So you have chosen a location and laid out some specific goals. What’s next? Before you decide to make any specific plans, let’s do some research on the natural history of our subjects. Knowing the haunts and habits of wildlife, the blooming and fruiting seasons of plants, and the local weather patterns will make that planning much easier and smoother, not to mention more effective.
Do some reading, whether it’s on the Internet or the local library. I fortunately have access to a fantastic research library here at Cornell University through my wife so I spend a lot of time searching through their catalog and accessing scientific journals focused on my subjects. I like to know as much as possible about a particular subject before arriving. After all, the more knowledge you have, the better you can anticipate behavior, and the better images you can create.
Beyond the natural history, which is the fun part of research for me, there is also the logistics. Do you drive or fly? Where do you stay? What sort of equipment do you need? What sort of power is available for battery charging, laptop use, etc? Where exactly do you want to be and when do you want to be there? Is one particular location better at sunrise or sunset? If you want to continue to update a blog and check email, where can you get a decent Internet connection? One question leads to another and another and another until it becomes rather overwhelming, so overwhelming that the natural history research can be forgotten.
The logistics, while overwhelming at times, can often make or break a trip. If you have figured out your travel arrangements, where you will stay, and other things then things should go fairly well and you can focus your attention on your photography. On the other hand, on any long trip, stuff is going to go wrong. Be prepared. Be flexible. Don’t let it overwhelm you. It happens, so be ready to adapt and get back into the field.
For my upcoming trip, the natural history research was fairly easy, as I already know the area well. I have spent some time looking at different locations, particularly for the night photography. I not only need a good foreground subject but I need dark skies. I’ve got several options in mind and will spend some time scouting when I arrive.
I was very disappointed to learn that a large section of Loop Road, one of my favorite areas in Big Cypress, is currently closed to traffic. This was a major disappointment, but I just may take advantage of the closure by hiking down the road and having the area totally to myself, which could provide some great opportunities for photography.
Start with a good plan but be flexible and keep an open mind. Learn all you can about the natural history of your subjects before you arrive on the ground. Good preparation will maximize your effectiveness during your Trip and the easier it will be to complete your goals.