It’s a new year and a new era of photography. We have more at our fingertips than ever before. Rarely do I find myself lacking information about locations and places to go and ideas once I get there. At this very moment I have things like Google Earth, 500px, social media platforms, and search engines within hands reach to plan a stellar photography trip. With this knowledge at your fingertips, why bother with this blog post? Even the best researcher needs start points, so here is one for you. In this article I will go over choosing regions of the state to focus on. I will discuss tools that can be used to plan a trip and a few ideas to help you begin an adventure.
If you are stumbling across this site as just a visitor and not a photographer, you can follow these principles as well, but I would suggest going to step 2 and check out my southern Utah hiking site.
Step 1- Choose a location
Utah is big. The state is 84,899 miles2 of mountain ranges, canyons, alien landscapes and other worldly rock structures. The best way to break it up is by national parks, monuments or mountain ranges. Since I mainly focus here in the southern part of the state I am only going to focus on that. With that in mind lets just focus on the national parks and monument as they are distributed across the state evenly and provide a lot of variety based on what you are doing.
If you are struggling to choose a location, pick somewhere you have never been or something you have always wanted to photograph. This could include slot canyons, Zion, the hoodoos in Bryce or epic vistas of Canyonlands. This will narrow down some of your searching and will reduce your selection by at least a few parks.
Once you have chosen a location you can do one of two things. The first is totally ignore the “stick to a national park” and travel like crazy. I am not particularly opposed to this but you can get more in-depth photographs from a region by diving into the area and getting to know the country side and photograph it for a few days to a week. The second is stick to the park and then just explore just a bit around it as you like.
Step 2- What will you see?
Now that you have chosen your region do this; go to this web site and download this map. It is a collection of slot canyons in United States and is a good starting place. I say this because it will get your mind jogging on possible places to go and visit. Before I become responsible for someones death, remember slot canyons can be deadly, go do your research on which ones you should visit. Don’t die for a shot.
Go to hiking blogs. I have an old one that I have not touched in a while, but has lots of good information. It’s called Southern Utah Hiking and has a good collection of hikes to go check out. There are also hiking websites like still exploring, and my buddies site Howells Outdoors. Go check out the smaller trails that provide some awesome views.
If you are hitting up the National Parks, try to do some iconic locations with a mix of back country hiking and backpacking. For the main locations pull up the trail maps on the NPS website and explore your options. For the back country trails you might have to be a bit more creative. There are plenty of trails in Zion that are unmarked but are definitely there. I am also recommending putting on the big backpack and go sleeping in the woods. Yes, I am recommending backpacking. If you want the most unique shots here in the southwest you have to get out into the back country and do some exploring. Back country in places like Zion are mind blowing and provide some stellar views that few people ever see.
Step 3- Plan, plan and plan some more.
Plan a sunrise location, midday activities/photographing activities, and sunset locations. Pull up your photographer’s ephemeris and start figuring out what time of year you want to visit these locations. Sun track everything. Look at angles, sunrise times, travel times to get to locations and everything else you can think of to get a worth while shot.
Step 4- Talk with photographers
There are few people on this earth that care as much as photographers about locations and when to see them in the best light. Reach out to me or these other photographers and ask them questions. Possibly listen to podcasts and read blog posts by photographers who focus their work in the region you are planning on visiting. They might have good suggestions on places to visit or the times of day to see these locations.
Step 5- When your here, be here.
Throw out all your plans if something better arrives. Get the shot that will make you happy. If you have to change your photography schedule to accommodate that, do it.
This of course is a quick blog post about ideas for finding your next photographic vacation. I am not going to go into each location for you. Thats for you to explore. But remember these steps. Don’t plan your trip around summer, plan it around what you want to accomplish. Find locations first then plan the time of year you want to see them. After that plan every part of your day. With that in mind you will be busy and come back with a good roll of awesome photos.