Focus Editor Philip shares his top tips on making the most of a weekend expedition with your camera
Going away for a “photography weekend” can be an invigorating experience for you and your photography practice.
If you’ve got a busy life and are looking to take photos away from the distractions of the everyday routine, or if you go out regularly to shoot but want to finally go to that special location you've had your eye on. Or, perhaps you want to explore somewhere completely different for a new experience for a short while. Then a photography weekend away is ideal for any of these situations!
A photography weekend, however, might not be like other weekends away you've been on–a great deal of your time will be spent out with your camera. So, I'm a firm believer that putting together some plans in advance will help you make the most of your time at your chosen location and also, in turn, can help you get the best results with your photography. Like with any trip away too, planning in advance can also help you avoid unwanted stresses that can come with travel.
Here are my top tips to get that perfect photography trip sorted, and for context, I've used examples from a recent weekend away to Gdańsk, Poland to give you an idea of what you can do and, what you can get up to!
1 Pick your location
Naturally, the first step in planning a photography weekend away is choosing a location!
You may already have a good idea of where you want to go, as over time, we photographers will no doubt build up a bucket list of dream destinations, so perhaps take the plunge and choose one. Or if not, take some time to think about an ideal location based on what you like to take pictures of, and start a search based on that.
If you’re after some inspiration, browse Instagram accounts, photography websites, magazines, books and YouTube to see where some of the destinations your fellow photographers have ventured to, or what's on offer at a particular location.
Personally, I can spend a great deal of time browsing Google Maps and Google Street View to find interesting locations; I’ll often pin them and make a wish list of locations and from that try to put together a vague itinerary.
Another good place to start is to look at the flights on offer to destinations from your nearest airport. Perhaps there’s a route with a good value airfare that might offer a lot of photography potential? Or, see where else you can get to in a reasonable time from where you live, whether that’s flying, driving, or by other means of transportation.
2 Weigh up the practicalities
Once you’ve got a location, or a few locations in mind, you need to consider the practicalities for a visit. The last thing you want is to go to a destination and find that it’s not quite the right conditions for photography or that some photo spots aren’t reachable with your time or resources.
Check travel times and how you can get to-and-from the airport, or where you can park, for example, and book accommodation that has good access to interesting photography locations, or they are at least reachable via public transport.
It’s essential to weigh up all the costs too. Ask yourself if you can actually afford to go? Is the destination itself cheap or very expensive? Put together an idea of costings before you book anything to ensure it’s feasible. While going out with your camera is naturally free, costs can quickly increase with transport, accommodation and food and drink. It’s up to you how much you want to spend on your trip; just make sure you’re comfortable with how much that might be.
Also, consider what you need to pack. List everything you can think and wor out what is essential and what isn't. Especially with photography, that list of items can add up, especially when, you may want to pack a tripod, extra lenses and filters - which can quickly take up a lot of space.
3 Make a plan (you don’t need to stick to it)
At the location(s) you have in mind, spend a good deal of time researching photo spots and listing everything you want to visit. And from this, devise a plan. Work out how long it takes to get to each place, see if there are there any difficulties in reaching them, such as private roads, difficult terrain or infrequent transport links. Also, make a note of any potential open and closing times, photography restrictions, and how much it might cost to get to and from each place.
Ask yourself, too, do you have time to reach each place while you’re on your trip? What times are sunrise and sunset? If you’re using public transport to get to certain places, can you ensure you’ll catch your bus or train on time and not get stranded?
I've found that the best way to try and reach all the places you want to go is note them all down and try devise a route between them all. It may be that you don’t have a particular list in mind and want to be a bit more spontaneous; that’s fine too, but it’s still worth making a vague plan, so you’re not caught out.
4 Be organised and safe
It's a cliche, but safety always comes first. Particularly if you're somewhere you're not familiar with.
Always check the weather beforehand; this is important for a few reasons, but you want to ensure you’ve dressed appropriately wherever you go. You don’t want to get stuck out in extreme temperatures, particularly if you’re unfamiliar with a place. Take your mobile with you, tell someone about your plans, and keep in touch with them.
Make sure beforehand that all of your devices, phone, power bank, and camera batteries are all charged up before venturing out. I know it sounds silly, but I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve done that; yes, over many years, but still, I never seem to learn! Also, this is a very easy one to happen - make sure you have your memory card and that you’ve got plenty of scape on it to take pics. Deleting images every few minutes can seriously eat up your shooting time, making everything that bit more stressful and mistake-prone.
5 Don’t forget to enjoy other aspects of your trip
And lastly, make sure you do other things on your trip than just taking pictures! While it can be easy to spend almost all day out with your camera, don’t then keep yourself holed away at night in your hotel editing; save that for later!
Enjoy your location; go out for food and sample the local cuisine; see other sights that aren’t just for your camera and enjoy your surroundings!