I’m preparing to depart for Death Valley National Park in California for three days of shooting; my first serious photography trip ever, actually. If I can, I’d like to offer a few words of advice for anyone considering taking a serious photography trip, and possibly even for those who do.

  1. Make a list. This is very important. Make a list of everything you will need on your trip, from cameras and batteries to accessories and your toothbrush. It may seem unnecessary if you don’t have a lot of things to bring, but trust me on this: even the pros make lists. Don’t get caught without an important bit of equipment! If you do, however, add it to the list so you won’t forget it next time!
  2. There is no such thing as too much gear. I hear some of you out there saying, “Why would I want to bring this old lens with me,” or “I’m not going to need a super-telephoto to shoot vast canyons or mountain ranges.” Never underestimate what you will find a use for. Even your old lenses can become serviceable stand-ins for your cutting-edge ones in a pinch.
  3. You can’t actually have too many batteries. Similar to the previous advice, never get caught without a power source. I’m taking seven Canon batteries with me, my friend is taking eight; we both would bring more if we had them (and if they weren’t $50 each!)
  4. If you’re planning to do night photography, it will be very helpful to have a flashlight with a red lens cover, or a red LED flashlight, or something similar. Once you’ve become acclimated to the dark, you don’t want to lose it when you swap out lenses (unless you can swap out lenses by touch…)
  5. Scout out the location beforehand. There are tons of online resources about Death Valley regarding the availability of different roads, what’s going on with the three gas stations within the park, numerous maps and guides, the advice of other photographers, and so on. Wherever it is you’re going, make sure you’re well informed!
  6. It will help to have an itinerary. On any trip, you will not have unlimited time, so the most effective way to make use of it is to plan every shooting location and time and figure out how long it will take to get from place to place so that not a moment is put to waste. You will probably want to plan your shooting locations around sunrise and sunset times, as well. Refer to sites such as The Old Farmer’s Almanac to find times for any city.
  7. Last but not least, have fun. Even if you’re on assignment, or building a stock portfolio, never lose sight of the enjoyment of being in a cool place with your camera around your neck. A sense of whimsy can inform your artistic vision; never forget that!

That’s all I have for now. After my return, I will share with you what went right and what went wrong and hopefully offer more useful advice. Keep shooting!