Skip to main content

Location Scouting Overview

Lesson 16 from: The Outdoor Enthusiast's Guide to Photography & Motion

Ian Shive

buy this class


Sale Ends Soon!

starting under


Unlock this classplus 2200+ more >

Lesson Info

16. Location Scouting Overview


Class Trailer

Bootcamp Introduction


Storytelling with Stills and Motion Overview


Elements of a Well-told Story


Storytelling in Motion


Choosing the Best Gear for Your Outdoor Project


Gear for Drones


Gear for Motion


Inside Ian's Gear Bag


General Advice for Preparation


Virtual Scouting




Permits and Permission


Model and Property Releases


Health and Fitness




Location Scouting Overview


Location Scouting in the North Cascades


Drone Introduction


Drone Safety


What Kind of Drone Should I Buy?


FAA Part 107 Test: How to Prepare


Telling a Story With a Drone


Drone Camera, Lenses and Movements


Selling Drone Footage


Why Does a Photographer Need Motion?


Establish the End User


Identify Your Audience


Build a Production Plan


Create the Story Structure


The Shooting Script


Production Quality


Composition for Stills


Composition for Stills: Landscape


Composition for Stills: Telephoto Lens


Composition for Stills: Macro Lens


Techniques for Capturing Motion in the Field


Lenses and Filters for Outdoor Photography


Capturing Landscapes - Part 1


Capturing Landscapes - Part 2


Capturing Movement in Stills


Shooting Water, Sky and Panorama


Understanding Stock


Editorial vs Commerical


Pricing Stock


Producing Stock


Shooting for Social Media vs Stock


Choosing an Agency


Assignments and Capturing Stock


Stock Photography Market


Create A Style Guide


Stock Shoot Analysis


Workflow for Selecting Final Stills


Initial Editing in Adobe Bridge


Reviewing and Selecting Motion Footage


Keeping Track of Your Story Ideas


Script and Story Structure Evolution


Editing to the Content


Music as a Character


Business Diversification


Business Strategy


Pillars of Revenue




Partnerships and Brand Strategy


Galleries and Fine Art




The Future of Photography


Q&A And Critique


Lesson Info

Location Scouting Overview

location. Scouting is a fundamental, important step. It's one of those things that happens on and off throughout an entire shoot. Big part of the reason is we've got a lot of gears, photographers and Azeri covering the gear class. I try to pare down quite a bit, keep it on my back, but I don't want to constantly be stopping digging things out. I want to know where I'm going. I want to be efficient, and I want to get out to the best spots possible with the limited time amount of time I have. Um, really, location scouting is really all about time and making the most use of your time and figuring out OK, no matter how long you're in any place, you're in a national park for five days. It's inevitably never enough time, so you want to maximize it as much as possible. And using that midday light when it's maybe not ideal to take photos is a great time to go out and figure out where your compositions are going to be and start building in your mind. Um, a list of what those places are you gonn...

