Category Archives: Trip planning

Benefits of Photographing Alone

Photographing Fall Colors in Westfork

Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II, 12-100mm, ISO 200, f/14, .5 sec.., Circular Polarizing Filter.

Benefits of Photographing Alone

Dried leaves

Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II, 12-100mm, ISO 100, f/4, 1/100., 8 image focus stack in-camera.

Not long ago, I spent a morning in Sedona photographing fall colors. Whenever I travel alone, I do check in with my husband at the start and end of my trip. Checking in with him is more for my benefit; knowing someone is aware of my location makes me feel better. My husband is very optimistic that I will be safe regardless. Photographing alone does require discipline, after all, hitting snooze on the early alarm is tempting, after all, no one is meeting up with me. But I stayed disciplined and left before dark to drive to Westfork in Oak Creek Canyon.

Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II, 12-100mm, ISO 200, f/8, 1/8 sec.., Circular Polarizing Filter.

When I find a scene that interests me, I love working the scene for a while. Constantly challenging myself and looking for better angles or compositions. If there were people around me, they would hear me talk to myself saying things like, “what if I used that rock as foreground…” And then adjust my composition. Walking along the quiet path was relaxing and I didn’t feel a pressure in the world. I worked each composition for as long as I wanted with no time restrictions of leaving. I hiked up the side of the canyon along a small trail with awesome fall colors and scrambled down low when I found mushrooms. It was a fun and rewarding day. Sometimes, creativity is sparked just by shooting alone.

Hit the Road

After much anticipation, I left my wonderful home, spouse and kids for a two-and-a-half-month road trip to photograph water as part of my sabbatical project. It was exciting and a little scary to leave the relaxation of my home and family this morning for such a long trip. As I drove today I reflected on many conversations from the past week regarding my trip. I got questions like, “Why take such a long trip away from your family? Aren’t you afraid to go alone?” My answer is simply, “I need to do this.” Don’t get my wrong, I would love it if they could join me, but, they have work and school, so I am traveling solo.

Answering the question “Aren’t you afraid to go alone?” is a harder question to answer. Twenty years ago, I would not have considered taking a trip like this alone. When I was sixteen years old, my mom and I were kidnapped at gunpoint from a Phoenix mall. The ordeal could have been much worse; we were lucky. As a result, I spent many years fearful of being alone whether it was hiking or traveling and allowed that ordeal to limit my life experiences. Since then, I found a new awareness of my surroundings and only in the past few years taken solo trips scouting for new photo workshops. So, back to my answer, “I need to do this.” This trip, I will experience it all while overcoming those fears that limited previous travels. Now if I can just master backing up the trailer.

Photo Scouting

Scouting for a Photo Trip?

San Diego Harbor

Recently I spent several days in San Diego scouting for a future Women’s Retreat photo workshop. As many of you are making summer plans, I thought you might like to know how I scout and prepare for a trip.

First is research. Using websites like Facebook, Instagram, Google images and Pinterest is a great start. I often search general locations like, La Jolla to see imagery from the area. By clicking on a specific image and reading the metadata, I learn times of day (sunrise or sunset) and exact locations (Hospital Reef). Now I can search on even more specific locations. Local resources are even better than searching online. If you know someone or reach out to a Facebook group in the area it’s great to get the local perspective. When I was in San Diego, I contacted a few of my students from the area. They told me of a few areas I had not discovered. Throughout the day, I talk to many locals and ask them about their favorite spots to view a sunrise or sunset. If they have lived there a long time, their information is valuable.

One Note screen shot

One Note allows me to gather all my scouting information.

Once I gather the information, I need to put it all in one spot, so I use Microsoft Note. Microsoft Note is a great application on a computer and mobile device to compile this information. Tabs organize your notes so links, images, and text can be added to each location tab. It saves instantly and is always at my fingertips. A few other apps that are crucial to my scouting include the following.

Scouting Applications

Shelter Island Sunrise from scouting

Shelter Island Sunrise

Photo Pills is a mobile app with endless options. I use this app mostly for planning trips and viewing the direction of sun at different times of year. Sunrise, sunset, moonrise, and moonset times are listed and with the augmented reality mode, you can raise the phone in the sky and see the path the sun or moon will take. Locations are saved for planning purposes for a later date. For example, in the middle of the day, I visited Shelter Island. I loved the view across the bay with boats in the foreground. I pulled up PhotoPills and identified the direction the sun would rise the next morning. When the next morning came, I was ready for the sunrise photo.

Scouting at Hospital Reef

Hospital Reef, La Jolla, CA

Tides mobile application is great for knowing high and low tides. This app is a necessity if traveling near the ocean. The application identifies the time of day when tide is highest and lowest and to what significance. For instance, a negative tide is best when viewing tide pools, so in this app you can pick the day and time for the best negative tide. The app includes temperatures, cloud cover and wind speeds and direction. I used this app to time a low tide at Hospital Reef in La Jolla.

So, next time you are heading on a trip for photography, spend a little time scouting. Your images will thank you!

Planning a Trip?

Amy Horn Planner

My 18-month planner with my image on both covers.

Being a smartphone user, I often find the “right” app to schedule, plan, list, or whatever the topic, as long as it keeps me organized. For the past month, I have been planning my year off sabbatical that starts in August, and again, I went to my phone to get organized. One app I appreciate is Microsoft’s “Notes” app. I can copy/paste websites, text, or whatever and it syncs with my computer and is easy to use. But a friend suggested another option: an analog planner. Analog meaning, old-fashioned, use a pen or pencil to write on the pages, type of planner. It took me a few days to concede and now I can’t believe I hesitated.

planner monthly view

Planner from Practical Paper Company, monthly view.

From Flagstaff’s Practical Paper Company, https://practicalpaperco.com/, I made my planner. The planners come in two sizes (thicknesses) based on the contents chosen for your spiral bound notebook. Several styles (daily, weekly) and options (notes, lists, expenses, etc.) make every planner custom and unique. What really made this experience special was the option to use my own photo on the front and back covers. My planner brings joy to me whenever I open it, not just because of the trips I will take with it, but because I designed it. The planner holds reservation numbers, detailed shooting locations and many other details for my camping trip along the Pacific Coast from California to Washington. There is something satisfying with putting down the phone and writing too. I use a written “to-do” list and feel so accomplished when I complete a task and cross an item off the list. Far more accomplished than deleting an item from a digital list. On a final note, I won’t need to worry if I have cell coverage to find my reservation numbers. It will be at my fingertips in my planner. So, if you are looking to plan a trip, consider a planner, it has made my trip planning quick and easy.