How I scout, plan and capture my very best shots

Hey folks,

How are you today? I hope things are good and you are doing some interesting things with your photography at the moment.

As usual I am always thinking of ways to teach and inspire you, and I am really excited about today’s article because it is jam-packed with some really useful ideas + teaching. 

I decided I would love to take you ‘behind the scenes’ on a shoot I’ve been planning for some time, using a new piece of kit that I am super thrilled about (ND filters!). 

I want to give you all of the tools and techniques I will be using to capture an incredible shot that although it is a little vague and foggy in my mind, feels like it will be one of my best shots of the year. 

I want to share my whole process so you can get ideas of your own and start shooting with more intention and with more ideas about planning.

I want to take you through my process:

The idea
Kit and tools
Scouting & Planning the shot
Test Shot
Final shot

Because this is a lot of info, and I have good resources to share, I am going to split this into a couple of newsletters.

So let’s get started! 

The idea 

Where do ideas come from? Who knows! It feels sometimes like a really weird and mystical experience. And sometimes it feels very clear and logical. 

But what I know is that it starts with curiosity. Something that I seek peaks my curiosity and my imagination starts to create images and ideas in my mind. 

Here’s how I got the idea for this upcoming shot. 

A few weeks ago some friends and I were taking a boat trip along the coast, heading towards a very beautiful waterfall where we wanted to stop and snorkel. 

The snorkelling was wicked by the way, I got to play with an octopus! My free diving training came in handy as to access the very best snorkeling spot we had to swim underwater, under a 12 foot overhang. So awesome…!

So here I am having a great time, and I spotted this as we were speeding along:

It’s called Torre de la Miel as I found out later…

Now, it may not seem like much but I’ll tell you what attracted me. Can you see the old ruin on the hill? This coast is dotted with old watchtowers and ruins like this, and the shape of this one looked very cool.

But what I also really liked the look of were the big rocks just off shore. That looked super interesting, the shapes of them as they jutted out of the bluey-green water – and I wondered what it would be like to capture both the rocks and the ruin. My imagination was lit up!

I snapped the shot on my phone to capture the GPS data coordinates from it, and decided that was my next spot for a shot. 

I later used the GPS info to locate the tower and find access roads on Google maps.

Kit and Tools

When I saw this location I started to think about creating a beautiful long exposure. For a while now I have wanted to buy some heavy ND filters for my camera. Like 16 stops of ND. It felt like the perfect excuse to buy the ND filters I’ve been dreaming about, and then use it straight away to capture something breathtaking (no pressure right?!)

Now you may be asking – what are the filters for and how will they help me?

These filters will allow me to go out in full sunlight and get up to minus 16 stops of exposure.

So in full sunlight I can have an exposure of around 5 minutes. Nuts!

When they arrived, I shot a quick video to share with you some more info about why they are such a cool piece of kit and what you can do with them. 

Scouting & Planning the shot

Now my next step is to scout the area so I can think about what kind of shot I want and how I want to shoot it. 

For planning I used the very wicked PhotoPills app. 

Photopills are my key planning tools when I want to capture specific light, where the moon or sun will be, for a specific location. It is really effective if you can scout the location beforehand and use the app to capture interesting dates to come back and shoot.

For instance, here are the positions of the Sun and Moon at very specific places at the best times for amazing light. See the images below.

I had the huge pleasure of interviewing Rafael Pons of PhotoPills about how to use their App and let it help you capture the perfect shot: 

This is a super informative 20 minutes, and I really recommend you watch it if you want to get the best out of PhotoPills, or learn more about planning your shots in different light conditions.

Because I am a super experienced photographer, and because I know this area pretty well, the location I picked turns out to be magnificent. The perfect location!

When you are scouting for yourself it might take more time, you might have ideas about places that don’t turn out to be as wicked as you’d hoped, or you can’t get to it in the right light.

This still happens to me sometimes, so don’t fear! I always think of scouting and exploring as a really pleasurable, fun and essential part of getting great shots. 

Regardless of if you end up with the perfect location or not – you are doing something you really love! Looking for wonderful moments in the world around us.

So be patient my friend, be patient! 

After my scouting I have a good idea about when and where I want to shoot, and I am ready to start shooting some test shots.

I wonder what they will be like? Will all of this effort be worth it?

Stay tuned! My next shoot, and the final shoot are still to come…!

If you have any questions or comments about this, my process, I’d love to answer them in the comments below.


I hope you enjoyed this, and I’ll see you soon with the next stage….!