Exploring a new destination from behind a lens or camera is one of the most rewarding aspects of travel. Not only are you able to capture beautifully curated images, but you’ll walk away with a keepsake from special moments captured on the road.

And if 2020 has taught us nothing else — it’s that every moment is precious and should be treated as such. So when you’re hitting the open road to pass by beautiful scenic landscapes, stunning city skylines or unique wildlife (especially after 3+ months in self-quarantine) you’ll most definitely want to document the journey.

Nikon Ambassador and professional travel photographer Deb Sandidge shares tips on how you can get inspired to plan the ultimate summer road trip and snap your adventures along the way. With helpful hints for researching locations, taking advantage of golden hour lighting, capturing fun family portraits and much more, you’ll be shooting like pros in no time and can post unforgettable pics on Insta to prove it! 

Research your destinations in advance.

Perhaps one of the best ways to ensure that you’ll get the perfect shot, is to research your summer travel destination in advance. You’ve probably bookmarked a friend take beautiful photos in a sunflower field, in front of a historic landmark, frollicking on the beach or at the latest Instagrammable attraction or pop-up (such as Black Lives Matter Plaza). It’s time to pull them out of the archives. “It’s always helpful and fun to research areas where you are planning to travel,” says Sandidge. “Look for iconic or off-the-beaten path locations that will make your summer trip special. When planning a road trip, think about a goal location and being there at the time of day that will give you the best light. Take advantage of the amazing golden light of sunrise or sunset; or even plan a few moments for yourself during dawn or blue hour before anyone else gets up. I like to use Google Earth, maps, tide charts, weather apps and general location searches. Destination apps help identify great shooting locations.”

Consider what gear you will bring. 

Once you research, the next best thing to do is start planning! “This will vary based on your photography goals,” shares Sandidge. “I like to bring a wide-angle lens, a mid-range zoom, and a telephoto zoom. These three lenses provide endless creative opportunities, however you can travel with one or two lenses to keep things easy on the road. A small tripod is helpful so you can stabilize your camera for low light shots or when you are shooting video. If you are planning a hike, keep gear to a minimum. Take an extra lens, battery, memory card and a light travel tripod. Don’t forget the water and the snacks!”

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Seek different opportunities that will round out your photography. 

Getting the best photo is much more than just one angle or location. There are complex ways to add different multimedia, dimensions and angles to perfect your new photography technique. This can be as simple as “setting up your tripod and recording video of your experiences at the location.” According to Sandidge, “these little vignettes are a wonderful way to share with family and friends and create a more meaningful experience. Show your location and talk about what you are experiencing and seeing. You become the tour guide for a virtual trip! Shoot a fun video interview with a travel mate asking them to share their own experience. Create a compilation of photographs and videos to share special details or experiences. The sound of wind rustling leaves in a tree or rushing water of a stream adds another dimension. Experiment with these as a slow-motion video. It is absolutely gorgeous, and you can record several second snippets without a tripod. Video is simple to learn, try it a few times before your trip!”

Employ artistic and special techniques to help round out your road trip photography. 

Point and click is great, but have you ever tried any of those other buttons on your camera or iPhone? Sandidge advises to try shooting panoramas, adding a person for scale, dimension, or drama in order to get the best shot. She continues, “use intentional camera movement and lens zoom twist for an artistic touch, shoot vertical and horizontal compositions, change your perspective. When you are on the road, shoot a time-lapse or video from your car to record the experience and beauty of driving through an area. This is a fun lead-in from your various destinations.”

Have fun!

Is there any other reason to step up your photo game than to just have a good time? Have fun with the camera, expand your technique but also — enjoy the overall trip experience and beauty of your location. It is the biggest priority. Not to mention, you shouldn’t have your head stuck in the camera or phone the whole time. “The sights, sounds, photo ops, and family time will be great memories forever!” says. Sandidge. “Set up your Nikon camera to transfer your images to your smartphone via Snapbridge so you can share your experiences right away with your friends, family and on social media.”