Planning a self-drive photography tour is always a creative and enjoyable experience. My wife and I do our best to ensure that we will enjoy the journey as much as the destinations we visit. This article shares a selection of images captured handheld as we drove from the Clifden area to Kylemore Abbey in Ireland.
NOTE: Click on images to enlarge.
When travelling many folks use major highways and try to ‘save time’ between their planned stops. We do the opposite… avoiding major roads whenever possible. Our approach is to savour every minute by slowing our driving down. This allows us to experience more along our daily journey. I am constantly jumping in and out of the car to capture images en route.
When we make time to enjoy the journey we usually find ourselves on smaller roads out in the countryside. In Ireland this meant many narrow roads with few, if any, shoulders.
It also often involved sharing the road with some of the locals. We always gave them the right-of-way.
We appreciate that not everyone would ‘enjoy the journey’ in the same manner we do. Some of the roads we frequent are not for those who lack a sense of adventure.
To enjoy the journey on back roads one does need to take some precautions. Like most travellers we have our cell phone with us. We never rely on it as our main source of navigation. Cell coverage along many back road routes can be spotty at best. We’ve been on self-drive photography tours in the past when we had no cell phone coverage for a couple of consecutive days.
Before leaving for a trip we will plan out each day in detail. This involves predetermining every turn that we are planning to make along our route each day. These are detailed to the point of noting the number of kilometres between each turn. This is important when travelling on back roads as road signs are not always present along portions of the route.
I use Google Maps to create these detailed daily route plans. Once each day is planned out we include our confirmations for room bookings and print everything out. Each day is then put into chronological order and we assemble the plan into a bound booklet that we prepare in my office. Our plan for our 2019 Ireland photography tour was about 2.5 cm thick (~1 inch), printed on 2 sides. This covered the 28 days that we were on the ground in Ireland.
We also take a good quality compass with us. Most days we use the compass a few times to double check where we are, and the direction we are headed. We also like to have a detailed set of road maps for the country we are visiting. This serves as additional reference. My wife is an excellent navigator. In my younger years I was the driver in numerous orientation point rallies… so we make a good team.
Whenever we come up to a turning point I will call out the kilometres on our instrument cluster. My wife will jot this down on the printed plan. She then quickly does the math to calculate when our next turn should occur… and calls that back to me. I provide distance updates to her while I drive. She lets me know how close we are getting to the next turn.
All of these precautions do not prevent us getting lost from time to time. In Ireland, we usually got lost a couple of times each day. We’d look at each other… smile… then break out laughing! We had just created another trip memory!
Being able to effectively use a compass and road maps can be very important when inclement weather hits, or other unforeseen events happen. On various trips we have had situations when our planned route was flooded or blocked by a landslide. When there is no cell phone coverage in the area… it adds to the sense of adventure. We’ve had to change our route a few times in the past by relying on a book of road maps and our compass to help get us to our final destination that day.
We never put our safety at risk when we are on a self-drive tour. When needed we will completely change our planned day route if the road conditions or weather necessitate it. This is typically done during the evening of the previous day as we always check on conditions in advance. We will use Google Maps to create a different detailed route, and handwrite all of the individual turn information on our printed trip plan.
To enjoy the journey it is critical to maintain a feeling of confidence throughout one’s trip. For us that means having a well thought out and documented plan, as well as having the navigation tools needed readily at hand.
Photographs were captured hand-held using camera gear as noted in the EXIF data. All images were produced from RAW files using my standard process.
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