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Road trip photography is one of the most exciting, fun filled and unique ways to record your travel experiences; and since you never quite know for sure what will be around the next corner you’ll have to stay on your toes to capture the best pictures.
America is one of the best countries in the world for planning a road trip and with so many different regions you can explore landscapes as diverse as the famous deserts to tropical palm lined beaches, mountain forests to the numerous metropolitan cityscapes.
I am a city dweller and I look forward to road trips. I enjoy taking road trips from Philadelphia to places like upstate New York, West Virginia and Northern Virginia wine country. I also like to fly into cities like Las Vegas and San Francisco and take road trips from those locations as well.
Road Trip Photography – The Basics and How to get them right!
- It’s always important that you plan ahead. Study some maps and chart out an approximate route for your trip. The easiest way to plan your route is to start off with a destination in mind and then work out a great route to get there, passing by other towns and sites of interest that you’d like to visit.
- Stay safe on the road. As well as packing your camera and, if you are planning to camp, a reliable tent and sturdy sleeping bag, you’re going to need to make sure that you have enough food and bottled water safely stowed for your trip as well as an up to date first aid kit for emergencies.
- Maps! It’s a good idea to take a physical map so if you are travelling through areas with poor internet coverage you won’t find yourself completely lost while relying on internet based resources such as Google Maps!
- Check the weather before you head off on your road trip because the last thing you want to do is find yourself in the middle of a dangerous weather event! Also getting an idea of whether to expect rain or sunshine will help you to pack the appropriate clothing for the trip.
- When packing your camera ensure that you have a strong and well made camera bag with some good in built padding, and, where possible, a waterproof outer lining.
- Make sure you have backup batteries and battery chargers for your camera and camera equipment.
- You should have storage devices (SD Cards etc.) that will last the whole trip.
- Whenever possible, you should plan on uploading the footage to the cloud. This way, you will not lose everything if something were to happen to the SD cards or if you lose your camera.
Planning ahead is a necessary thing to do but don’t feel that you can’t take diversions en route!
Part of the magic of a great road trip is to explore the back roads, visit a site on a whim or sometimes just follow your nose! You’re bound to find some truly unique photo opportunities when you go off the beaten track!
Tips for Taking Great Road Trip Photography.
- This is a strange tip that you can use on your road trips! The psychological phenomena, known as the ‘Baader-Meinhof Effect’, states that if you start to notice one particular type of thing, for example a specific type of car, then you will start to see them everywhere! But how can this help with your road trip photography? To make use of this effect you can decide before you head off on your road trip to look for a specific type of thing and then throughout your trip you will see it everywhere! This is an easy way to start taking some interesting theme based photos while you are on the road. So, you might decide that family run Italian restaurants are what you will notice along the way, and bingo, you certainly will notice them giving you the chance to make a themed collection of images from your road trip!
- Always take the scenic route where you can and make sure you don’t rush to meet destination deadlines. Of course you want to have a plan, but keep it as a rough guideline to your journey and allow yourself to follow a hunch or just take the odd chance turning left down a small country road just to see what you find!
- Keep an eye out for interesting, weird or bizarre road signs on your way! If you find an unusual road sign then try to take a picture of it within the context of the place. This can often make an outstanding social commentary as well as being another funny or interesting episode on your trip!
- While you are travelling, always make time to meet people along the way. Street performers, artists and buskers always make a great photo and if you ask them they are likely to be friendly and not only allow you to take their picture but they might also give you a tip about some unique feature, event or place to see nearby! Also take the time to strike up conversations with your server in the restaurant, people in stores and anyone who looks friendly and interesting! You’ll get some great advice about their local community, including things to see, but you’ll also get a real feel for the place you’re in.
- If you are taking pictures from a moving car then shoot fast and, where possible, use a continuous focus mode. If you take photographs of things that are further away you will not have so much problem with blurring in the final product.
- Give your photos a strong sense of place by including local landmarks, special features of the landscape or rare shopfronts, restaurants and people. This will ground your photos in the place where they were taken and if you are putting the photos together in an exhibition it will really give your images the sense of travelling on a journey.
- Don’t forget to include the road itself in your work because nothing says road trip more than a highway stretching away into the distance!
Road Trip Photography is an Iconic part of the American Experience.
- While you are on the road travelling from place to place, you can take an extremely wide range of photography.
- Landscapes. If you are travelling across country then it’s a wonderful chance to take some landscape photography and so whether you’re driving across the desert or winding through ancient forests, practice your compositional techniques while you capture the essence of the world around you.
- Cityscapes and urban street photography is a fascinating medium for your creativity and depending on where you are travelling through you may get the chance to take photos in several different urban landscapes.
- Minimalist and Abstract photography can really highlight unusual features that you find on your road trip.
- Documentary photography is a natural fit for a road trip whereby you can document your journey from start to finish. This will create an interesting record of your trip and allow you to treasure some amazing memories.
A very important thing to remember to do while you are on your road trip is to back up your photographs as you go. You can upload them to the cloud to keep them safe until you get back or else use your phone as well to take ‘doubles’ of pictures that you think are especially good.
This can be a lot harder than it sounds if you are juggling multiple cameras, batteries and memory cards, lenses and other equipment but it really helps you to keep things organized. Spend some time each evening to go through your work from the day and when you can back it up, save it to the cloud or even post it to your social media where internet reception allows.
Road trips make the perfect backdrop for a photography project.
Every trip will be different with its own features standing out so when you are taking photos on your road trip try to stay in the moment, focus on the world around you and definitely enjoy yourself!
Which is your favorite part of the world for a road trip?