Photography adventures are some of the most empowering, creative, and fun journeys a photographer can undertake. Be it a landscape photographer traveling to Utah for expansive wild lands and dark skies or a street photographer exploring the alleys of Tokyo for those intimate urban scenes, getting out of your own town and away from a group can really up your photography skills and portfolio.
To help you with that, I have been writing this series on what to do, tools to use, and suggested work flow to ensure that once you have arrived at your destination, all you have to do is shoot. If you are just now finding this series please take a look at these two previously published articles for further information:
Continuing to explore how you can create your own photography adventure, in this part we will cover the logistics of basic travel needs, such as transportation, lodging, and meals. Basically everything else that fills your time outside shooting locations.
It is also very important that you are honest with yourself as to what you are willing to endure before getting too far into this part of the planning. It will only take one trip of you planning to sleep in your car when what you really want/need to operate is a Holiday Inn to sour you to doing this sort of adventure on your own. By being dishonest with yourself, you also are more prone to busting your budget which can mean either having to head home sooner than anticipated or sticking it out while your pocket book hurts.
With that warning ringing in your ears, let's look at lodging. Depending on how you opt to travel this can double as transportation, but as car camping is not the norm, lets look at how to find and choose suitable lodging when on a photography adventure.
The first consideration you want to make for lodging is going to be proximity to shooting locations. If you have shooting locations all within one area, you may choose to find something that will work for your home base for the duration of the adventure. Places like Moab, UT, or Gatlinburg, TN, are perfect examples of locations that, if on a week long photo adventure can be used as a home base.
Yet, if your shooting goals have you wanting to take in a large region or a small country, then you are going to want to be looking for a series of lodging options across the area, moving frequently. Iceland is a great example of an area many choose to explore by jumping from one accommodation to another, many times not spending more than one night in any particular spot. The other option for this sort of leap-frog lodging is to choose a rental RV or camper van.
So once you have determined your shooting goals and what type of lodging system will work best for you (single base or roaming), then you have to decide what radius from your proposed sunrise and/or sunset locations you want to stay. Most of us will agree that the closer the better, but that is not always an option depending on where you want to shoot. So how far are you willing to stay? Personally I typically will choose something closer to my sunrise location even if it is further from sunset as I am willing to drive after dark a ways if it means I don't have to get up as early in the morning.
On Google Maps, I will pin and flag my shooting locations so that then I can search near those points for lodging options. This not only gives me easy planning for drive times but also access to reviews left by others about the various options in those areas.
At this point, budget starts coming into play, because as nice as it would be to stay at a place like the View hotel that looks over Monument Valley so you can literally shoot sunrise from your room, you have to be prepared to pay $200+ a night for that. If you have the budget for accommodations like that, awesome! Take advantage of it if you can, but for those who can't or opt not to, there are always cheaper accommodations available. You just might have to dig a bit harder. Consider hotels, motels, AirBnB, hostels, cabins, campgrounds, and public lands where you can easily car camp. Depending on where your shooting is taking you, your options will vary but there are usually several tiers of accommodations to fit most budgets. The problems will come in that in many, more rural areas typically, there may not be some of the upper end options for lodging. Again, it comes down to a compromise in what you are willing to put up with to get the shot.
So we have our shooting locations and accommodation options, now we have to figure out how are we going to get from place to place.
Around the world there are a multitude of transportation options. Within the U.S. the most common forms are by car or plane while in places like Japan trains and buses are more popular. For most of us, if traveling across the country or internationally, we will opt to fly to a destination close to the area we want to explore. From there, transportation can go either towards public mass transit (trains, buses, boats, streetcars), private car rental (driving yourself), or hired car and driver (highly suggested in places like India or Bali).
The first consideration is going to be what type of transportation is required to reach the photography locations on your list. Many of the best spots in the US West can only be accessed by four wheel drive, while other areas, like Jigokudani Yaen Koen (the famous Snow Monkey Park) is best accessed by train and bus.
Personally I prefer to use public transportation where available as long as it won't hinder my shooting schedule. It is typically the cheaper option and it is the more eco-friendly option. Plus, this can save lots of headaches when trying to find parking if shooting in more urban environments especially in locations around Europe and Southeast Asia. If choosing this for your adventure make sure you know when the trains, buses, or subways start and stop running.
If choosing to rent a car, one of the biggest tips I can offer is check if your credit card offers insurance coverage for rental vehicles booked using it. Several cards out there do and this can save you hundreds of dollars per rental if you don"t have to pay those additional fees. If you don't have one of these cards, I highly suggest looking into it as cards, such as the Chase Sapphire Preferred, have a multitude of travel perks.
Also make sure the vehicle you choose will be suitable for all your needs. As fun as it can be to drive a Mustang with the top down, it might not be the most practical of vehicles if you are going to be sleeping in it. Same goes for compact cars if you might be going off paved roads or decide to carry a lot of luggage. My typical rental is an intermediate SUV. Good for most terrain and easy enough to sleep in without too much trouble. Costs a bit more than an economy, but if you rent frequently enough, companies like Avis typically start giving you discounts on your preferred size.
One last note about rental cars, if you are going to rent outside the U.S., it greatly behooves you to learn how to drive a standard transmission if you don't already know how. Places like Iceland or the U.K. charge much more for automatic transmission rentals (if they even have them available) than they do standard vehicles. For my ten day camper van adventure in Iceland, it would have cost me almost an additional $1200 if I wanted an automatic.
Obviously, like lodging, there can be a full range of options, from five star to dives, depending on your destination. However, that will not be the case in all situations. The further you get from larger cities, the more limited your options will be and can get to the point where it can be hours between even the smallest of convenience stores in some areas.
It is always a good idea to have some vittles with you when out shooting as many of us sometimes forget to eat when the shooting is on point. This is extremely important if you have dietary restrictions and highly advisable when traveling in wilderness areas for safety reasons.
I personally rarely plan my meal stops and, if I don't see something when hungry, will just do a quick Google search while on the road if I'm planning on eating out. Traveling in the RV as I have been, I rarely eat out as I have a full pantry and mini kitchen with me.
However, when planning an adventure, especially in an international destination, I will look up to make sure there are restaurants in the areas I'm visiting. If it doesn't look promising or eating out will eat into my budget, I look up local grocery stores and plan food runs as needed.
So overall, while not directly related to photography, these logistics will ensure that you can maximize your shooting with the proper transportation, sleep, and diet.
Often the solo adventuress, Alyce Bender roams the globe, exploring Earth's natural beauty. Her images have been featured in galleries from New York to Florida, while her work as an international artist has been recognized from Japan to the U.K.
Bender is happiest in the field and passionate about sharing unique animals and environments from around the world in hopes of connecting people to the planet through imagery. She believes that connection is key to promoting environmental awareness and protecting vulnerable species and their habitats.
To see more of her work and articles, please visit: www.abenderphotography.com