When exploring a new location it is often easy to be taken by the grand beauty of an area. The consequence is the certain temptation to grab your camera and begin firing away, at times worrying the light might quickly change, dashing hopes for that epic image capture. I’ve been there for sure. And there will no doubt be times when the light is changing so fast that the necessity for quick response is in order. However, what I often see during workshop sessions are students, even after admonition to the contrary, quickly grab their camera and tripods and rush to the a given spot and start firing away. What is the result? Often this will lead to mediocre shots and at minimum lost opportunity to really explore the full potential of available subject matter.
Alternatively, It will often pay dividends to explore an area without camera in hand. Walk around. Take time to observe things like quality and direction of the light. Would a different time of day make a big difference? Soft light? Backlight? What lens would best tell the story or communicate your vision?
Much like I did when I shot 4×5 I will often carry a viewing card (sometimes now called a viewfinder card) to approximate potential compositions. This can be quite useful in fully exploring image possibilities without the burden of equipment hanging around your neck and back. As you hold the card with the cutout closer to your eye, it resembles a wide-angle perspective; the further from your eye, a telephoto perspective.
Quite easily made as well. I use some scrap 4×6 black mat board and cut out a 3×2 (35mm or our DSLR aspect ratio). The 4×6 size will fit in many pockets or easily in your camera bag.
You should also look all around. It is not just about that beautiful rock formation or rushing waterfall. What about the detail at your feet? What is behind you? Look up! Fully explore your surroundings. You may find gems many would never otherwise notice. You begin to “see“…not just look.