Scouting Techniques for National Parks

Lesson 6/13 - Organizing Your Info


Scouting Techniques for National Parks


Lesson Info

Organizing Your Info

The scouting locations. We've talked about scouting at home, we've talked about scouting in the field. Now, what do we do with that information? How do we organize that? To put ourselves in the position to be more creative, and to do our best work? One of the first things I do, is I get a park map. You can get them at the parks, of course, but you can also get them online. All the national park maps are available as free downloads, and they're public domain, so you can bring it to an office services store and make a nice, large print. This is a perfect spot to take notes. So as you're doing your research, you can circle locations, and write down things that are interesting about those spots. Here's an actual map from a trip I was planning to Acadia, where I've got information about a trail I liked, there was some mushrooms and a pine grove. And again, it's just a perfect spot, because now you have all your information in one place. Another thing I do is, I've got all these notes, and I...

organize them based on location, because I might be able to shoot, you know, say I have a few spots that I think would be good for sunrises photos. If they're near each other, I might be able to photograph them on the same day. So here's a list I made from an actual shoot in Acadia, where I group together some sunrise spots and some sunset spots. You can also see I made some notes for places to shoot in the fog, places to shoot in the rain, places to shoot at night. The fog and rain, I mean, this is important because you never know when it might rain, or you might get a nice foggy morning. Weather can be unpredictable. But because I've organized the notes like this, when unpredictable weather happens, I already know what I'm gonna do. I have a plan, I have a structure. And again, I don't have to follow it, I can chase serendipity when I see it. But having a plan to fall back on makes sure that I always have something constructive and productive that I can do. So here's another real life example from Acadia. It was 2011 or 12, I had to do a project of shooting winter photos in Acadia. And I did the research to see when the park gets the most amount of snow, you know, historically, and that's when I went. So, I got there, and sure enough, no snow. I was there all week, Monday through Thursday, I didn't see one flake, and I had to leave on Saturday. My one ray of hope was that the weather news was predicting a storm on Friday, so we might be getting four inches of snow on Friday. So, because I wasn't shooting anything during the week, at least not what I was there to shoot, I scouted locations. I drove around the park, I found scenes that I thought were gonna look good in the snow. And then on Thursday night, I got all that information together, I got a fresh map, and I circled every spot that I wanted to shoot in the snow. This way, on Friday morning, the storm did come. I got up, and I was able to just go in a clockwise motion around the whole park. I already knew exactly what I was gonna do in each spot, so I could get there, get out of the car, set up, get my photo, pack on, move to the next place. I actually got about 2/3rds of these photos done before the snow turned to rain. Saved my whole week. There's a couple of the photos I did on that. This is up at Eagle Lake, and Jordan Pond. Two beautiful places to shoot. If you ever an opportunity to go to Acadia in winter, I highly recommend it. You'll be one of the only people there, and it's just beautiful.

Class Description

National Parks offer vast landscapes, dynamic vistas and views that are worthy of hanging on gallery walls. Capturing those scenic areas in a photo that represents what you experience in person takes planning and preparation. Knowing what opportunities you have in each park at what time of year is a great start to capturing incredible images. In this class you’ll learn:

  • National Park rules and regulations- when to get a permit and how to obtain one
  • Scouting tips for night shooting, how to scout and prep your shoot before sunset
  • Safety tips for yourself and your gear when shooting in remote locations at night
Chris Nicholson’s passion for the National Parks and photography led him to write the book Photographing National Parks. His experience in all 59 US National Parks will help any beginner or professional photographer optimize their experience and photographs in either marshlands or desert landscapes. 



This class was a tremendous help. It is definitely a "tool kit" class and not a "how to" class. With that said, it is worth every penny just for the amazing scouting tips, safety tips, and national park app suggestion. I downloaded one of the recommended apps from this class for a trip I'm taking next month and was thrilled with the information. There are definitely a lot of great tools discussed in this class.

Gaily Cowart

This class was incredible because I wouldn't have gottent this info anywhere else. It's basically a lesson in common and not-so-common sense while shooting at night. No, you're not going to get a whole lot of techniques for working your camera, but you will get strategies for making sure you're actually able to shoot once you're ready. With night photography, there are many unknows that can ruin your chances of getting good shots. Without this class, I never would have thought about how to make the most of daylight hours to plan and prepare a night shoot. And, I wouldn't have known much about how to be as safe and prepared while shooting in the wilderness. I found this course to be very interesting and helpful in the grand scheme of understanding how to get the best from your efforts while shooting at night-time in a park, or secluded area.