I recently found myself on Florida’s east coast for one night. They were calling for stormy weather the next morning, so I figured I’d have a good chance of interesting skies at sunrise. I didn’t want to waste the photo opportunity, but wasn’t familiar with the area. I was arriving after dark, but would have time to shoot at sunrise. What to do? Scout the location virtually!
Here’s some of the websites and apps I used to research a shoot at a new location and how I use them.
For this trip, I started with rGPS . The app relies on photographers to submit to it’s database. There’s a free version that works well. I think it’s worth the $9,99/year for the Pro version. The ability to do advanced searches, save spots to “trips” and the offline access are the features that convinced me to upgrade.
rGPS popped up 2 possible locations in the area… Coral Cove beach and the Jupiter light house. Now I had some data to go on.
Next, I do a Google search. I’ll check the Image tab to get a general idea of what I can expect at that area. I’ll include the word “photography” in my search term. That will usually get some local photographer’s websites – they can sometimes provide you with some lesser known locations in the area. I can also jump over to the Maps tab to get a better idea of driving time and directions to the site.
500px is a marketplace and social sharing site for photographers. I’ll do a quick search on the site to see get an idea of what I can find in the area. It’s filled with amazing photographers, so it’s a great source of inspiration.
Oh, Instagram! I generally am not a fan of posting specific locations on Instagram. What I do like about it, is that a lot of people post right from their cell phones, so you can get a pretty good idea of current conditions. This is especially helpful in locations that get winter weather – you can get a good idea of snow or ice cover in an area.
I’ll check this at least the day before and the day of the planned shoot. It will let me know if I need to bring any extra equipment or clothing (rain cover/gear).
It’s last on the list, but it’s definitely not least! This app is a bit daunting when you first start using it. TPE provides some great video tutorials on their site, which I highly recommend.
I searched TPE for my location. At a quick glance, I was able to see the times for civil dawn and sunrise. Using the satellite map overlay, I was able to check out the parking area in relation to the rock formations I was wanting to shoot. Since I was arriving in the dark, this was a huge advantage. I was confident that I was parking at the closest location and heading in the right direction when I left my vehicle.
TPE provides a ton of information that I won’t get into on this post. It’s really a complete planning tool for outdoor photography.
Using the sites and apps listed, I was able to create some images I’m pretty happy with. I’d love to return to the area and shoot again when I have more time to look for different compositions.
There’s tons of resources at our fingertips. They won’t replace time in the field, but they can help you get a good start when heading to new locations for photography.