When you arrive on the ground, excited and enthusiastic for that Big Trip, you need a plan. Sure, you’ve just spent a ton of time planning the logistics and researching the natural history, but what are you going to photograph that first day, the second day? Here there are two major strategies. Create a detailed schedule or leave it wide open.
I use both approaches and both work quite well. When doing an extended trip over three months in length, I tend to leave it fairly open. I have a rough outline that I follow but the daily planning happens once I am on the ground. For example, when I arrived in Australia, I had a very rough plan. I had a vague idea of what regions I would be in during which month. Other than that, I tended to plan on a monthly and weekly basis. Even then, plans changed frequently. The reality is, planning an entire year down to the day in advance is rather ridiculous, especially given my lack of local knowledge when I arrived.
In the Everglades, I arrived with a rough idea of the range of images I wanted to create. I was living in one place so that was fixed, but I had the option to roam as freely as I wanted. I sat down each Sunday and planned the week. These plans included where and when I would shoot and what my subjects and goals would be. Keep in mind, while you have already set some goals for the entire trip, setting more short term goals can be a great way to stay focused and productive.
While for long term projects, I leave my plans fairly open, for shorter trips, I plan a lot more details. For this trip, there is a ton I want to do and not a lot of time to get it done. In order to fit it all in, I have plotted day by day where I will be and what I’d like to photograph. Some things are rather specific, like I know I want to photograph at night during the New Moon at the Pa-hay-okee area. Sometimes I keep it a little more wide open but I typically put together a framework that gives me structure but also allows for spontaneity when I in the field.
Figure out what works for you. Are you someone that likes structure and schedules? Do you like to keep it free and easy? I can attest that both ways work well and the reality, like most things, is the best is somewhere between the two extremes. Find the balance that works for you and get that trip planned!