The photography trip is an essential part of the photographer’s lifestyle. It is, in fact, one of the best ways to create art simply because it eliminates distraction. It’s good practice, of course, to have a camera handy during day-to-day life so that you can pick up those interesting shots as they happen—but during everyday life, you’re focused on a variety of other things, which means you may not always notice those shots or be consciously thinking of art you could make from your surroundings.
So that’s why we go on photography trips. Because these are times devoted solely to photography and the artmaking process. For most of us, I think, there is really only one way to go about a photography trip. Most of the time, we ask ourselves where we want to go. That’s definitely one way to do it, but is it always the best way? Sometimes, yes, it is. But there’s another way to plan a photography trip, too, one that might be better suited to your needs sometimes.
Think about it this way: You can ask yourself where you want to go, which leads to exploration. Exploration is always a good thing because when you choose a new location, you’ll find yourself wandering and discovering, capturing photographs of things that you perhaps hadn’t imagined you might photograph. It’s this spirit of discovery that powers you through the trip and urges you to keep creating photographs.
But what if, instead of asking yourself where you want to go, you ask what you want to photograph? That question has the potential to change everything about how you plan a photography trip.
It goes like this: Instead of focusing on a destination—like, for instance, you want to go to the Grand Canyon and explore—you instead focus on what it is you want to photograph, without a specific location in mind. Then you choose your location based on that. So rather than being constrained to whatever types of photography a particular location has in store for you, you choose the location that has the type of photographic opportunities you’re seeking.
When is it wise to go this route? It makes sense to me when you have a pre-determined plan like a photography project or a particular type of asset that you need to gather. Let’s say you’re working on an architectural project. You wouldn’t want to go to any old town or to a state park. Rather, you would need to search for places that have interesting architecture so that there is plenty of fodder for your lens. You’d probably even want to go a step farther and find places with plenty of a specific style of architecture that you’re looking for. For instance, a location that has lots of gothic architecture, if that is what you are documenting, rather than a location that has a mixture of styles. From there, you can start searching for places that fit this specific need.
It’s all about discovery versus preparedness. As with most things in photography, there is no one right way to plan a trip. Instead, it’s best to plan based on what is going on in your photographic world when you’ll be taking the trip. If you have a purpose in mind, then find a place that fits that purpose. If not, then choose an interesting location and start exploring. Let discovery lead you around—and after you’ve discovered some new things, you might just find that sense of purpose beginning to bloom.