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One of the things that distinguishes the landscape genre from many—though by no means all—other forms of photography is the frequent ability to plan out your shots.  It doesn’t always work this way, but it frequently does.  Contrast that with, for instance, just about any form of action photography, where the best you can usually do is put yourself in a position where shots are likely to be had; you can’t, however, truly plan a shot very often.

Just because landscape photography is well-suited for planning doesn’t mean that all practitioners of the discipline do so; many, in fact, do not.  Many people who engage in landscape photography essentially just show up at places with which they have little familiarity and essentially take what they find when they get there before moving on to another location.  This isn’t the most efficient method to obtaining good photographs.

Whenever I go on a photo trip, I always attempt to build in enough time on the itinerary to do a significant amount of scouting, giving me the opportunity to discern what locations hold the most promise and identify what the optimum lighting conditions for the location will be.  This allows me to separate the wheat from the chaff, so to speak, to pick the best spots.  It also allows me to visit these “best spots” more than once, and on the second visit I can leverage what I learned about the location on the first trip.

I understand that people like to spend their time taking pictures—particularly when they’re at a new and exciting location.  By comparison, scouting seems like a waste of time.

But it’s possible to have your cake and eat it too.  There’s plenty of time during most days when the quality of light is less than optimal for most outdoor photography and that’s a perfect opportunity for scouting. Do so and, when the light is good, you’ll know exactly where to go to best take advantage of it.

Every image that accompanies this entry was the result of a prior scouting expedition.  The next time you have the opportunity, put this technique to the test and see if your images don’t benefit from it.

Thursday Tips is written by Kerry Mark Leibowitz, a guest blogger on 1001 Scribbles, and appears every other Thursday.  To read more of his thoughts on photography, please visit his blog:  Lightscapes Nature Photography.