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“The best way out is always through.”

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Keep a "Places" Journal (And Stop Losing Those Pretty Red Barns)

For a travel photographer, one of the most frustrating things in the world is to find a great photo location and then lose it. I know, because I've done it a lot. The problem is that I like to wander a lot, especially when I'm exploring someplace new, and since I'm concentrating more on things like finding interesting shots, waiting for great lighting and wondering where I'm going to stop and get a burger, I often forget to make notes about exactly where I was when I shot the pictures. A few weeks later I'm back home and editing photos and scratching my head looking at maps trying to piece the trip back together again.

A far better way, of course, is to just keep a notebook handy in your shooting vest or on the dash of your car and keep notes and directions for re-finding locations. I don't go back to the same places all that often, but there are certain pretty places, like this red barn in Iowa, that I would love to shoot again (perhaps in a different season) if I was back in that part of Iowa. I know roughly where I shot it and I can picture the road in my head, but I'm not at all sure I could find it on a map. Had I just written down the route number and the nearest cross street, finding it would be a breeze.

I'm sure that in the next few generations of digital cameras there will be geotagging/GPS included in the EXIF data and keeping a road journal will be a thing of the past, but for now, it's worth writing down where you were when you shot some of your favorite pictures. Besides, while GPS might be a cool techno thing to play with, it's not like you can stuff theme-park brochures or diner menus into it the way you can with a notebook or journal. And if you're going back to the same area to photograph you'll definitely want to remember where the best burgers in town were...though to be honest, I rarely have trouble remembering that.


Victoria said...

Definitely relate to this post... got so frustrated with not remembering locations that I bought the GPS attachment for my D90... used it a couple of times and gave up on it completely because the attachment to the camera was at first very difficult and then got to the point where it wouldn't seat into the slot at all... so now it is one of those wish I'd never bought it toys! Even when it did work at the first, it was very flaky about acquiring a signal and keeping it. Trip diary is a better idea if only I could remember to use it! (am currently reading your contest book... my birthday elf delivered on my wish list)

ASmith said...

I use my iPhone. I regularly snap a quick picture with it to remind myself of a spot to come back to. The GPS features in the phone let me know exactly where I was and the picture gives me a direct reminder of what I saw. No more notebook.
Oh, and for the burger joint, I don't need to write that down either... Yelp, FourSquare, and many other apps always help me remember places I liked and find new ones to explore. Again... bye bye notebook

Jeff Wignall said...

Thanks for both of your comments!

Victoria I thought of buying the GPS for my D90 also and then read the reviews on Amazon (many of which weren't too kind) and decided to wait. I'm really hoping that there are some new product announcements at the PMA show this year (February 21-23 in Anaheim, California--I wish it was in Las Vegas where they normally hold it). From what I've read there are going to be some GPS-equipped cameras introduced, as well as some new accessories.

And I think the iPhone idea of snapping/tagging photos of locations (and burger joints) is great! Finally an iPhone app that I can totally relate to. I've been trying to find an excuse to talk myself into one and this could be it :)

But what do I do if I lose the iPhone? (Or does that iPhone have an app that rings my home phone when the iPhone has been idle too long and it thinks it's lost?) :)

Hey, I managed to trash this comment the first time I posted it, so obviously I can lose anything.


Jeff Wignall said...

Oh and Victoria, my thanks to the birthday elf :)

Frank said...

Actually, I recommend a small digital recorder. They are reasonably cheap, they are very small, and, best of all, if you get the right one, you can use it as a flash drive. (I like the Olympus models.)