Planning Versus Spontaneity in Landscape Photography

Landscape photography is an art form often at the edge of careful planning and spontaneity. As a photographer of landscapes, I’ve been caught between planning every aspect of a shoot and doing what comes naturally, taking pictures of the unplanned. In this article, we’ll explore the debate whether it is better to carefully plan an outdoor photography shoot, or go with the flow?

The Case for Planning

One of the main reasons to plan meticulously is to get maximum use of the golden hour, the moment of magic just after sunset and before sunrise in which the lighting is soft and warm and perfect for photography of landscapes. Planning helps you determine the exact date and time for these times, and ensure that you’re at the right spot at the right moment.

Permits and Regulations

Certain iconic landscapes require permits or conformity to specific guidelines for photography. Thankfully, I’m not faced with this problem in Ireland. But, if you need to acquire permissions, preparing ahead will allow you to get the required permits, and avoid legal issues while shooting. If you’re shooting commercially, it’s most likely that you have to inform the location in advance in order to arrange according to your requirements if required.

Equipment and Technical Preparedness

Planning can help you make sure that you have all the required equipment that you need, from lenses to filters to tripods and remote triggers. This also gives you the opportunity to keep your gear in good condition prior to shooting. By taking the necessary steps prior to your shoot it reduces the chance of not bringing an essential element.

The Case for Spontaneity

The spontaneity of landscape photography can result in special, singular moments that even the most meticulous planning cannot be able to predict. Nature is unpredictable and at times amazing moments occur in the nick of time when you least expect it. If we’re flexible with our choices, we will simply go where the conditions take us.

Embracing Creativity

Being in the flow of things allows the photographer to open up to imaginative experiments. You may discover an unimaginative angle, lighting situation or subject that piques your imagination and creates amazing photographs.

Reducing Stress and Pressure

The process of planning too much can lead to anxiety and discontent when the circumstances aren’t in line with your expectations. Letting your imagination run wild can ease the stress of adhering to a plan that you have set and let you be more relaxed and enjoy the process. A close friend of mine, Adam Gibbs, once stated that setting expectations for landscape photography could cause disappointment and he’s been right numerous times.

Flexibility in Challenging Environments

In a challenging environment, such as mountains and coastal areas in which conditions can be rapidly changed it is generally the best option. Lack of planning flexibility can cause missed opportunities because light could be broken anywhere and can be a risk to safety due to the lack of awareness of the environment.

Research and Scouting

If you’re not a fan of spontaneity, simple research, scouting, and even a little scouting can be essential. Locate locations, look for access and know the general conditions in the area. This will help you plan your own adventure at the area you have scouted.

Weather Apps and Predictions

The latest technology, like apps for weather, could be a great companion. They let you anticipate weather conditions and make educated choices about the best time and place to take your photos. If you reside in a region like mine you’ll realize that these apps serve as guides and the weather may actually be completely contradiction to the information tells you. If you’ve got a flexible and organized approach to your life, no matter the conditions, you will always have the possibility of a chance.

Trust Your Instincts

Sometimes, the most effective shots are the ones that you make based on your intuition. If you feel that a change of location or the composition is necessary take a chance and follow your instincts. Also, if you spot an amazing composition, all you require is light, take a check around and get ready to remove the camera from the tripod and take a picture. It’s always possible to return the camera to the tripod after the light starts to come on because the composition will have been firmly locked.

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