Location Scouting: Google Earth
In January I’ll be in several new locations as I fly around the world. The most time I will have in any one place will be 5 days, six nights. In short, I’ll be very pressed for time to shoot the locations I’ll be in. Never been to Hanoi? Where do you start to become familiar with the place? Lonely Planet? Sure. An image search on Google? Also good. But last week I discovered Google Earth and my pre-trip location-scouting will never be the same.
It’s not that I didn’t know about Google Earth, just didn’t bother to really dig around. But last week while I was doing some digging around in prep for the trip I uploaded Google Earth to my iPod Touch and played with it. It’s one thing to look at a map of, say, Hanoi. It’s another entirely to see it in colour satelite photographs, to see the river, see where the boats are, get a sense of scale and begin to literally map out a plan. I only played with it an hour but can see myself spending time in airport lounges poking around the back alleys and plazas of the places I am about to fly to, making final scouting decisions based on what I see with my eyes and not just the lines of a map.
If you’ve never played with Google Earth, you can download it to your computer, as well as get an iPod/iPhone app. Check it out HERE. The site isn’t sexy – it’s actually pretty uninspiring, but once you get moving around a new country or city on your iPod or iPhone, you’ll be in love.
Any other great location scouting tips, other than actually going there, which is the best scouting of all – feel free to leave a comment. Scouting, if photographers do it at all, can be the key to a successful shoot or a total, unmitigated, should-have-stayed-at-home waste of time.