Photo Day Trips

Hey Everyone!

This month’s artist tip will get you out of the studio and into this glorious world of ours. I’ve mentioned before the importance of taking your own photo reference in your art in my blog post about setting up your photo catalog. In this post, we are going to delve a little deeper into how to go about doing that and what items to take with you. Being organized is key for me with almost everything I do because it keeps me focused when the creative side of my brain wants to wander in a thousand other directions. Having a basic plan for your day trip adventure will keep you on task so you can get the photos you need and get back to creating art!

Location, Location, Location
It’s pretty important to decide where you’re going before you get there. For the purposes of this blog post, I’m going to use my latest trip to the Calgary Zoo as an example. Since I love drawing and painting animals, this annual trip for me is one that I look forward to. Not only is it a chance to see animals I otherwise wouldn’t get a chance to in person, but it also is a great chance to be outside, walk around and learn more about them.

Think about what kind of photo reference you want to take when you are planning your day trip. If you like drawing flowers and other botanical imagery, maybe you are going to plan a trip to a park or designated public garden space like The Devonian Gardens. While spontaneity has its perks, doing a little research ahead of time to make sure the location you choose is going to have the subject matter you are looking for, ensures you won’t be wasting an afternoon either.

Rain or Shine
This may seem obvious, but check the weather before you plan a trip that is outdoors. For places like the zoo, for example, the animals will most likely be hiding in their shelters if it’s pouring rain. Also, dealing with precipitation presents a whole other host of challenges when trying to photograph something. I’m going to go ahead and assume we aren’t all professional photographer’s here so don’t make this harder on yourself than it needs to be.

Time of day may also be a key factor to consider. The Calgary Zoo, for example, allows the public to view the lions being fed at a certain time, on a certain day. If you really want lion photos this may be your chance. I don’t know about everyone else’s lions, but the ones here are sleeping 90% of the time so trying to photograph them otherwise is virtually impossible. You could also just dedicate your day to hanging outside their enclosure until they decide to saunter over to a different place to nap. 😉 Your choice.

What to Bring
If you are anything like me, the last thing you want to do is be out somewhere for the day and not have something basic you need with you. You may need to make a list ahead of time that details all the items you may require for your specific trip. You may need to bring a paper map for example. “But Barb, there’s Google Maps! What is this primitive technology you speak of?” Well if you like painting mountain landscapes and are heading to the mountains for the day, don’t expect the trees to have wifi, that’s all I’m saying. Again, make sure you are prepared for where you are going.

The photo below shows an overview of some of the things I brought on my zoo day trip.Items to bring to a zoo day trip

My key recommendations for outside day trips:
– Dress in layers (sometimes the weather can change throughout the day, depending on where you live)
– Sunscreen (know what isn’t sexy? a sunburn)
– Extra camera battery and SD card (it’s all fun and games until your battery dies or you run out of space just as the snow leopard finally decides to show his furry face 🙁 )
– Shot list (this is a list of things you need photos of. If you are somewhere you don’t go often or you have to pay to get in, it would be disappointing to forget something. It can also help keep you on task if you have a time limit in your location)
– Refillable water bottle (hydration is important people!)
– Small sketchbook and pencil (sketching from life is hard but a valuable skill to have, this is also great for taking notes)
– Bring snacks (no one likes to be hangry… plus you may be going somewhere where food isn’t easily accessible)

Don’t be Afraid to go “Off List”
As much as planning is important, you don’t have to be super rigid either. My boyfriend for whatever reason always likes to go through the dinosaur park part of the zoo every time we go. I mean, at least now they have animatronics in some of the dinosaurs which makes them more interesting, (and scares kids by the way) but generally speaking I’m not super into it. Now before anyone sends hate mail, I don’t have anything against dinosaurs, that’s just not what I’m at the zoo for. The plus side to this though is that there are a lot of interesting plants and trees in this area. So while Stan gets to embrace his inner child checking out T-Rex, I’m taking close-up photos of leaves and tree bark that I think are cool.

There’s always something worth photographing or studying closer even if it isn’t the subject matter you originally came for. The Calgary Zoo has a Lantern and Garden Festival going on right now called Illuminasia, in which paper lantern animal sculptures are featured all over the park. I made it a point to take photos of all of these as well because they were really fun, but you also never know how that reference might be useful in the future. Apparently, they are also quite beautiful lit up at night but unfortunately we were only there during daylight hours.
other cool shots from my zoo trip

Photo day trips can be a great way to collect your own photo reference for your artwork. With a little pre-planning you can make sure you have everything you need to have a successful trip and maybe have a little fun while you’re at it!

Barb Sotiropoulos

Barb Sotiropoulos

I’m a Canadian artist and designer specializing in coloured pencil and mixed media. When I’m not creating art, I love helping other artists by sharing tips and tricks that have helped me. You can find me on all of my social channels @barbsotiart or check out my past Q&A articles for COLORED PENCIL Magazine or my co-hosting appearances on the Sharpened Artist Colored Pencil Podcast.

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Hey, I'm Barb!

I’m a Canadian artist and designer specializing in coloured pencil and mixed media. When I’m not creating art, I love helping other artists by sharing tips and tricks that have helped me. You can find me on all of my social channels @barbsotiart or check out my past Q&A articles for COLORED PENCIL Magazine or my co-hosting appearances on the Sharpened Artist Colored Pencil Podcast.

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