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Location Research and Pre-Trip Planning

Lesson 5 from: Travel Photography: The Complete Guide

Ben Willmore

Location Research and Pre-Trip Planning

Lesson 5 from: Travel Photography: The Complete Guide

Ben Willmore

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Lesson Info

5. Location Research and Pre-Trip Planning


Class Trailer



Course Introduction


Camera Gear for Travel


What Camera Gear Should You Buy?


Gear Bags for Travel Photography


Location Research and Pre-Trip Planning


Importing and Naming Conventions in Lightroom


Processing Images with Presets in Lightroom


Lesson Info

Location Research and Pre-Trip Planning

What websites do I go to to do research? Well first, if you go to Google, Google has a special area designed just for images, if you want to find it it's If you go to and you search for the name of the location you're going to go to, suddenly you're going to see a grid of a bunch of photos that are supposedly of that location or related to it. And if you go in there you can also mouse over if you're on the map section of it, you can mouse over images and it'll show you where on the map it thinks they were taken. Because if they were tagged with geo tagged information, GPS coordinates, it knows where they were taken. So you can do that also on the map section, if you want to go directly to the map section, this will tell you it's, and there you can search for a location, you see a map of it, and in the lower right, there'll be little bitty icons, they look like microscopic pictures, if you click on it it'll show you pictures from that...

