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Lesson 3 from: The Landscape Photography Workshop

Taylor Burk

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Lesson Info

3. Pre-Production

Next Lesson: Gear

Lesson Info


(oscillating music playing) So a big question that I get asked a lot is, "How do you find these places? Where are you looking to? What goes into your mindset when choosing a location, or a hike, or whatever it be?" And you know what, it's variable, it depends. I like remote, rugged terrain, and those are the kind of things that that excite me. Typically with a lot of landscape photography, people like to see, and what sells the most, is relatable imagery, places that people love to travel to. For example, Moraine Lake, sites around Vancouver, Banff, Jasper, stuff that people recognize. They see it and they get excited, "Oh, I've got a trip there, I'm going there!" Those kinda images generate a lot more excitement, a lot more revenue, a lot more likes, whatever it is that you're after. I personally like to go off the beaten path and find overlooked locations and stuff like that. And when it comes to finding those places, a lot of time I'm looking at guidebooks, I'm going through onlin...

e blogs, magazines, Google Earth, driving backroads, just kind of exploring and just having fun with it. So I'm gonna dive a little bit into some resources I use in that thought process when choosing the location. Alright so, we have Mount Cheam. It's in Chilliwack, it's a beautiful location, you can see it from the highway. It's this nice, jagged, pointy peak, super photogenic, super picturesque. I've been up there in the past, I had some friends who knew about it. I didn't know much about it, I was basically going off of a friend's recommendation. They'd been there before, they kind of handled that. We checked the weather to make sure everything was looking good there, make sure people had the right vehicles and knew where they were going. So for that example, I just kind of was going with the flow based off of local knowledge from a friend. So let's dive into if you were to do this yourself, or if I was kind of deciding, like what we did for this upcoming Field Workshop episode. Let's have a look, let's look at the weather first. What dates are we gonna go? What's the weather looking like? What am I looking for photography wise? So you can see here on Thursday, it's minus two in the alpine, which is crazy, it's mid-July (instructor laughing impressively) and it's gonna be minus two up there. But there's gonna be a bit of partly cloudy conditions, which for a sunset's gonna be awesome because it's gonna create that drama, that mood. You kinda want a bit of cloud. Ideally, I try to avoid bluebird full-sun days because it doesn't really give much to an image or a location, it's very flat and boring in that sense. You can still get beautiful images. That's great for astro, you know, that's ideal for astro. You want that nice, clear sky. But for a sunset, I like to have a lot of clouds. So maybe, I would choose to go on Thursday or Friday. Friday if the clouds are breaking at sunset, that would be an ideal time to go. But you can see here, it's supposed to be sunny in that time. You can also go to mountain forecast and get a bit more of a detailed description 'cause you also wanna look at the wind. What's the wind gonna be doing up there, is it gonna be crazy windy, are you gonna have a bad time? These are all the things that you wanna consider, and it's gonna help you with your packing and how many layers you're gonna need to pack, things like that. But typically if it's clear skies, then I'm gonna go out for astro. If there's a storm breaking or something like that, I'm gonna aim to time that for around the end of that cycle so you get the breaks in the clouds potentially as the Sun's setting to create so much more excitement and drama in an image as opposed to just a basic blue sky. So, we're gonna check the weather forecast. We're also gonna check if we can, highway cams. It's dark right now, but it would give us a good sense of whether the mountain is visible, or if it's raining, or what's going on. You can kind of get a live look. You can't do this for all locations, but if you have the option, try and take a look. If I've never been there before, I'm gonna look at images online. I'm gonna look at Google, I'm gonna look at guidebooks, I'm gonna look at any resource I can where I can see images to kind of get a gauge for what it's like up there. You can see it's in the alpine, it's high up there, you're in the backcountry. It looks like there's some scrambling, there's opportunity for things to go wrong, so you wanna keep that in mind. And you wanna make sure that you're obviously gonna be letting people know where you're going to when you're in these kind of backcountry situations. But right now, I'm just kind of getting a lay of the land, searching through images, Mount Cheam summit maybe. What am I gonna be shooting on, what are my surroundings? Just getting a lay of the land. I'm also gonna go onto Vancouver trails, all trails. I just basically put in, "Mount Cheam hike," and I'm gonna find a bit more information on difficulty, the time, how many kilometers, the elevation gain, when they recommend the best times to go, what the access is like. You know, the road to Mount Cheam is pretty gnarly. You definitely want a 4x4. You can see here, it requires a rugged four-wheel drive vehicle. So that's a big thing to consider it as well, what am I driving? Do I have a vehicle that's gonna be able to make it all the way up, or am I gonna have to find a different alternative, or find somebody who has a vehicle? These are all the major kinda things that I'm looking for. Another thing that I might do is go onto Facebook. Here's a good example. Does anybody have any recent conditions or beta? And you can kind of search, see what people are looking at. Maybe you can look at Cheam, see if anyone mentioned it. Okay, "This was in May, still has lots of snow, drove here, parked." Get as much bait as you can from other people. Just do a lot of research from all aspects, weather, kind of location scout from Google Earth, Google Maps, whatever it be, highway cams. And then, just dive deep into