WHEN IT COMES TO ROAD TRIPPING, the process of getting there can be the best part of the adventure, especially when the roadside views are begging you to stop every 30 minutes. But when you’re pressed on time and unfamiliar with the area, how do you capture that perfect image of the landscape and the highway that runs through it?
1. Do your research.
If you know you’re going to be traveling on a scenic stretch of road, look online ahead of time and take notes on the major viewpoints. As you’re driving, pay attention to where turnouts are, and when you gas up, ask the locals if they know of any photo ops. If you’ve driven past a section that looks particularly photogenic and you have the time, don’t be afraid to turn around. The 15 minutes it will take you to backtrack and set up a shot could be well worth it.
2. Find a point of interest at the end of the road.
What caught your eye in the first place? Was it a rainbow? A jagged, snow-capped mountain? Put the focus on that and don’t be afraid to zoom in, either.
3. Don’t include too much of the road.
Unless the twists and turns of the road itself are what you’re aiming to capture, there’s no need to have the pavement or path take up more than half of the photo. Everyone already knows you’re on the road — bring their attention straight to the main attraction.
4. Look for crazy curves.
Unless there is something amazing going on with the scenery or weather, straight road shots are pretty boring. A windy road can be the entire focus of a photo, so the only thing you need to figure out is the best spot to shoot. If you shoot from up high, you generally have a better chance of capturing all the connecting curves.
5. Shoot fast if you’re in a moving vehicle.
You might not always be in the driver’s seat — or in control of the schedule. If you can’t stop and you absolutely must shoot out of a moving vehicle, bump your shutter speed up as much as you can to reduce motion blur. And while most window shots have some glare, you never know what you might be able to work with later unless you try to sneak in a few shots.
6. Experiment with different perspectives.
I’ve snapped photos while lying on my stomach in the middle of the road, but I’ve also climbed on top of my Jeep for a better view, like this one from Death Valley National Park during the super bloom this spring. Play around with different angles, but don’t forget to watch for traffic.
7. Use the road to spice up a shot of the sky.
Let’s say the sky is doing something totally amazing, but there are no mountains, trees or water anywhere in sight. A road may not be the most majestic foreground option, but sometimes it can make for a very unique composition.
8. Crop it right.
Sometimes it’s hard to take the time you really need to set up a shot in the middle of the road, so firing away wide and zooming in is sometimes the best bet. Make sure you play with your focus, and when you’re reviewing images later, find the leading lines and crop accordingly.
9. Include a person in the photo.
This is one of the best ways to truly give people a sense of scale when it comes to a road shot. Also, isn’t skateboarding somewhere like this kinda mandatory?