area, and as you mouse over them, it'll show you where on the map it thinks they were taken, so that can be nice if you've never been to a particular location, then within the maps part of Google maps, you also can get a train view, train means three dimensional landscape view, and if you're going to be in a mountainous area, or just anything that's got hills, you're going to San Francisco, and see the big hills, that kind of stuff, this will give you a better sense for, if you need to move from one location to another, does it involve a big hike to get up to it, that kind of thing, can be rather useful. And when you're doing research on Google, there are certain words that I add to my searches, I don't just type in the name of the location, necessarily, I will also type in things, it tells you in the lower right here, photographer's guide, sometimes you'll find, resources online where literally, somebody wrote a guide to where to take photos in San Francisco, let's say, if that's where you're traveling to, other things that I'll put in there, photo locations. Where to take photos, travel guide, photo workshops. Sometimes you're going to find companies that actually do photo workshops, and on their website they have to advertise somehow to get people excited about signing up, or what are they going to do? They're going to list the locations that they're going to go to, and sometimes, even what time they're going to visit those locations, well that's useful info if you're doing some research. On the normal part of Google, or on the images part, I also include the word map, and usually, I can find a map of a particular location before I get to it, a map that's specific to that location, like if you're a tourist, and came up, paid admission to get into something, and they handed you a map, you can probably find that map beforehand. Now the problem with searching on Google, is you're going to find everybody's pictures, and if you think about the quality of an average picture, they're not very good, they're a lot of iPhone shots, people are not thinking about composition whatsoever, but it gives you some sense for what's there, what's really nice is it gives you some sense for the reality of what will be there. Is there going to be a bazillion tourists, or not? If you want to get a better idea of what might good photos look like of a location, go to a stock photography website. And in this guide I'll give you a list of them, but just, some of the big ones, Getty, Corbus, iStock, search for the name and location on their site. They're going to have images, if it's a location that anybody goes to. And they're going to be much higher quality, than those that are found on a standard Google search. This is where I go to think about what unique angles have people been getting from that location, and if they got some sort of unique angle, where might you have to be positioned to get a similar angle, because when you're just walking around you might not think, oh, that balcony up there on that restaurant, you know, is going to give me a much better angle than this because sometimes when you're there, in person you're just overwhelmed with all the details, of what's around you and you don't pick up on that, but if you think about it ahead of time, you can also there's a site called it has 360 degree panoramas that you can drag around, and that means you can search for your particular location, and it's almost like you're turning your head around in the location there you're seeing what it would feel like to be around it, and so see if you can find some of those. When it comes to street photography, one of the things about street photography is when you're taking pictures of people that are just living in this location, and you're the foreigner walking by with all this big camera gear, it can be weird as far as, how are people supposed to react to that, to make it so it's easier to get those shots, the first thing is to smile, because it's hard not to react to a smile with something positive back, so I'm trying to constantly smile, but the other thing is, learn just the littlest bit about their language, if it's a foreign language, get some very basic words. And here I gave you just a real short list, hello, thank you, goodbye, how much, if you're going to buy something, yes, no, okay, and photo, if I have all those words, I usually just write what they are on the back of a business card so I can just have it in my pocket, and pull it out, palm it, to go, you know, how do I say hello kind of thing? The difference you get in reaction from someone, when they see somebody smiling that comes up, and I point at my camera, and I say, photo okay? In their language, they're just like, what, this is not like everybody else that's walking by, and usually I end up getting much better response from people, if I just know a couple words, and in this particular case, I wrote down eight words, if you knew three words, anything to show that you're trying, you're going to be much more successful. Anyway, there's a whole bunch of other things in here, this is going to be extended with more screenshots, just tells you a bunch of different resources that I use when doing research. So let's look at... A few of those, in a little bit more depth. One is an app you can get, called Google Earth. If you do a Google search, for Google Earth, you can (laughs) find a download link to it, and get it, and here's what it looks like, but I want to show you one particular feature within Google Earth, that I think you might find to be useful, so first, in the upper left is an area called search, and if you click in the field that's there, you can type in a particular location you're thinking about visiting in this case I'm going to type in, the Eiffel Tower, and hopefully it'll find it, if it finds it, it's going to rotate this globe, and zoom in to the particular location. And show me a satellite view, which can be nice. So there we are, I can see the Eiffel Tower. So I'm going to go and visit the Eiffel Tower, and when I do, I want to know, if I get there, in the morning, what side of the Eiffel Tower gets light first, or maybe I was thinking about shooting the Eiffel Tower over here from across the river, and I just don't know the time of year I'm going to be there, is the sun going to light up that side of the Eiffel Tower, or not? And if I do it when I show up there, it's just by chance and unless I've done the research, well here's one way that can help, so in here in the upper right, we have some navigation just so you know, and there are left and right arrows, and if I press those we can rotate our map, or our view, and I'm going to rotate it as if I'm across the river, then, the up and down arrows, they're in the upper right of my screen, if I press those, it tilts. So I'm going to tilt so we're looking off this way, into the distance, and then I can just drag the map. And if I use two fingers on my track pad, or use the little scroll wheel on my mouse, you can zoom, I can go over here and act as if I'm standing over here, and I can do a little bit more of this tilting. A little zooming here, or, rotating. Alright, so there I'm kind of looking at this view, it's even got a 3D version of our target. But I want to know about the light. What time of day does the light hit this portion, that kind of thing, well check this out, if I go to the top, there's a bunch of icons, and one of those icons look like a little sun coming up over the mountains, you see that one? I'm going to click that icon, and when I do, now I have a slider here, and that slider, allows me to choose what time of day it's going to show me the light for, so let's say that I took that little slider and I slid it all the way over to the left, or close to it, okay, here we're at 10:21 PM. Of course, it's going to be dark, right. But if I bring it over further and further and further. Eventually now we're at 2 o'clock in the morning, so it's not going to be bright yet. Oh, there's 6 AM, watch the tower. Do you see the right side of the tower starting to light up? Let's see if this side's going to get some sun, come on, oh, there we go, it's starting to get some there, it's not always completely accurate, but it's going to give you some idea. Of when, what time of day, and what happens is, in the upper left here where I have that slider, there's an icon that looks like a wrench, and if I click on it, you can tell it what time of day, or what, first off, you tell what timezone, you want it to think about, and you also can tell it what month and year, kind of thing. So it can calculate, you're going to get there in six months from now, you tell it that particular date you think you're going to be there. So then I can come around here, and just rotate around, and say hey, well, alright, what if I go, to this other side, might that be better? If I was on this side? What side is going to hit it first? And I can move the same slider, to say, okay, oh, that side, is going to get shaded on half, I might like it when the tower has half shade and half light, could maybe contrast between the two sides, that type of thing. Isn't that a nice thing to have? Yeah. This isn't always needed, but if your location you're going to go to is three dimensional, if it's hilly, you know, it's not Florida. Florida in the U.S. is flat. The difference between the highest and lowest part of Florida is measured in feet, not in, you know, yards, even. (laughs) You know, and, but if you're going to somewhere where there's a good