So, you’re going on vacation and you’re determined to do some shooting while you’re away but you want to minimize time away from your loved ones. In this post we’ll talk about how you can do some pre-planning in order to make the most of your limited vacation hours.

The first thing you’ll want to think about is what you want to shoot. Are you looking to do some sunrise landscapes or is wildlife photography more your speed? Perhaps you want to do some street photography or brush up on your macro skills (which we’d obviously encourage!). Once you know what you’d like to shoot you can start thinking about where you might want to go and at what time of day to find the best subjects.

A dragonfly image from a Cape May Vacation

For my time at the beach this year I am looking to spend a few hours one morning at a local nature preserve. They are always great places for macro and close-up work with lots of different plants and insects. I’m also looking to go to the local fish market.  The fish sitting on the ice have so many great colors and textures to work with.

Once you’ve decided on your location, you can start thinking of more details that will help you use your time as efficiently as possible. Don’t just focus on photography-related things either. Knowing what your travel time will be, where you are allowed to park, and any local rules and regulations are all important things to keep in mind.

For the nature preserve here are some of the questions I will ask:

  • What time is sunrise?
  • What time is sunset?
  • When does the park open?
  • What is the park known for?
  • Where is parking?
  • When is high and low tide?
  • Where will the sun be tracking in the sky?

To answer these questions Google Earth is one of my favorite resources. You can place yourself on location and see where the sun is going to be at different times of day. Additionally, you can map out your route to a great extent. I generally like to go earlier in the morning or later in the evening, splitting my time between the golden light of morning and the blue hour in the evening.  I also really like The Photographers Emeritus to help plan my shoots.  You can get it for Apple, Android or your desktop.  It lets you see things like how the sun and moon will be moving through your scene.

A Monarch Butterfly from a Cape May getaway.

For the fish market shoot my first question is going to be: Which fish market do I want to visit?  I will generally be looking for places within a half hour of where I am staying. A Google search will will give you a great starting point.  Once I have identified some options I will search each of them individually and look at their websites. Also check out the image tab when you search by name.  Having an idea of what the venue looks like can help you rule it in or out quickly.

When you are looking to photograph at a market or business it is good practice to ask permission before taking photos.  Let them know what you are doing and why you want to take photos there. If it is a an open market type of place be sure to ask vendors permission before photographing their booths.  A little friendly conversation can lead you to new and exciting opportunities to make art.

Planning and doing your research does not have to take hours and hours. A little time now figuring out where to park can save you 20 min driving around on site. Knowing when the light you are looking for will occur can save you an hour of waiting for the right conditions on location. Most importantly taking the time now will maximize both the time you get to spend shooting and the time you get to spend with loved ones while you are on vacation. What questions do you have about planning your vacation shoot? Leave them in the comments below.