Scouting Tools

Plus, lots of free info on photography and the parks …

Three items before we get to this week’s Q and accompanying A.

First, yet another big-time media production has joined the celebrate-the-centennial fray: “Sunday Morning with Charles Osgood” will every other week be profiling a national park, led by correspondent Conor Knighton, in a segment titled “On the Trail.” He started with Acadia and Mammoth Cave, and this week covered Hot Springs.

Second, if you’re based in the New York City area and interested in night photography, the National Parks at Night crew is running a series of lectures, followed by a panel discussion, followed by a night shoot at Brooklyn Bridge Park. The entire event is free, sponsored by Nikon and hosted by the B&H Event Space. For more info, see “National Parks at Night’s First Official Event.”

Third, if you’re interested in the photo opportunities at Acadia National Park, you can watch a recent presentation of mine that was just this week posted to the B&H YouTube channel. See “Photographing Acadia National Park Sponsored by Formatt-Hitech.”


This Week’s Question

Q.  How do you keep track of the spots in which you want to shoot? I spent a week in Big Bend and there are so many places in such a big park that I couldn’t keep track of everything in which I was interested. I had a small notebook but I still had difficulty keeping all of the options straight. Is there an app you recommend where I could make notes of places maybe right on an electronic map, or some other process?Quinn M., Tenn.

A. You can use Evernote (an app that many people already have and use) to create text notes that are geotagged. For instance, if you find a great sunset spot on Rio Bravo, you can type “great sunset spot” into Evernote and recall it later on a map. There are other apps that specialize in accomplishing similar tasks, such as FieldNotes. A benefit to both is that you can create a note with a photo, thereby giving yourself a scouting shot too.

However, my preferred tools are tried and true and old-fashioned: a pen and a paper map.

I use the map the park provides, because it’s free and has a lot of space for writing. When I’m scouting locations, I make notes right on the map. For instance, at Big Bend National Park, I might circle Santa Elena Canyon and write, “Great angles for sunrise. Look for reflections in the creek. Interior hike could be good when overcast.”

That solution requires no batteries, recharging, cell service, data plans, or backup storage!

Plus, it’s easy to reference the paper map wherever I am, and it’s light to carry on a hike. After the trip, I file the map with all my other park info, so I can reference it when planning my next trip there.

Incidentally, you can do this preemptively, as well. Every national park website has a PDF map you can download, which you can print at home or at an office-services store. You can use the print-out to make notes as you research the park before your trip. (There’s also a web-based clearinghouse for all national park maps: See the NPS cartography page.)

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