three dimensional quality to the landscape, sometimes it's hard to get a sense for when is the sun actually going to pop down in and hit a particular location. This is what I often use to go and find out. So that is Google Earth, and just one feature of it. You can save your favorite locations in here, and do all sorts of other things, as well. Then there are a lot of apps on my iPhone, that I ended up using, and I just want to show you one of these and I actually have to look at the name, it's in our little guide of location research, but this one is called sun surveyor, sun surveyor. There are other similar apps, there's one called sun seeker. Just investigate similar apps to see what you like. In this case, I could take my phone, if I'm standing in a location where I'm going to shoot, now let's say I want to come back, but I want to come back when the sun is going to be in between these two really tall buildings, so light spills through and hits the subject, whatever it happens to be, I can take my phone, launch this app, and actually hold it up like this, and as I do, it will show me the path that the sun will be in, so let's say its nighttime, I'm at dinner or something, and I can put my phone over and say oh, at sunrise it's going to be right there, and then there'll be a yellow line going across and if I follow it with my phone like this, I can see the sun is going to be going through this arc during the day, and it also has the time it would be in each location. So in this case, I cheated, I acted as if I was at the Eiffel Tower, but I'm not actually standing there, instead that's the screenshot of my laptop. With the Google Earth view of it to try to simulate this, but it would tell me that here at 6 AM, the sun's going to come up, and at 7 AM it'll be over here, if I kept moving my phone so I could see beyond that, it would show me the position in each of those locations, it would tell me when sunrise will be, when sunset will be, if I go to a different view, here's another one of those views, where you can see, this one you can actually get in there it uses Google streetview to see where would the sun be at these different times, it'll also tell you when is the golden hour, when the light starts looking really nice, when is sunrise, sunset, all sorts of other information, and this is like the 3D view of how high will the sun get, and where will it come up and down. So anyway, there's all sorts of apps that are similar to that that I find to be useful when doing research because the more I know about the location, the more prepared I'm going to be when I show up, and the less surprised I'm going to be, when I show up and say, oh that amazing thing I wanted to shoot, oh, it's in a big shadow, because the sun is behind that building. And had I gone there and done just a little bit of investigation to get a sense for what it's like and what are the possible problems I'd run into, I might be able to show up at a different time of day, and get a better end result, make sense? So what questions do we have about general trip preparations? Remember, if you get the class, you will get a full PDF guide that shows you all the resources that I use for pre trip planning, but what questions do we have? My question with those apps and Google Earth, is it as accurate when you're not going to someplace like the Eiffel Tower, you're going off like, let's say, you're going camping at goats mountain or something, like is it going to be accurate in something that's really far off out of the way? Yeah, what happens is, there's, you know how there's what's called topomaps? Where if you go to the government and stuff you can get maps that have these little lines that says this line is five feet in elevation, this line is 30 feet, it's using that data to create the 3D of the landscape, what you might not get is if you go to a place that very few people visit, and there's any physical structures there, buildings, might not be in 3D, but the actual landscape will be, and your view will be a satellite view, so it's still relatively useful. And you'd be amazed at how many places they have 3D for, go to your neighborhood, your house will be in 3D, I've done it, and it's in there, right there. Alright, Ben, from the chatrooms. Do you have insurance for your gear when you are traveling, and if so, can you tell us about how you went about researching that? Yeah, I actually didn't research that, so I'm not the best person to answer, unfortunately. Regina in my office researched that, and set me up with that, and the reason for, my set up which is most likely different than what you need, is whenever I'm not teaching a class like this, we live on the road. We don't in general, have a fixed home, and instead we usually live in a motorhome. Which means we're always moving, which means I need the kind of insurance you might use when you're traveling, I need it all the time, and so, that is I don't know that I'm the best person to answer there, but I can tell you, I'll have to actually look in my notes here, there is a website that I found for travel insurance, if you want to compare a bunch of different options for that, because when I travel to locations, that don't have good medical service, you know, you're at a country that barely has running water kind of thing, then I usually get medical insurance that will fly me out if I have an issue, so that I can get to modern medical care, and the website that I used for that is called, it allows you to compare bunch of different insurance plans, but that's for travel health insurance, not gear insurance, so, but I don't know the exact setup we have for gear insurance, Regina in my office did that, I'm sorry I don't have the info with me. Do you have a question? It was not really a question, but, another thing that I like to do when I plan my travel, is I like to learn from the best, so I always go to the travel channel, and I always see national geographic and see what they're shooting because they've done extensive research in that, and I don't per se copy the same location, but I think of how to change that, how to change the image, how to approach it. I do the same thing, and it'll actually mention it somewhere within this guide, I'm not sure what page it's on, it will mention adding in quotes, national geographic, and other things, to get a sense for what are really high quality photos of that just so you know whenever you do a search on Google, if you have any term you want to search for that's more than one word, put it in quotes, so put a quote national geographic, quote, and therefore you only get results that are both words put together, instead of randomly found on the page, it helps to focus things, also if you notice anything that shows up frequently in your results that are not related, you're searching for Paris, Texas, and the Eiffel Tower is showing up, well then put a minus sign in whatever is showing up, type it in, so Paris, Texas, minus Eiffel, minus Paris, minus France, is going to focus your results much more so than just typing in Paris, Texas, does that make sense? There's all sorts of little tricks you can do like that, and I include some of them in this guide. Fantastic, Ben, one more gear question while we are on this topic, how should we protect our camera from moisture and stuff in humid and beach areas? Well first off, if you, one real big issue you can have is if you ever do transportation, you get in a bus, a tourist bus, and they're busing you off to a location, and that bus is air conditioned, but outside it's really humid and it's hot, well you know what happens when you take a can of Coke, or other soda, out of the fridge? And you set it out in a hot room, almost instantly, water starts to form on the outside of it, and you're getting condensation, and it's anytime you take something cold and put it in a warm environment that has some humidity, that's going to happen, there are a couple things you can do, the best thing but you don't always have this as an option, is to put your camera in some sort of sealed container, doesn't have to be absolutely airtight, but like a camera bag that stays zipped up, and don't open it right away, let it slowly come up to temperature, and you're going to run into a lot less of that, or you can get these little packets, you see them in all the food products, like if you buy beef jerky in a bag, there's going to be this little packet in there that says do not eat, and it's something that absorbs moisture to try to keep that product dry, you can buy those, I can't think of what they're called at the moment, silica packets, if you get some silica packets, then you can end up if you put like your lenses or something else in a bag, throw some of the silica packets in there, they're going to try to absorb some of that, but it's always an issue, especially if you get to a location and you've got to start shooting really quick, what can happen is, your glass will start fogging up, it needs to come up to temperature, and it's especially a problem when the inner, elements in your lens do that. I always keep little lens cloths, I try to keep a gazillion of them around, and towels, so anytime it's going to rain or anything, I have something to throw over my camera, or if you're in a hotel, grab the, what do you call it, the shower cap from your hotel, bring it with you, because if it starts raining, you've got this around your neck, and you still need to have this out, just extend it around your camera to keep it a bit closer to being dry.

