Travel Photography: Timing Is Everything…Or Is It?

When planning a photo shoot, it is a good idea to research the area that you are visiting to ensure optimum results. If the business of nature photography is your main source of income, the trip should be viewed as an investment. How well you plan could mean the difference between obtaining salable images or despair and disappointment. For example, you wouldn’t want to visit the Colorado Rocky Mountains in September if your goal was to photograph wild flowers as the peak blooming season is usually in July.

With that said, be careful not to plan your trip and expectations solely around any one subject or situation. Even with the best planning and research, Mother Nature can be very fickle, as she works on her own time schedule. Be open-minded to what other pleasant surprises she has in store for you. They will only present themselves to the degree of your willingness to be open to them.

Recently, we took a spring trip to the Pacific North West. My main goal was to photograph the blooming rhododendrons in the rainforest. I had done my research and found that one of the towns along the pacific coastline plans a weekend celebration in honor of the arrival of the blooming rhododendrons. I surmised that this should be a good time to be at this location to photograph these flowering plants. I was so excited and self-assured that I had carefully researched and planned this trip to the North West. I was sure that I was going to be able to fill my stock files with countless images of this beautiful flowering plant that I forgot about shooting anything else.

Upon my arrival at our first destination, I stopped at the local visitor’s center to inquire where I might find the best stands of blooming rhododendrons to photograph. Much to my dismay, the information I received sent a sinking feeling in my stomach. It seems that the North West had received cooler weather than normal and had delayed the blooming of the rhododendrons by about two weeks. I was two weeks too early. How could this be? What about the celebration? It was postponed. The only problem for me was that I was here and I couldn’t postpone my trip. Because I was so caught up in the excitement during my planning stages for the blooming season of the rhododendrons, I hadn’t put much effort into researching any other subject matter.

In order to salvage this trip I had to pull myself out of a dismal funk, (which, by the way, matched the gray, rainy, wet weather). I decided to scout the surrounding area for other wild flowers. With some hard work and driving many miles, I was able to find some beautiful patches of wild iris and pacific lupine with the pacific coastline as a backdrop. I came across Bleeding Hearts, Columbines, Corydalis and even the elusive, Fairy Slipper. As it turns out, the unusually persistent cool, wet weather had created the necessary conditions for all of these flowering plants to bloom like they haven’t in years, according to local naturalists.

I came to realize that I had originally planned to photograph a subject and event that normally occurs every year. But what Mother Nature had in store for me was an opportunity to photograph an exploding array of color that was probably more precious due to the unusual weather conditions. No – I never did see or photograph any blooming rhododendrons. But the images that I did capture were every bit as captivating from what I expected to see, if not more.

I learned from my experience on this particular trip that planning and research are still necessary in order to place yourself in the right place at the right time. That is called “opportunity”. Even so, it still is important to be open-minded to photographing other subject matter in the event Mother Nature’s timing is different than yours and mine.  JS

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