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Scouting Locations

June 13th, 2023

   The beginning of the process starts when you receive a brief, have an idea for a personal project or some sort of assignment whether it be school or a client.  For me the photo above was part of a project for school related to renewables.  I wanted to get an image of a hydraulic dam.

   So step one of scouting is I need a location that looks like X.  For me this was a dam.  I'm familiar with the various dams in the Pacific Northwest having lived here for many years.  So I start online looking at where some of the dams I know about are located.  What do they look like and where are they located.  I settled on this location as it seemed to be photogenic based on online searches and relatively close (2 1/2 hours away).

   The next step was to see where I could get close enough to get a photo.  There are two tools I typically use.  Google maps and Google Earth Pro.  I would be flying my drone so I needed to be close enough to the dam but also have a safe location to take off and land.  I settled on a road on the east side that looked promising.

   Another tool that I use for location scouting is PhotoPills.  This is an app that I download to my phone so I can check out sunrise / sunset.  I can also see the direction of light for a location at a particular time of day.  I wanted to be at the dam late enough in the morning so it would have some good light on it, not in shadows.

   The last step of scouting is go to the location.  Often I will go in advance if it is nearby and plan to get some sketch shots.  Maybe the stars align and I get the shot(s) I need but this isn't always how things work out.  I may go on a gray day or bad time of day knowing I will return for better light and time of day when my subject is ideal.  I love to shoot on Sunday morning.  There aren't many people out, businesses are closed, less traffic, and lots of parking.

   Since this location was so far away I ended up scouting and getting the shot all in the same day.  There could have been better light but this one worked out.  Unfortunately, the location I was going to use to fly my drone wasn't good.  This is where a little ingenuity and flexibility come in handy.  In this case the road ended up being a private road.  There really wasn't an alternative location on this side of the river.  I drove back down the river and back up towards the dam luckily finding a pull out not far away.  Persistence paid off and I got the shot I was after.  

   In summary scouting involves these steps.

  1. Have an idea for a location / image.

  2. Use online tools or drive around looking for something that meets your criteria.

  3. Go to the location and sketch out some images.

  4. Return and get your images.

Always make sure when shooting from a location that it is legal and safe.  For me personally if I have any concerns at all I pass on the shot or using a location.  Remember to have fun and part of getting the image(s) is the adventure of finding the location.

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