Class Materials

Bonus Materials with Purchase

Lightroom Presets Quickstart Guide
Lightroom Preset Sampler
Pre-Trip Planning
Actions Sampler Guide
Travel Photography Handbook
Actions Sampler
Lightroom Keywords
Big Set of Lightroom Presets
Practice Images
Travel Photogtaphy Mobile Guide
Gear List
Lightroom Tips and Keyboard Shortcuts

Ratings and Reviews


This was simply an amazing experience! Without a doubt the best investment of time and money I have experienced in quite awhile. Ben's complete command of the subject, the practical tips, suggestions and reference information was outstanding. I have enjoyed point and shoot photography for some time and recently decided to invest in some decent DSLR equipment (Canon EOS D70). I have a trip to Cape Town and Johannesburg South Africa rapidly approaching and thought it might be a good idea to take some classes and make an effort to get up the learning curve ASAP to take advantage of this travel opportunity. "Discovering" Creativelive and Ben Willmore's class was literally an answer to prayer! There is nothing like sitting at the foot of wisdom, taking notes, and having numerous "ah-ha" moments! This was great....looking forward to more classes. Thanks for the high quality effort!

a Creativelive Student

Genius! Ben is a brilliant master teacher - focused, clear and holds back no information. The best! This course has condensed the equivalent of 10 courses into one. He is a perfectionist in his approach and knows how to present the material. He is the leader in photoshop and photography "par excellence". Highly recommend any of his courses. Save your time and start with the best - everyone loves Ben!!!!

Nichole Sams

I feel the title of this class, Travel Photography, is much to limiting for what you are really going to get. As a wedding photographer, who dreams of traveling, I attending the class live in Seattle, and was hoping to get some inspiration for on location shoots. What I got, however, was a WHOLE LOT MORE. I would recommend this class to anyone with a camera and Lightroom. What I learned about how lightroom works and how to integrate it with photoshop is invaluable. I actually think they should charge WAY more for this course. The bonuses with purchase from the keywords (we are talking every key word you could possibly imagine) and the presets (holycow everything you would ever need) are worth exponentially more than the course price itself. Ben is a gentle easy going teacher and nice to listen to. His ease of teaching pretty complex ideas was truly wonderful. If you are reading this you must buy this course, it is well worth it!

Student Work