Planning URBAN Trips
At the risk of sounding like an actual adult human; planning is important. As scary as it is for me to admit, and while I have had some of my greatest experiences from unexpected circumstances, a proper plan ensures you get the most out of the average trip. This is especially true from a photographic point of view. As well as planning however, there are lot of details to observe when travelling to a new place. This article is particularity geared towards squeezing the most out of urban trips.
Read. Read as much as you can about where you are going. If you are not into reading then go online and scour YouTube for information. Use Google image searches to look for spots you want to find when you are there. If you are going to be out all day then research friendly and helpful restaurants and web-cafes that let you charge batteries - mark them on a map.
Hash out a preliminary day plan for each destination. You don't need to stick to it, in fact, oftentimes this becomes quite impossible (weather, traffic, distraction, alchohol), but just having one (a plan that is, not a drink!) allows you to juggle things as you go. It also makes it far easier to ensure that you get the things that you wanted to achieve done. As much as I love having reasons to travel back to places I have visited, I feel a modicum of sadness when I realise I missed something I had intended to cover. Obviously, some may disagree with this, however, in my view the pros heavily outweigh the cons.
While having a rough day plan in your mind's eye is important, it is by no means the be all and end all of city travelling. You will never know half of the wealth of experiences you might encounter in any given city without physically being there. So while I do advise you do make a plan to ensure you are never short of things to do, it is certainly not the end of the tale.
Whenever you are in a new city, take advantage of the local knowledge. Talk to people, learn from the inhabitants. Perhaps try asking them where their favourite/prettiest/oldest/most interesting spot is in the city is and have them mark it on your map. If you try this and like the results, and if you have time, perhaps take a whole day 'off plan' and do a dot-to-dot of the local's considerations. Be wary of the rougher areas of town however, and those people that may send you towards potential peril. Immerse yourself in the context of the place.
Wander the markets, eat where the locals do, observe their rules and courtesies, smile with them. Pretty soon you will begin to wonder why you bought your cameras in the first place- I know I sometimes do! Remember to photograph a wide variety of subjects. Let the city inform you of what characterises it. While you may still only choose to photograph specific things that interest you, try and include a hint of the soul of the city in each frame as often as possible. This will not only add a cohesion to the set of photos, but allow for a distinction between each city within your private portfolio of images.
Back up your memory cards as soon as possible. There is no point in lugging around a portable HDD and/or laptop if you are not going to use them to ensure the safety of your pictures. The longer you wait, the more the risk grows of you losing the only copy of your hard work forever. Camera loss/theft/damage happens far more frequently than you might think, especially when you are tired after a long day, or travelling onto the next destination. Use this time while you have it.
If you are a travel blogger/writer or just want to add some context to your images when you get home, I strongly suggest you write down some words. Just remind yourself of how the place made you feel and how it was different from what you expected. These, to me, are the two things that you lose over time; as all your memories begin to haze over and blend together. Furthermore, this helps you distinguish, in your own mind between each destination – especially on city hopper holidays.
Lastly, keep your map, it is not only useful for your scrapbook/journal (if you are prone to such sentimentalities) but also for further contextualising your journey upon your return. Who knows, maybe you could lend it to a friend if they ever decide to take the trip?