When Traveling for Photography, Planning is Key

When Traveling for Photography, Planning is Key

A few months back, I was getting the feeling that I needed to start traveling to see more of the beautiful world we live in. At the time it was just a thought until my buddy Tom Harmon called me up and asked if I'd want to go out to Oregon with him. Of course I had to take him up on the offer and I was excited to leave New Jersey for once. I knew that if we were going to be in Oregon for just three days, we'd better plan a hell of a trip to fit in all the spots we wanted to go see. Finally, it was the night before the trip and we had finalized the locations we were going to go. With everything planned out, we were ready to get out to Oregon for some droning.

I don't have the luxury of traveling too much and yet I find that my travels are less of a luxury and more of an adventure. The reason for this trip was literally for Harmon and I to drone Oregon. We were staying in Portland and wanted to travel to the coast, the desert, the mountains, and so on. This would mean that if we wanted to shoot at the times of day we planned, sunrise and sunset, we would have to be at location pretty early to beat the light and get the best of it. That being said, I knew it was going to be a restless trip with lots of early mornings and late nights. However, at the end of it all I knew it was going to be one of the best trips for photography I have ever taken.

Day 1

  • Arrival
  • Railroad
  • Roadway with tall trees
  • Lumber yard
  • Marsh lands with texture and homes
  • Cannon Beach for sunset
  • Back to Portland

We landed in Oregon around 10 a.m., got the rental car we needed (a red Subaru of course), and began our trip out to the coast from there. This being a three hour drive from the airport, we planned a few stops along the way to fly our drones and get in some practice footage before going to shoot the big stuff we wanted. We stopped at a few places that just seemed so out of this world like this marshy area with houses docked in the water over 8,000 feet from any roadway. As we continued our journey up to the coast, we stopped in Astoria to grab a bite to eat so we could have some energy to burn off for sunset at the coast. For me, arriving at the coast was one of the most beautiful things I had ever seen. We took a long road in coming through these amazing, tall trees. It really felt good to be surrounded by nature like this and Harmon and I were able to capture some pretty incredible stuff while we were out there.

Day 2

  • Desert
  • Rapids
  • Hairpin Road to Mt. Hood
  • Free time and food
  • Industrial area with a waterfall
  • Back to Portland

We woke up at 3:45 a.m. to head out to the desert area we had wanted to go see. On Google Maps we found these really interesting railroad tracks going right through the mountain and to us, it looked so surreal that we knew we had to shoot it. This trip was about three hours from Portland in the opposite direction we traveled the day before to the coast. We arrived at about 6:30 a.m. and started flying from there. After spending a few hours getting the shots we wanted with the soft, morning light, we headed out to go see a hairpin road leading up to one of the biggest mountains in Oregon: Mt. Hood. From there, we headed back to Portland, grabbed some food, charged our gear, and headed out to go see a waterfall we had our eyes on. Unfortunately, this is where plans kind of fell through and the waterfall was a bit too far away to shoot before dark. Instead of wasting any time, we found another one a little closer by in a neat industrial area. Though it wasn't really on our list, we made the best of it and got a few usable shots to take home.

Day 3

  • Trillium Lake
  • Blue River
  • Free time and food
  • Back to Trillium Lake
  • Back to Portland

We woke up at 4:30 a.m., the latest time we got to wake up during our stay. This time we needed to get out to Trillium Lake before the sun was even out if we wanted to get any sort of shot we had planned. We arrived at about 6:15 a.m. and boy was it quiet; I really felt like a jerk when we took out the drone to start flying. This morning trip was also a tad disappointing in the sense that it was super cloudy and you could barely see the mountain. There were occasional peaks of it and at one point we got lucky enough that we watched the sun hit the side of the mountain and give off a beautiful glow. From there it was all downhill and the clouds filled in the area. We decided to pack up and start heading back to Portland for some more food before making the journey back in hopes that sunset there would be a little better. As we were headed back to the lake, there were still clouds surrounding the mountain but when we got up to the top it seemed to be pretty clear allowing us to fit in our last few flights in Oregon. After shooting Trillium Lake again, we headed back, packed our gear, and got ready for bed for another early departure to the airport to get back to New Jersey.


Planning this trip I feel was absolutely essential. Though everything didn't go according to the plan, we were able to get most of what we wanted in this short couple of days out there. It was good to know how far we were traveling, how much time it would take to get to these locations and to get there early enough so that we wouldn't run into any sort of lighting trouble. After taking this trip, I would definitely recommend that anyone who is traveling or planning to travel make some sort of list of where they want to go and I would also recommend scouting it out as much as possible via Google Maps. You never want to get to a location and be disappointed with how it looks, especially if you made the trip to take photos. That being said, we had our fair share of difficulties with weather and lighting playing a huge role, but when you step back from the photography stuff for a second and realize where you are, it is still absolutely amazing and I think that is something everybody should take in as well, actually being in the presence of nature.

I told myself I would travel more and I think this trip was just an eye-opener for me. I have been busy with work and going to Oregon and seeing all this for a few days was a break I really needed. I do plan on returning to Oregon to shoot even more of it and also just embrace the beauty that state has. From here on out, shorter trips will have to make due, but I look to get out of the U.S. next to go see and shoot other parts of the world. When that time comes, I am sure I will have some sort of plan but in the meantime I will have to start doing my research. Anyone else here have big plans to travel just to shoot personal stuff? If so, what kind of preparation and planning do you do before the trip?

I am a huge nerd when it comes to drones and have been flying for over 4 years. I enjoy doing aerial photography as my personal work but shoot tons of video for work as well. I am a part of Simply Visual Productions and Simply Sounds, working my way into an industry I couldn't be happier to be a part of.

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Even familiar objects look stunning with birds eye view! Good one! This kind of articles influences me to get a drone.

Thank You!! If you do end up getting one, just know it is very addicting haha

love this, beautiful photos...

Thanks David!