a go to and with the best time of day to go to. Those places are. So this class is all about location scouting and talk a little bit about GPS. Part of it is here in class. Big part of it is out on location in North Cascades National Park, where we actually went out and scattered a bunch of locations and getting lucky and making some great images with great lighting conditions. So, um, with further do we start with my goal when location scouting is to think about getting one great photo a day, start there and build out from it. So I set a goal of one great photo a day. So what does that mean? You need to find one great location today. Don't sit there and think you've got to find three or four different locations or when evening comes that you have to jump in your car and drive from spot to spot to spot. Or that you need to race from spot to spot to spot. If you're able to do more than one spot for your setups and get those shots, great, more power to you. That's the bonus round. But really think about that one epic hero shot that calendar shot that you want to get a cover of a book? That cover of a magazine aimed for that one great photo a day and look for where that location is gonna be. When you think about that, when you look for that location and as you learn in this class is you start to take pictures and build that database that you can refer back to. Maybe in your phone. Um, you'll realize that you're gonna have more than one option. More than likely, but set that goal of one great photo a day. That's how I've always done it. That one great hero photo a day. If you base your location scouting with this in mind and you work out from there, you're gonna do well. One thing I would add about location scouting is is not something that you only do in the moment. I am constantly location scouting and that really what it means is I'm thinking about things over years over decades as they change lighting. Sometimes I just never make it out to a spot. But I'm watching it online and my research phase. Um, you know, I'm always constantly thinking about it, and a lot of times I'm going back to the same places over and over and over, because conceptually I'm working those areas in my mind. And I'm thinking about how can I constantly improve? So a lot of the time when I keep going to the Channel Islands or Death Valley, this was a personal trip I made. I've been always thinking about this concept of how to show these images and and really, how to make the race track work. It's been photographed by so many people before. Um, I always love these ideas of trying to get right in there and standing over the trail and looking up, and, um, you know, it's unfortunate there's been some damage out there, these these places meted out there before. Ah, lot of that stuff had happened, but this is a place I've been going for years. The first time I went out there, I didn't really know what I was doing. It was early on in my career. I didn't maximize my time. Um, I didn't shoot in great light. I was out there for, like a day trip and left and never got anything Second time I tried to go out there, I tried to go out there. My car broke down and so I didn't make it all the way out there. But I had these ideas I never got to execute. Finally, after the third time I got out there and location scouting is more than just saying, Okay, this is the pretty shot. This is the hero, but also what are the challenges along the way? So I learned that that road is not an easy road to get out to the racetrack in Death Valley. So I knew I needed better. Prepare for that. Make sure I go slow, have all the right equipment you really helped identify. You know the challenges so that I could prepare for that. So scouting for years is definitely something that's realistic. I constantly go back to the same places. There's always so much pleasure in refining the craft and looking for new opportunities to tell the story. Telling the vastness of the place is a great example, by a way of sort of the, you know, the compositional elements at the at the top and bottom of the frame, where using, like almost the inside or outside of the rule of thirds really just gives you that That spread that expanse really love. That kind of stuff is super, I think 400 mil lens when I shot something like this. But again, these were ideas I have been thinking about over time. This is a place that had been too for probably dozens of times over the years. But I'm thinking about what can I do? Where can I go to get different compositions and tell the story? Scouting means walking around looking, waiting for the opportunities to come and recognizing what those challenges are. Ah, and recognizing what are those opportunities that you're gonna have? Um, when you're out there and on maximizing that time This photo. I always love this because it just gives such a great sense of scale. This is a great example of a place that you can't always get right sand dunes in general. And this is a big focus for me. I think are probably the hardest thing in the world. The Location Scout. They are incredibly challenging a photograph. They're constantly changing. You can keep going back over years and years and years and concepts and they're not the same. Um, there while their arid rights. You have the water challenge, the tent there in deserts, they're hot. They can be incredibly dangerous. Because of that, it's very, very easy to get lost. So all of the tips and tricks and rules of location scouting that I'm giving in this class as well as in the field North Cascades are very, very important. And they get even more important and more parent. When you go to these places that are challenging, when you get deep into a sand out in a place like Death Valley, where you've got mountain ranges, at least you have good points of reference. But I can tell you, um, and the field there is a little more narrow. But when I got out to White Sands, New Mexico is a whole different thing. I mean, you get far out there and they're just rolling. Rolling Rolling field is very tiring. You're walking up the hill. Every time you take a step, your foot goes down, and so it's difficult and you have to start relying on other things, like GPS and technology and learning how to read the mountain. You know, what direction you're heading. And I'd be lying if I said I didn't get close to Los on at least a couple times where I've popped out thinking this is the parking lot. I'm in and I popped out a mile down the road and the different parking lot. Yeah. So it's something to really remember that location. Scouting is not just about the images, but about planning and preparing for something and making sure, of course that you're safe and that you don't get lost. Um, Colorado in Great Sand Dunes National Park. Um, I finally actually made it there after many, many years of, ah wanting to get there. I like spending a lot of time in New Mexico, and I'll show you some of those pictures. This is a great spot. This was really challenging because I really I wasn't really sure what the perspective was going to be. I had never been there before, had had the opportunity to scout over years. But I love this particular this particular trip because the conditions were harsh. As you can tell, the wind ripping off the top here on the picture was incredible, and I really thought that there had to be a great composition in this that I could make. But I wasn't really sure what it waas and And it was It was cold. You could still see this. You know, it was only about 47 degrees about 45 degrees when I was there. Late evening light. Um, and so I really had some harsh, harsh conditions that I had to work with. And so if conditions are harsh, um, like this, I recommend scouting and being very, very selective. I'm not walking out with my camera over my shoulder shooting the entire time. I'm going to keep everything, especially in sand and those kinds of areas in my bag. Bundle that, and I'm going to look around and see what I could do itself actually, kind of made some funny videos when I was out there. I want to show you a little bit about what I had to endure in this particular in this particular location. So these were shot my IPhone. Well, I'm out here in the great sand dunes, and there's wind and snow blowing in here behind my shoulder. And over that shoulder are the giant dunes, depending on what the weather does. I might climb much. Shoot him from down here. All right, So making decision storms moving in. But I got the right amount of year. And then this is what happened when I got to the top. This is what makes it's crazy. Pretty unpleasant. But you see what I said? I said one thing, which is this is what makes the dunes possible. And, you know, that's what I wanted to be able to show, you know, I wanted to get in there and really try and show the wind, and I struggled. It was hard to get that it was so windy that I couldn't get a tripod down and keep it stable for long exposures, which was hoping to dio, um, the second camera came out the bag filled with wind. I used my jacket as much as I could to try and block it off. So and it just spending a lot of time scouting, um, spending, trying to figure out where I can go. It was a lot easier because of the Valley and the visitor center to keep a perspective on where I was and remember where to go where to go back and wait for different conditions. I mean, the conditions were quite incredible, is beautiful. He has ended up getting very fortunate wispy clouds and designs. And it had the combination of rain, snow and the cold temperatures created this thing. This pattern in this look on the dunes that was unusual. I hadn't seen that really before. And so it really set me up for creating these really, really interesting and different compositions out there because of the because of the way that the sand started to fall. Uh, and that was really just good time of year. But I did manage to get some frames from up on top. Um, and you can really see the power of the wind and figuring out the locations. I mean, absolutely stunning place, but ultimately scouting it out, learning where it is and then working that road back and forth on the way in and then hitting it again on the way out really put me in the best positions to get images, understanding where the light is going back the next day and taking pictures knowing how the light woodcrest over certain areas on that particular side of the dune field. Um, you know, it really is all about understanding where you are and being able to maximize your opportunities. You mentioned White Sands. This is There's no place else on Earth, in my opinion, Quite like it. It is truly wonderful place. Um, has its own set of challenges because it's ah, it's right next to the White Sands Missile base. So has closures and could be challenging for camping. A lot times are closed at night, but this is a place where I think the first off you have to prepare. Um, it can be very, very exposing hot, and that is pure white light. That's just basically coming up so sunglasses and things like that for me. I think going out there and just becoming familiar with the terrain is also becoming is helpful on becoming familiar with what gear you're going to need to bring out their A Z. I mentioned, you know, I went out here, I got their midday and one of the big challenges, I think, with photographing out their midday aside from the light on and again, I got caught in another storm out there, but seems to me that's why these dunes are all there, right? It's windy. Um, I think the real challenge with them is is, um, it's easy to get lost and it's easy. It's very difficult to get back to the same spot. Um, and so when you scout these places, you almost have to scour at a distance, um, and say, You know, I can kind of anticipate that this will because another thing is your footprints. If it's wind me, you know, they're maybe gonna be there overnight. It'll be gone. But the price still even be there for quite a while. And you don't want to have these footprints running through all of your shots when you're looking for those pure areas where it's just endless rolling fields of dunes, it's really challenging. And so location scouting in places like the same thing with snow. Same thing with you know any anywhere else where your your being there will ruin the shot in the future is something that's important when scouting, and it's not something I do cover in the field. That's what I want to talk about it here, cause you almost have to scout at a distance. You have to say, You know, I could be appear and shooting across that ridge and sort of anticipate you know where you want to be mid day out. There is a great time. You sit here, here, chill out there. Ultimately, I found the spot I wanted to be. This is a shot I've always really been proud of. Its very almost looks like a Georgia O Keefe painting and the colors and the shading and the textures. And, um, it's more greeny appear today, but it's it's really was just a combination of being in the right time. The right place. I've been going to White Sands as well for years and multiple trips and had concepts and ideas and Onley after really spending time and say, I'm gonna go to this area, walk out of this do inside. In this case, location scouting was word of people not really go. That's what I need to find so I can get away from the footprints and figure out where I'm gonna be. Um, and sure enough, I did get lost coming back and pop. This is the trip. I popped out in a different parking lot, so you have to really be careful out there, but ultimately, you know, figuring out the light, seeing where it goes, seeing what the opportunities are out, there really is what pulls it, uh, all together. So these are some of the other images that I got and just keep working the scene and keep, um, seeing what kind of compositions you can get. So is there any questions about this process or anything about my approach to location scouting? You guys All scout does everybody. Everybody's on the head. Really? Do you scout with your camera or not with your camera? Both. Yeah, yeah. I mean, it's great to scout with your camera. Um, I like shooting with the mobile phone the most because I can put everything quickly in the folders and keep him and then refer back to them very on a computer or right on the MY on the map on the phone itself to figure out where I was. I find that I when I shoot on my camera, I don't categorize or keep those photos for future reference the same way I do with a mobile phone. So I think it's really important to be able Teoh have that as a reference point. There's no point in location scouting if you're not going to refer back to the places that you went to. Um, so I find that using the phone has been really helpful for me, but there's certainly no right or wrong way to do it.

