The above photo is one that came about thanks to advance research. More than three hours of research and another hour of field work went into that three second moment. Trip planning overall spanned more than eight hours of time. This was put in on the front end before we ever hit the road to DC. Time was spent looking for interesting DC photos, figuring out the locations of those photos, determining when to be at those locations, stringing that data together, and fitting all of that into a family-oriented trip. Upon arrival, additional time was spent to actually go and capturing the images.
A similar image to the one above was found by searching through “interesting” photos of Washington DC on flickr. After that this great article about photographing the “Big 3” was found online which provided exceptional details on where to shoot from and which lens to use. The Photographer’s Ephemeris provided sunrise and twilight times.
Scheduling the time wasn’t an issue since the “when” was before anyone else was awake. Getting there was relatively easy in that it was a mile from the hotel. The short distance meant subways and buses could be avoided. Further simplifying the process. So an alarm was set and the next morning Google Maps provided naviagtaional assistance.
Normally some last minute research would have been done on projected cloud cover and weather conditions, but that step was skipped since there was only one morning to capture the image. With that part eliminated the expectations were set low due to knowing I’d have to take what was provided on that single outing.
Everything came together: the alarm was set correctly, the alarm went off, the correct walking time to the site was planned, a good spot was quickly found, the cloud cover was unbelievable, and finally knowing the equipment made taking the image straightforward.
Many photos from this trip, including this one, would not have happened without that prior planning. The prior research not only reduced my stress level, but it is solely responsible for this image which is going to sit in my portfolio for a long time to come. That all comes together to mean that opportunities weren’t wasted.
If you have an upcoming trip and haven’t planned for it yet, then now is the time to do so. The time you put in now will pay dividends in the future. It’s not hard and it’ll definitely help. More to come in the future regarding more detailed planning write-ups.
Additional specifics: The best twilight light generally occurs 20-30 minutes before sunrise, or 20-30 minutes after sunset. It’s also advisable to arrive 5 minutes before that so you can be setup for when the show begins. Additionally a slightly higher vantage point, along with a high tripod, was used to reduce the foreground trees.
Sunrise/Twilight times figured out using: The Photographer Ephemeris
h/t to Brandon Kopp