When I first got started with landscape photography, I didn’t understand the benefits of scouting locations in advance. Instead, I just showed up to places and hoped for the best, often without much time for exploration. While I still generally prefer serendipity to doing a lot of pre-planning, I have found that better location scouting practices, like those I discuss below, have helped me improve my photographs.
Depending on the situation, I sometimes scout a location well in advance of the time I plan to photograph it, like during a midday or off-season hike (for example, thinking about what a location will look like in autumn when I am visiting in the summer). On days where I am actively photographing, I always try to arrive in a spot with quite a bit of time before sunrise or sunset so I can explore potential subjects, practice compositions, and think about the developing conditions with the goal of being better prepared. With these basics in mind, here are six tips for improving your location scouting practices.