Class Materials

Bonus Materials with Purchase


Ratings and Reviews


Ian was an amazing instructor.; very fun, enthusiastic, encouraging, and comprehensive. I hope to be able to return as an audience member for another of his classes. It is a privilege and a gift to have access via Creative Live to such a wealth of expertise. Thank you!

Cindee Still

Ian Shive is a dynamic speaker with a wealth of knowledge he is willing to share. He has had a magical path that led to his success. He touches on so many aspects of making, selling and creating images as well as how to market them and make an income from your work. It is so much fun to be part of the studio audience. The Creative Live staff are always so warm and friendly and they feed you like your on a cruise ship! Wonderful experience.


What a great class this has been. Thank you Ian Shive and Creative Live! Recently retired, I have set out to learn everything I can about photography and pursue this passion to capture the beauty in the outdoors. Creative Live has served as an amazing educational platform to help me learn everything from how to use my camera, the fundamental technicals, and learn about software and tools. This class brought it all together. At the end of this class my approach to photography and my images are different. Ian shares so much valuable knowledge that will change the way you go about taking a picture; from scouting a location, to thinking through the story and adding elements to an image to evoke an emotional response. My personal growth has been significant and I have changed to the way I approach creating an image from an Outdoor Landscape to an Outdoor Experience. Loved every minute of it, sad the class is over.

Student Work