I have always appreciated the photo road trip. While there’s always a little bit of photo in every trip I take with family and friends, nothing beats time spent on the road in the middle of nowhere, with no one else but your camera and the scenery dictating what to shoot.
But such a trip takes some preparation. YouTube and landscape photographer Adrian Otero Vila shares some of his tips from his experience traveling across the country for the express purpose of taking photos.
One of the things that Vila can be seen doing in the video, but strangely never talks about, is plotting a course on a paper map. As someone who still keeps a road atlas in the back of each car’s seat pocket, I can’t recommend this enough. Google Maps and your car's GPS will always take you the most efficient way, but having a bird’s eye view of the route you are going to take will always let you see where “off the beaten path” truly lies. I did this several years ago when I was driving across several states in the south, and just meandered my way through Georgia and Tennessee, where I not only found the best deep-fried pie in the country (Mercier Orchards in Blue Ridge, Georgia) but was also to find odd tiny-sized animals and lots of strange vehicles abandoned in the middle of nowhere, like this school bus:
Truly it pays to go off the interstate to find the more interesting photos that other photographers aren’t getting.
But I digress. Vila’s other tips, aside from the paper maps, are important if you’re a rugged, outdoors type. He suggests organizing your car for the long trip, packing light so that you can have all your gear on you at once, and carrying a sleeping bag and pillow in the car (which tends to work better in larger cars, such as SUVs and minivans). There are also some winter and summer-specific tips in his video.
That said, after spending one week in the woods for a wilderness survival camp for a photo/video story I did, I can honestly say that camping in a tent is not for everyone. But that doesn’t mean road trips are always economically out of reach. As Vila suggested, AirBnB is a decent go-to to find cheap lodging, and then I’ve more recently found cheap hotels on the same days I’ve needed them by using HotelTonight.com, where hotels offer discount rates to fill up empty rooms before the night ends.
I’ll also add that if you’re going to rent a car for the trip, splurge for the fun one. I did my first experience driving the length of the Pacific Coast Highway in California in a rented Chevy Cruze, and while it got the job done, I had to go back and do it again in a Mustang convertible. It just made the miles that much more fun and gave me an easy subject to add to otherwise boring landscapes. Worth it.
Do you have photography road trip tips to share? Leave them in the comments below.