Friday, December 10, 2010

5 tools I use before I take a shot

I thought for my first serious post on my brand new blog, I thought I let you see inside my previsualisation and planning process. So here goes. Before I plan to go out to do a shoot, I do research. And lots of it. I draw some sort of battle plan up in my head. Most of the time I have a Plan A and a plan B, just in case something goes wrong. And I like to be well in advance. If I am shooting a sunrise or sunset I am on location about 90 minutes early.

1. Google Maps
 

The biggest tool I use is of course Google Maps. I think every photographer uses this tool at some point in their process. Personally I love to use the terrain feature. It really makes life a little simpler. If you can read topo maps, you're golden. I sometimes even use Street View. That way for example  I found that famous little pond called 'The Glory Hole' in Jasper. Without Street View I would have had to guess and drive a lot of unnecessary kilometers. Now I knew where to go, how far it was and how long it was going to take me to get there.

2. Google Earth
 

Next thing I do (once I picked a location) I go to Google Earth. In Google Earth I go directly to the 3D view. That way I can kind of already make a – what I call – a 'mental framing'. I know what I can expect. How high the mountains will be. How much they will fill the view. I also am a fan of the 'sunlight' feature. That gives me a good impression of how the mountain peaks are going to be illuminated during the golden hours of the day.

3. Sunrise & Sunset iPhone app
 

Knowing all what I know now. I check sunrise and sunset times with a free iPhone app called 'Sunrise & Sunset'. It is a no nonsense and straightforward app. It tells you, you guessed it, the times the sun comes up and goes down. Pretty easy. And then I start calculating.

4. Lighttrac iPhone app

For locations where I don't know my way by heart I use this tool to try and visualise where the sun will rise or set. This app not only gives you times of sunrise and sunset, but also angular degrees where the sun will pop over or under the horizon. Of course you'll have to make some notes. But it can be very useful if you want to incorporate a very specific landscape feature in your photograph.

5. Compass and maps


Once in the field I use a very simple compass and my notes described in #4. Most of the times I have a collection of maps and road books lying around in the car. You always run out of 3G coverage when you need it the most.

That is it really!
In my opinion these are the basic research tools a photographer can use to try and simplify the previsualisation and planning process. Sure it is always up to mother nature to put on a good show (yes you will need to check the weather too). But this way I think you will come a little bit better prepared.
Go and visualise! And have fun doing it.