View Full Version : Scouting locations

John Kasaian
6-Dec-2014, 18:50
I went scouting a new location today. Wildwood, which is hard by a mobile home park, nearly underneath the HWY 41 bridge spanning the San Joaquin river, and part of the San Joaquin River Parkway Conservation Trust.
All of maybe 10 minutes from my front door via the family Volkswagen.
While I've scouted locations on the river bottom before, this was my first time at Wildwood----sort of, my High School Class had a year end party at the swimming pool, which is probably still there behind a cyclone fence at the Eastern boundary, so technically it's my first time with photography as my objective. The thicket is so dense that the mobile home park and the bridge are well hidden from view, although being a Saturday morning there were other tourists, mostly walking their dogs.
I'd hope it isn't so popular on mid-week mornings.
I didn't take my camera and only made a few sketches while walking the trails.
What has me excited is that it is so close and the 8x10 kit would be easily luggable from the parking lot to anywhere in the park boundaries thanks to well built and maintained trails and the compactness of the park.
But this thread is about scouting locations, which truthfully, is something I seldom do :o
Have you scouted any locations lately? How often do you go scouting?

6-Dec-2014, 19:46
I am always scouting; if I see something interesting, I'll write it down and come back another time.

6-Dec-2014, 21:00
Didn't James Dean wreck his Porsche 550 on Hwy 41?

John Kasaian
6-Dec-2014, 23:46
Didn't James Dean wreck his Porsche 550 on Hwy 41?Yep, but that was quite a bit farther to the South at the Jack Ranch, near Shandon. The tree is still there.

7-Dec-2014, 21:34
Thanks, John... Traveling Hwy 41 might be a good photo project.
Back to topic...
I keep some photo gear in the car, I'm also always looking for something to shoot, if conditions aren't suitable, I make a note to return later.

Renato Tonelli
8-Dec-2014, 10:18
I scout locations whenever possible (an old habit essential from filmmaking). Half of the time, the notations are mental.

A morning or afternoon photograph?
Potential points of view? Where is the tripod going to be without it being in the way of someone/something?
Most suitable format - 4x5 (or 4x4) or 5x7 in my case.
Which lenses will I most likely need?
How close to the spot can I drive the car and park it?
How 'safe' is the area?
How hassle-free is the area? "SIR! this is private property!"

8-Dec-2014, 11:29
Hello, my name is Heroique, and I am a zealous scouter.

To be sure, I treat each of my photo trips as a scouting effort, too. Even as I walk to a destination – tripod in hand, composition in mind – I’ll look left, right, up, and down, searching for future shots.

I also make a frequent habit of stopping and looking backwards...

Other times, I might head-out without gear – just to scout for a composition I don’t know is there, until I find it. Some of these "gearless" scouting walks are among my most enjoyable moments. It’s fun to hunt. And w/o the burden of gear, it’s easier to search a wider range of land. Sometimes there’s “nothing” to show for it – or maybe "something," but nothing that strikes my fancy.

Other times, I’ll come upon a landscape too rich for my scouting ideas to exhaust.

Either way – with gear, or without it – I carry pencil & notepad to record ideas for the future, and my notes often prove useful. For example, I might sketch a scene or composition, and suggest focal length, filtration, plus time of day to return when light is best. In other notes, I’ve even recorded compass bearings or trail marks to return to a hidden spot that I might not find again otherwise.

8-Dec-2014, 18:40
My notepad is a Google Nexus 7 (2013). It doesn't use a pencil. I have to charge it up once or twice a week. I take a photo with it and it store GPS coordinates and can show me where on a map I was when I view it later. It takes up the same space as a 4x5 film holder in my pocket. The recommendation to stop and look backwards is good; I do that to see where the sun is and how compositions look different depending on whether I'm coming/going, etc.. My usual method of scouting is to keep going back over and over and over and over, sometimes at different times of day, different paths through the woods. This is a new location I found the other day, not 20 feet from a route I have walked nearly countless times. A thick row of short trees prevented me from seeing it. I was there the other day with my 4x5 and nothing soft or with front rise when the camera is on it's side. So I went back with my 8x10 today as I know it has the movements. Plus I know shooting at the end of the day with no direct sun the 305 portrait can do some cool stuff with this sort of woods. I'll probably go back over and over again with different tools/cameras that might show what I see. Part of what made me explore that area the other day was a no-hassle aspect of it. Ken knows what I mean here.. This is park land abutting private property and the private property owner is away. Park was totally empty again today. 20f weather must be keeping people away. Here's a tree I want to shoot when the light is different. Some of the general area... Camera standing out; makes me covet Canham's camoflage bellows which I previously thought were showy.
Part of the scouting is thinking about how this area of woods will look in the different seasons as well. Could be a cool little spot with snow on the branches and ground.. I think about that stuff as winter is my favorite time of year.

