When I go out shooting nature, I try to make sure to go through what I call a planning list. It’s more than a checklist. It’s more like a play book. Here are some of the things I like to plan before the shoot.
I want to learn everything I can about the location. I look it up on Google maps. I research it on photo forums. I pull up online editions of the newspaper from that area. I read guidebooks. etc. The more you know about your location the better your photos will be.
There are many online resources for weather information. I use this information not only to plan for conditions like rain or snow or cold temperatures, but it’s also useful for finding when sunrise and sunset are. Both times are critical in the nature photography realm.
I make sure I have the right transportation lined up for my destination. Will I need four – wheel drive or will a regular car work? Do I need exotic transportation like ships or helicopters? If the destination requires hiking, how far and strenuous is the hike?
Now here’s where a checklist comes in. I try to have a field checklist for all my gear and I make sure that I have all the stuff I’ll need to take with me BEFORE I get to the location. There’s no excuse for failing to bring your battery charger on your once-in-a-lifetime trip to wherever.
For me personally, I find it a waste of time to head out into nature to make photos without a goal. If I don’t have a paying assignment, I give myself an assignment. Shooting without purpose has never worked for me. I want to leave my office with a goal in mind and hopefully, return to my office with the prize. Try setting out with something specific in mind the next time you shoot in nature. See if that doesn’t improve your images.
Obviously this list isn’t comprehensive. But if I do these basic things every time, I set myself up for success. Feel free to use this as a starting point for your own field guide.