Considerations on researching / shooting on location.
There are a number of factors that influence the research methods employed, firstly the concept of the brief; it may require a specific location e.g. shots of or featuring an iconic landmark can only be taken at that particular location and its then more of a question of working out the logistics and costs of getting to that location and what is required once there.
If the brief is more general then the task may be to narrow down the possibilities. For example my original concept for this brief was a fashion shoot set in a scrap yard in order to emphasise the difference between high fashion and the waste in the world around us. So any scrapyard would be suitable it became a question of contacting a number of them to identify one that would permit us to use it as a photography set.
Once this was established then once again it becomes a matter of thinking about the logistics of what’s required on site both what is expected to be required but also what might be required if things don’t quite go to plan.
For example external locations are extremely weather dependent and if travelling some distance it might be wise to make some contingency in term of time available, e.g. plan on spending an extra day just in case as although expensive probably cheaper than re-arranging entire shoot.
This is the reason why exotic locations with consistent weather conditions are often chosen for professional fashion shoots rather than the somewhat more unpredictable conditions that prevail in temperate climates.
There are a number of tools and techniques that will assist in location photography research and planning. There are many modern on-line directories that will help identify business and contact details. Tools such as Google Earth / Street view invaluable in viewing remote locations prior to travelling or simply to verify the location is as expected.
There are now few parts of the world that have not been photographed so on-line searches of travel and photography sites such as flikr, tumblr or Pinterest will invariably produce images and links to blogs of work done by others which can be a useful aid in planning your own visit by providing background information which would otherwise be expensive and time consuming to acquire.
In addition there are a large number of books on specific location / countries and if planning to visit one of those then it may be a worthwhile investment to acquire such a book for the depth of information provided compared to the often relatively shallow internet based information.
Personally I find it useful to prepare check lists of the various items I think I will require as I find this helps avoid omissions and mistakes which are either impossible or expensive to rectify once you have left the location.
Typical Checklists. Equipment required. Not only the obvious camera and lenses but ancillary equipment such as radio triggers, specific cables, memory cards and so forth. In addition backup / alternative equipment in case of inclement weather or other problem on site. E.g. you may have planned a natural light shoot but in practice some fill flash is required so pack flash guns even if not planning to use them in the first instance.
To ease this process I have a list of all my equipment and simply tick off what’s likely to be required for a specific shoot, this process may also help identify if it’s necessary or desirable to hire a specific piece of equipment (camera, lens, lighting etc.).
Shot Research. Particularly if using models I also like to research the type of poses I want to capture and having a library of such images on an iPad has proven to be a quick and effective way to communicate to a model what is required. This is helpful in several ways – it eliminates any language barrier, it is absolutely clear to the model what is required and is quicker than trying to explain verbally.
Such research is also useful for landscape shots where the timing of the shots becomes more important and tools such as “ The photographers Ephemeris ”, a free software tool which in the websites own words:
“The Photographer’s Ephemeris (TPE) is a tool to help you plan outdoor photography in natural light, especially landscape and urban scenes. It is a map-centric sun and moon calculator: see how the light will fall on the land, day or night, for any location on earth.”
Available at http://www.photoephemeris.com/
Specific research for Post Box project.
There is a surprisingly large community of people who are interested in post boxes and there is even an internet based group called the “The Letter Box Study Group” who publish a quarterly newsletter and maintain a website on the topic http://www.lbsg.org/
http://www.postalheritage.org.uk/ was also a useful source of information in respect of the history of the postal service and the letter box.
In order to research the locations of the post boxes tools http://www.localpostbox.co.uk/ which identifies post box locations, this in combination with google maps and street view proved extremely useful in confirming the precise location and the appearance and type of post box at the location.
From a combination of information gleaned from various web sites / photo sharing sites I was able to identify and verify locations for examples of each of the types of post box. A forthcoming visit to Liverpool meant I specifically selected some there along with identifying a special box made only for Liverpool in circa 1862. Some I found in the local vicinity such as the George VI box at South Cerney and fortuitously a George V box in Swindon. Lastly the nearest location I could identify for an Edward VII box was Oxford where I was able to identify a wall box and standard pillar box within a few streets of each other.
Additionally I researched the history of reform of the postal service which had led to the widespread installation of post boxes as volume of mail exponentially increased as a result of the reforms.