John Kasaian
9-Dec-2014, 10:42
I had a late night----I didn't get home until after 1:00AM and it was pea soup fog.
Early this morning I was awakened by the telephone---it was the school calling a "foggy day" schedule.
Still half asleep I packed up my kit and headed out to Wildwood in thick fog.
When I got to the bridge I looked down and the river bottom was free of fog!
I wanted fog!:(

9-Dec-2014, 11:28
I do not scout. My main photographic subject is the light and that is less tied to a place than other subjects can be.

So I just tend to wander with the 8x10, enjoying the light on the landscape I am wandering in. And when me, place and light all come together, I set up the camera. I am recording the interaction of all three of those components in order to create the image I want. Scouting, for the way I work and see, is not advantageous. I have no desire or need, for example, to use a digital camera to record scenes and their GPS info for a later return with LF. In the time between, even if I return at the same place, season and time, and the weather and light is the same, one of the three main components will have changed -- me.

Part of the reason I photograph is to learn to see more intently, which is an activity that does not, of course, require a camera. So in a way I am always 'scouting', as this constant observation feeds me when I am walking around with a camera.

9-Dec-2014, 11:40
I wanted fog! :(

We should have a thread about fog.

(Not a foggy thread, we have plenty of those!)

For example, how to anticipate it, the natural areas where it likes to form (and when), how long it might last...

Fog is "scoutable" to some degree – but in my experience, luck & chance play a much more significant role!

9-Dec-2014, 18:47
Didn't James Dean wreck his Porsche 550 on Hwy 41?

Yeah, he was looking off to the side at something to photograph... :D

9-Dec-2014, 21:44
Yeah, he was looking off to the side at something to photograph... :D

LOL, I was just thinking about scouting that very spot.... To photograph it!

John Kasaian
9-Dec-2014, 22:26
The fog rig is pretty dense right now and supposed to be foggy in the morning. I'll load up the VW and try again tomorrow!

Drew Wiley
10-Dec-2014, 10:23
Things are soooo different since much of that area was open range. Little Table Mtn, opposite the stockyard, has a lot of interesting rock and lichen up on those
little cliffs, and there's another patch of the Ione Formation with some gorgeous little caves, but now no doubt off-limits private property. There is one spot at the
crest of the Sky Harbor road where you can legally get onto a trail atop a small bit of the lowest of the volcanic tables and access some gorgeous lichen, bare buckeyes, and bald eagles... beyond that, you know the routine....

John Kasaian
10-Dec-2014, 16:40
This morning the gate was locked. The place is supposed to be open at 7:00 and I waited around for some time, but nobody came to unlock the joint.
A pox on public trusts---you can't trust 'em.:rolleyes:

10-Dec-2014, 16:45
The public parks around here have a gate to prevent cars and trucks, but for foot/bicycle/boat, they are optional. I would be kinda upset too!

Sirius Glass
10-Dec-2014, 17:36
For 4x5 I scout if I will use a tripod, not if I am shooting hand held..

Drew Wiley
12-Dec-2014, 09:50
Sorry to hear that, John. After our huge rain here yesterday, the hills around here are going to be intolerable gooey for walking - the soil becomes like glue except for a few sandstone ridgelines around Mt Diablo and a few gravel trail. Quite a few streets and roads are probably still closed too due to flooding. Might turn out to be a darkroom day tomorrow instead, plus some time raking up my own tree downfall. I miss the granite and serpentine of the hill country, where wet weather didn't affect the soil so much. It will be a tragedy if that wild canyon upstream from Squaw Leap gets all flooded with a vast senseless evaporation pit of another damn dam, but it's way too soon to tell how that coin will be flipped. I probably know more about that tables than anyone alive. Some of them are pretty hard to reach. But at least I have a fair number of 8x10 chromes and b&w negs of em, which of course, will probably never be printed, given all the other things I'm working on. But I'll never regret the steep hikes up those things and the absolute solitude, often amidst the most stunning wildflowers carpets I've ever seen.

24-Dec-2014, 13:46
Moving to the Atlanta area i've had to find new places to go for family sessions. I lived in Charleston for over 40 yrs and got well accustomed to the places I knew. I didn't realize how much "scouting" I would have to do!!!