Planning For a Photography Trip

Fine Art Wildlife Photography - grizzly bearsSpring grizzly cubs, Jasper, Alberta

A few weeks ago I was in Jasper photographing bear cubs. Jasper is a place I visit four or five times a year to photograph grizzlies, elk, and big horn sheep.  I have also traveled to places such as Lake Clark, Alaska to photograph coastal brown bears. Whether you are planning a photography trip to a place that is a couple of hours drive away or a plane trip away it is important to plan and be prepared.

When planning a photography trip it is important to do your research. Here are some things to consider.

Fine Art Wildlife Photography - Coastal Brown BearCoastal brown bear, Lake Clark, Alaska

1. Do you need a guide, such as in Alaska where in some places it is required? How well do you know the area you are going to and the best places to find wildlife? If you do not know the area I suggest connecting with locals or joining a photography group online so you can connect with people who can give you some insights. 

Fine Art Wildlife Photography - BighornBighorn mountain sheep during rut, Jasper, Alberta 

2. Do you know the best time of year to visit that area depending on the species you are wanting to photograph? For example in Jasper spring is great for bear cubs, but adult bears are just coming out of hibernation are not carrying a great coat, and are on the lean side. If I want to photograph adult bears late fall is a much better time of year for coat and being filled out. If I am looking to photograph the rut, the best time for elk is in late September, but for the bighorn at the end of November.

Fine Art Wildlife Photography - Bald EagleBald eagle in the rain, Jasper, Alberta

3. Know the weather and what to expect. Is it highly likely there may be rain or snow when you visit, or is it going to be hot, or might it be humid? Check the seasonal temperatures prior to your trip. Ask in photography groups online if anyone has traveled there before at that time of year and can tell you what to expect for weather. Knowing the weather also helps you know what to pack in your kit. Do you need a rain hood for your camera? If you are going somewhere cold you will need a lot of batteries as they drain fast.

Fine Art Wildlife Photography - GrebeRed-necked grebes and chicks photographed from kayak, Northeastern Alberta

4. Know the photography sites you want to visit and how you will get to them. Do you need to do a lot of hiking, what kind of terrain do you have to go through, are you needing to kayaking, canoe, or quad into an area? If you are having to hike long distances consider the weight of the lenses and whether you need to take a tripod. A tripod is more weight to carry, so carefully consider if it is needed. How accessible will the wildlife be in that area? Do you need at least 600mm or can you carry a smaller lens? This will dictate what you should take for footwear and outerwear to pack and equipment to bring. 

FIne Art Wildlife Photography - PiperGreater yellowlegs piper, Pierce Lake, Saskatchewan

5. What kind of light will there be, this will also help with lens selection. If you are trekking to photograph the mountain gorillas deep in the forest of Rwanda you need a lens for low light as the canopy of the forest blocks most of the sun's rays. But if you are photographing flamingos in Florida light is not an issue. 

Regardless of where you are traveling always have with you a backup camera, an extra lens, extra memory cards, extra batteries, and cleaning supplies for your camera and lens. The worst thing is to spend a lot of money on a trip and your camera breaks down or your lens and you do not have the ability to take photos. 

Fine Art Wildlife Photography - RobinAmerican Robin, Jasper, Alberta

If you want to take up wildlife photography as a hobby, I suggest first spending the time discovering the wildlife in your own area. There is probably a wide variety that will offer lots of different setups and settings. Perfect your skills locally before spending lots of money on an expensive trip. You want to be able to take the best photos possible when you travel. Being comfortable with your camera and knowing how it responds in different settings is critical. Then when you are comfortable start planning your trips and you won't be disappointed. 

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