The Shoot And Scoot Photographer
Tips For Getting Pictures On The Run

Part of shooting and scooting is spending long days in the field. I get up before dawn and shoot until after sunset to maximize my time on site. Sunrise photographed at Yellow Mountain, China. (Canon EOS 1N V, Canon 70-200mm zoom at 200mm, Kodak Ektachrome 200 pushed to EI 320.)
Photos © 2002, Rick Sammon, All Rights Reserved

I recently returned from a 10-day trip to China. I was at the Great Wall, Tieneman Square, the Forbidden City, and Yellow Mountain. I stopped in remote villages and traveled by boat along winding canals. I took hundreds of photographs...and had a great time, as well.

My China trip had something in common with most of my other trips: my time on site was extremely limited. I had only about a week to shoot--unlike a National Geographic shooter who might spend months on location searching out great pictures. (Recently, I watched a special on television in which National Geographic photographer Chris Johns spent three months in Botswana working on cheetah pictures. I'm jealous!)

But as I said, I had a great time and took hundreds of pictures in China, several of which I really like. I was productive because I've grown accustomed to shooting and scooting when traveling in places like Morocco, Indonesia, Nepal, Central and South America, and Africa. So much so, in fact, that my friends call me the "shoot and scoot photographer." (Hey, I've been called worse!)

Snapshots taken while scooting around foreign cities can be turned into more creative images back home in the digital darkroom. The digital frame in this image was created with Extensis Photo Frame 2.0. Flute player photographed in Katmandu, Nepal. (Kodak DC290 Digital Zoom camera.)

My guess is that when you travel, you are in the same boat as I am, so to speak. You have to maximize your shooting time--because your time in the field is limited, too. That is actually okay. You can still get great pictures and have a good time, if you follow a few basic tips.

Think Positive.
Sure, you can moan and groan about how little time you have on site. But, if you look at the situation as a news photographer would look at it (I must get the best shot even though the situation is not ideal), your positive approach will positively affect your pictures. Positive thinking can work wonders in all aspects of your life.

Be Prepared. If you read all about your destination, on the web or at your local library, you'll be prepared photographically and mentally when you arrive on site. Armed with knowledge of customs, weather, health recommendations, picture opportunities, and so on, you will be able to maximize your time in the field. Before you take off, I suggest running a search on on your location. Dozens of pages of useful information on just about any site in the world will show up--in a few seconds.

Get Ready. I get my cameras in shape before I leave home. I take pictures in and around my house with my 35mm and digital camera systems--checking exposures, focus, etc. I also run through all the cameras' functions to the point where I can shoot in the dark--which I sometimes have to do on site. Practice at home and you'll avoid missing some shots while you are scooting--or even zooming--around new locations.

In addition, I recommend getting physically ready. Before a trip, I hike up and down the hills around my house to get in shape--or at least in better shape. After all, my camera backpack weighs about 40 lbs, and I must be able to shoot and scoot without it slowing me down too much. Get in shape and you'll have more energy at your destination.

Always being ready for great shots is essential for the shoot and scoot photographer. I prepare myself for photo situations by carrying two camera bodies--one with a 17-35mm zoom and one with a 70-200mm zoom, as well as my trusty pocket-size digital camera. Boy photographed in China. (Canon A2, Canon 28-105mm zoom at 105mm, Kodak Kodachrome 64.)

Find out what's happening. When I arrive on site, one of the first things I do is check with the hotel or lodge manager to see what special events may be happening. I read the local newspaper and check out the TV news channels. If you check out what's happening, as I always do, you just may get some really special shots.

Don't Snooze. One of my favorite tips is, "You snooze you lose." In other words, if you sleep late in the morning and take a nap in the late afternoon, you'll miss the best lighting of the day: warm light (deep shades of red, orange, and yellow). You'll also miss getting long shadows in your pictures, which add a sense of depth and dimension to your two-dimensional pictures. So, get out there and shoot! You can sleep at home!

Keep On Movin'. The key to being a shoot and scoot photographer is to keep on moving. You must always be on the lookout for picture opportunities. You can't stay in one place all the time. Sure, it may be difficult to leave a location that offers great photo ops, but if you want a well-rounded set of pictures of a location, you simply must shoot and scoot.

Now, I have to run...I'll be scooting out of here shortly for another whirlwind trip!

You can visit Rick at his web site: