It’s no secret there’s a lot involved with traveling, taking the photos and what to do with them after. So that’s what we’re going to talk about today, from prep to what I consider “done”. A lot of my trips get booked and planned up to 2 months beforehand, sometimes it’s only a couple days before I leave. So up until the day I leave, I’m booking and prepping and mentally preparing for whatever endeavor I’m going on. Every trip is different.
All the prep depends on where you’re traveling to, here’s a general list of things I usually do.
- Booking flights
- What I’m going to be seeing
- Planning it out on google maps and sometimes on a spreadsheet
- Travel logistics of getting from place to place
- Possible tours to book
- Car rental(s)
- Hotels/AirBnB and the distance to each location
- Additional transportation
- Size of the plane(s) you’re flying on (camera bag carry on requirements)
- Drone laws / can I even bring it into the country
- What camera gear to bring (depending on the location)
- Do the locations allow tripods (sometimes they don’t in cities and Asia)
- Booking an open door helicopter or plane (not always but sometimes)
- Checking the weather
- Praying to Odin that everyday is perfect shooting/weather conditions
Arriving At The Location/Country
There’s a couple things I have to do when I get to wherever I’m going. I’ll just skip over the airport part because it’s no different than any other airport check in/getting through security. Although, I will say some TSA agents aren’t fans of drones or cameras.
- If it’s an international trip the first thing is finding where I can buy a sim card with a good amount of gigabytes because I would be totally lost without google map / additional research on the fly.
- Check into the AirBnb or hotel and drop off whatever excess stuff I don’t need to shoot.
- Usually the first day I show up in a country I’m totally dead from traveling so I don’t normally shoot the first day. So sleep and food is of the essence.
- Check the weather. The weather apps are always off and you never know what it’s going to be like until you’re actually there. Take it with a grain of salt.
- Eat all the new food. Plain and simple.
Finally Going Out To Shoot
Depending on the location and time of year, the shooting schedule for the day is going to be different. For example, in most parts of the world I have to wake up early for sunrise in the summer and winter. In the arctic circle I usually shoot from 10:30PM till 3:30AM because of the midnight sun during summer. It’s just a super long golden hour and there won’t be anyone else out there.
- The best light is way too early O’ clock in the morning till about 9-10’ish and sunset. Mid day is rarely good unless it’s pretty cloudy out. So with that brings short windows of opportunities for good photos.
- I’ll just use the worst case scenario: Waking up at 1:30AM, driving 2 hours and hiking up a mountain for 2.5 hours to catch the sunrise. I’ll be doing this in Bali in January. Excited, but not as the same time.
- If I’m shooting the northern lights I check the NL forecast websites to see the KP level and what spots near me are cloud free. This usually involves shooting in strong winds and really cold temperatures. All while not feeling your hands or face while trying to shoot the most amazing light show on Earth. Honestly these are my favorite conditions to shoot in, it’s so invigorating!
- Astrophotography is no different but depending on the time of year it can be cold or normal temperature. But with this you have to make sure it’s a new moon so there’s no extra light pollution to wash out the stars. During a trip that means I’m out late at night shooting then probably prepping to wake up early to shoot sunrise. There’s literally no sleeping on these trips.
- If I bring a drone into the mix, which I usually do, that just adds extra time and a whole new perspective to my shots / footage. If it’s raining, super windy, under 0 degrees F, the drone isn’t going up. So once again everything depends on the weather playing nicely.
- Aside from the extreme cases I mentioned, most shooting situations are pretty normal. Weather its doing a short walk to the location and setting up to shoot or sometimes amazing landscapes are just on the side of the road. Every single trip and situation is different so it’s hard to give exact scenarios.
- I think about 80% of the time on location is spent driving or in transit, 10% actually shooting and 10% eating and doing other things. I’ll add another 10% standing around waiting for the light to be perfect because I give 110% on every shoot ;). In Iceland I drove 8 hours round trip in one day from Reykjavik to the Glacier Lagoon and Diamond Beach just for a couple photos.
Being out there shooting is great but making sure your files are backed up and safe is also super important.
- I always take my laptop and external hard drive with me on every trip. Very important to see your photos and make sure it’s all there.
- Having more than one backup is paramount, I offload to the external drive, the desktop on my laptop and if the internet is good enough I upload my RAWS to DropBox as well. (I have the business storage plan)
- If for some reason the hard drive explodes or I throw my laptop into the ocean or whatever there’s always going to be a backup somewhere. Never rely on keeping them on your cameras card because those are most likely to fail.
- While I’m traveling I like to sort through the files and start editing to get my photos at least 90% of where I want them to be so when I get home I can finish the edit. It’s also good to look through them in case I need to re-shoot something while I’m still on location.
- I always edit off my external hard drive and save the raw edits with XMP files and sort in Adobe bridge. When I get home I can just transfer everything to the RAID drive in my desktop and seamlessly pick up where I left off. (not a fan of Lightroom unless I have to edit a ton of photos at once)
- And of course gear maintenance when I get back to the hotel, charging batteries, cleaning gear, etc.
- I usually post photos to Instagram while I’m on location shooting but most of the time those aren’t usually the “final” versions of an edit.
Post Travel Work
Post travel, I’m back at home now and this is the list of things I do after a trip.
- First and foremost, more backups! The files get uploaded to Dropbox, the internal raid on my desktop and 2 external hard drives.
- Sort through the photos again and finish up edits. This can take up to a week or more sometimes depending on how many images I shot and how much work they need. All my photos are shot and edited individually with large scale printing in mind.
- If I shot any cinematic video footage, with the drone or camera I have to sort through and put together a video, color it and write or find music for it. That’s another day or two of work right there.
- Send in the photos for copyright before they go online or get sent out for anything else. It’s 100% the most important thing you can do as a photographer!
- Upload the photos to my website for my portfolio and so people can order prints.
- I used to do the stock photo thing but now I only put throw away photos I literally never have a chance to sell on there because they don’t just pay enough to submit real work. (blog post coming in the future about this)
- Send out emails, hit up galleries, try to sell the images, etc. Basically do the business thing after the trip.
- And finally start planning the next trip and hit the gym to reverse all the good food I ate while traveling.
And that’s pretty much it. Every trip is different so this was just a general overview of how it usually goes when I travel. Lots of work but in the end it’s totally worth it. From the outside looking in it might seem like all my travels are just super lit vacations but it’s straight up a job trying to plan/shoot/post/run the business all as one person. Very rarely do I have off days and do touristy things or just hang out in town and do general sight-seeing. Maybe when I get old and retire I can just travel “for fun”.
If you have any questions, comments or travel tips leave one below. Thanks for reading!
All photos from this post are available to print here.
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