the logistics of how to get there. For the more remote kind of rugged backcountry stuff, it's a lotta guidebooks which tend to be dated and you're kind of just going into it blind. But that's also the beauty of it, to just get that full experience when you arrive, not knowing too much about what to expect. So, those are just some of the resources I use when it comes to trip planning. (dramatic tone sweeping) When I'm thinking about my locations as well, I'm thinking about whether it's just run-and-gun, deal with what I have, or if I have a series in mind. If I'm doing something along the peaks along the Coquihalla, then I'm obviously gonna set out and do a lot of research on each of those destinations. So it all depends, certain series, you're gonna have a different mindset going into it to make sure you capture certain locations. But a lot of times, it could just be finding... Maybe you saw something on Instagram, you saw this beautiful photo, and you're kind of digging deep to find out where it is. And that's half the fun is researching and just going with the flow for it. Don't be afraid to just get on Google Earth, and pick up a guidebook, and just search around for some cool, obscure places or something that you don't see a lot of because it can be a lot of fun. But, it's also important to make sure that you are packed properly, and you have everything you need to be out there, and that you've set a plan, and people know where you are. (dramatic tone sweeping) When it comes to locations as well, intention is important. For me at the end of the day, I'm going for the hike, I'm going to be out in nature. And I'm trying to capture that experience of what I'm seeing, my vision of what's going on on this hike, or in these meadows, or alpine settings. The intention is usually visible and it's clear. You can tell if somebody's going out just for a shot, you know, maybe they want it for the 'Gram or whatever, you can tell. And it it's okay if that's what you want to do, but it's good to be clear about your intentions because it shows. So, make sure you know what your plan is and you can dive deep into it. If it's to tell a story, then make sure that you're taking steps along the way to capture different scenes, if you wanna put it towards a book, or a print series, or a web series. So have intention when you're out shooting, that's such a big thing. When it comes to pre-production and generating ideas, like what makes a great idea? For me, a great idea is just something that I think is gonna stand out. Putting the time and value into a hike or a trip that I feel is gonna stand out, it's gonna put me in good place, I'm gonna be able to sell some prints, license some images, and obviously kinda be in a position where I will benefit from it. I also like to keep in mind the aspect of conservation and giving back. And maybe there's a place that's under threat. Maybe there's issues with mining, or logging, or something like that, where you could capture images to protect such special places. There's so many places like parks that had been made because of images. There's been places that have been protected and turned into UNESCO Heritage Sites because of compelling images. And I think that it's just so incredible that photography can go such a long way in that regards. (dramatic tone sweeping) So being prepared is such a big thing. I've gone out into the field and forgot SD cards, I've forgot batteries, I've basically just made a fool myself, and I've had enough of these things happen that me and some friends decided to build an app. It's called "Packup," and basically it allows you to make sure that you're fully prepared for what you're gonna be doing. It's a trip-generated list that is created based off of the activities that you're doing, where you're staying, how you're getting there, and additional add-ons like if you have pets, or a camera, photography equipment, anything like that. And it will give you a list, detailed and customized to what you have to make sure that you're always prepared. It's a bit of a plug, but I think it's super useful. We've got a lotta success from it. We're currently in beta mode so we're still testing things out, but I think this is gonna be a huge thing in making sure that people are prepared when they go into the outdoors. More than ever, people are getting outside. Especially with the complicated world that we're living in these days, people are looking for escapes. They're getting into running, mountain biking, mountaineering, whatever it is. And a lot of people aren't always prepared. And they see these beautiful images online, not realizing the effort and conditions and all these things that go into it, and are super unprepared. So, that's why pre-production is such an important part of it too, is understanding what you're getting into. You don't want to be showing up in the spring to the mountains in flip-flops and shorts because it's hot in the city, but you don't realize that's still winter in the alpine, and you can get yourself into a lotta trouble. So making sure that you're packed and prepped for everything and know what's going into it beforehand, with your location scouting and making sure that you know what the conditions are, is huge and such a big component of landscape photography.

Class Materials

Bonus Materials with Purchase

Astrophotography Checklist
Gear List

Ratings and Reviews

Selby Wilkinson

Incredible course! I learned so much watching this. I loved Taylor's teaching style and found it really helpful to get to see how he works out in the field. Everything about it was so well thought out - I appreciated the little details he included in the course like the PDFs and photo book recommendations. I would definitely recommend!

Jason Webb

This course is awesome! Great insights into landscape photography. Highly recommend.


This course was great--Taylor's approach and delivery of the topics is straightforward and extremely helpful. I am somewhat comfortable with my camera/settings and know some of the basic rules of photography, but his explanations help translate in how to use those tools to create YOUR own images no matter what you are trying to achieve. Can’t recommend this course enough to any aspiring landscape photographer.

Student Work