to download all of your photographs immediately and back them up as well, using whatever system you have established (multiple hard drives or disks, portable hard drives, cloud backup, etc.). Establish a system for tagging and evaluating your shots so that you can find your favorites quickly and easily.

Don’t shortchange yourself after the outing either. Take some time to review the trip as well as to review your shots. Write yourself some notes about what worked well and what did not. Continue to add on to your bucket list by thinking of new ideas or missed opportunities. You may be surprised at how much photographic potential you can find around you!

Have you been able to check items off your photography bucket list by focusing on opportunities closer to home? Share your favorites in the comments below.

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Katie McEnaney
Katie McEnaney

is an educator and photographer from Madison, Wisconsin. Read more tips on her blog, Boost Your Photography. Her first eBook, Boost Your Photography: Learn Your DSLR, is now available for Kindle on Amazon.

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