• Sam Wilson

Planning A Road Trip

And Come Home With Lots Of Photos


So whatever has sparked this trip, you are planning on heading away. Do you just book dates and possibly accommodation and wing the rest?


My head doesn’t work like that - I can’t say I plan every minute of every day, but I do like to have an idea and list of places to try and visit/photograph even if I don’t get to them all.



Open road with green countryside and cloudy skies
A Road Trip Where The Drive Is As Important As The Destination


Here are my top things to consider, and the tools I use when planning a road trip.


  1. Research

  2. Map out your trip

  3. Safety Checklist

  4. Have a Back Up Plan

  5. Gear List

  6. Final Thoughts



Research


There are always so many places to go and so little time, so planning for me helps me to be mindful and time effective in my travels.


Like everyone, I see amazing photos online and in social media and think how I would love to see it in person, and also photograph it if possible. To me this is not about copying, but rather about seeking inspiration and then trying to capture my own unique experience.


The things you can find when you go exploring

Save photos/Posts that have inspired you to head to this location/area. My Google chrome is organised into folders and I have a locations folder where I save photos and locations of interest.


From there I create a folder or document for each trip that I then plan from. I totally get that this may be way more than you intend to do, but if you are heading to an area I’ve been to, I’m more than happy to share - just hit me up.


Search hashtags in Instagram - top nine, then most recent. This will often showcase lesser photographed spots for you to research.


Post in fb groups for suggestions once you’ve decided your rough itinerary. I have found the photography community to be incredibly helpful and sharing in this area.



I Would Never Have Found This Location Without Help


Who do you know in your photography community that you can ask for location suggestions or tips?


There are just so many things to think about here - what time of the day will give you the best light for the photos you’re after, how long is the spot from your accommodation, and an often forgotten thing, is whereabouts nearby you can also go to make the most of where you are.


Apps/Websites

  • Google Maps - I’m sure this doesn’t need any introduction

  • Photo Ephemeris - desktop program that I use to see where the sun will rise at my planned locations

  • Trip Advisor - good for reviews and inspiration

  • Flickr - Pinterest and Flickr are both great for inspiration

  • Willy Weather - phone app and desktop

  • Cloud Free Night - phone app for predicting cloud coverage and fog. Not particularly reliable in my opinion, but good to look anyway.


Map Out Your Trip


I like to create an itinerary and map out the trip on Google Maps - surprise!


This way I can break up the days and work out where I’m staying each night before booking any accommodation.


This is a rough guide of my recent road trip which was a combination of visiting family and photographing sculptures and wall murals/silo art along the way.


I also break it down so I know how many kilometres and hours I’m driving each day. This is particularly important when I’m solo travelling so I keep it to safe distances and times, as well as allowing plenty of time to actually take photos.





Don’t forget to include some flexibility and all important down time during your trip.


Plan for random stops and ALWAYS stop if you can to take that shot of whatever it is that has caught your eye. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve said ‘I’ll go back’ - trust me, it never happens.


Don’t forget that some of the best parts of a road trip is the actual drive along the way, not just the destinations.




Also make time for specifically taking photos at your set destinations. I find it’s about balancing the experience as well as the photography. I always allow time each day to just wander around where you’re staying and also supporting the local communities - aka retail therapy! I just love coming home with little treasures that you’ll have forever reminding you of your trip. It’s not all just about the photos.



Safety Checklist


Being solo I always make sure someone knows my itinerary and when I'm due back just in case.


The other thing I do is make sure my car service is up to date.





Have a Back Up Plan and Plan for Downtime


No matter how much you plan and research conditions, rarely does everything fall into place 100%.

  • Set yourself a challenge such as black and white, architecture or street photography if the weather gods aren’t kind.

  • Back up entertainment - pack a book or magazines for those times you might just not feel like shooting

  • Document your journey - even with phone notes to record names or any details if you do want to return

  • Take a photograph on your phone at each location so you have a clear GPS location which will help jog your memory of where you have been.



Retail Therapy Is Always a Good Back Up Plan!


Gear List


Packing for a road trip is obviously different to heading to a local shoot. Extra things to consider -


  • Charging

  • Storage

  • Laptop = not a fan of editing on the road but definitely useful to upload your photos each day and backup.

  • Strap

  • Power Board and Extension Cord

  • Phone Bank - this can be particularly important if you are out walking etc and not charging in the car

  • Quick Dry Towels

  • Rain gear - for both you and your camera

  • Torch/Headlamp

  • Decent hiking/walking shoes - your feet will sincerely thank you

  • First Aid

  • Snacks and obviously water. I like to buy bigger bottles and then decant into my aluminium bottles to reduce at least a little bit of waste/landfill



Best Thing About A Road Trip? Take As Much As You Can Fit!

The one thing that never changes is that there are endless photographic opportunities wherever you go - sometimes you just have to research and go looking for them.


One recent example of this was a solo road trip out to the middle of NSW to visit my family. During research, and just being curious, I found lots of interesting things to photograph along the way. Watch out for the upcoming post on the sculptures, murals and silo art I found on these country roads.




Silo Art, Merriwa, NSW

Final Thoughts


Take Lots Of Photos - I cannot stress this enough. There have been too many times where I’ve been to places and couldn’t either be bothered, nor felt in the mood.


They don’t all have to be what I call ‘portfolio’ images. They can truly just be travel ‘snaps’ or even noted as places to come back to at another time.



Somewhere Between Condobolin and Dubbo, NSW


You don’t always get to be in locations at ideal times. Particularly if you’re on a schedule/time constraints you may just see something interesting, or only get to a location in the middle of the day, or it’s raining etc. I still take my ‘happy’ snaps and note it for future reference.


You may never get back to that area or location, but if you do, you're a step ahead for that next visit.


Make A Photo Book - So this could be an example of do as I say and not what I do. BUT, I do totally plan on doing this!


When you get back from your trip, what happens? Life. You fall back into your everyday routines and your road trip gets pushed to the back of your mind. Your photos get pushed to the back of your hard drive, collect digital dust, and soon become forgotten.

Don’t let that happen! Make a point of doing something with them very soon after returning. The sooner the better, before it sinks lower and lower on your to-do list.


That’s it for now -


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