Andy Best (@andy_best) is a member of the Alpha Imaging Collective whose passion for photography has led him from one adventure to the next. He lives life on the road, traveling via campervan to beautiful locations he wants to photograph and explore. The stories behind his images have resonated with his over 641K followers on Instagram, and as we start taking steps back to normal and start thinking about traveling and exploring landscpes once again, we wanted to catch up with him to pass along some of his process for photographing the landscape. In part one of this three-part series, Best discusses how he prepares to go out to shoot, including how he scouts locations and chooses and preps his gear. Stay tuned for part two where Best will walk us through his camera menu settings button-by-button, and part three where he will discuss post-processing and social sharing.
See how Andy Best scouts locations and prepares his gear for a landscape shoot.
When deciding on a location to shoot, Best tries to think of a beautiful place that he’s either never been to, or been to before but wants to capture in a different way. Based on where and when he will be shooting, he comes up with a gear list of everything he needs to take out with him. He says he usually takes more than he will actually need because there’s a rule that if you don’t have it, you’re going to want to use it.
Choosing & Prepping Gear
“I take the Sony 16-35mm f/2.8 G Master,” says Best. “It’s one of my go-tos for landscape shots. It's incredibly sharp and I have found myself shooting more and more panoramas with it. I take the Sony 24-70mm f/2.8 G Master, which is an all-around great essay type of camera. I love shooting story imagery and behind-the-scenes with it. I also take the Sony 55mm f/1.8 for shooting astrophotography. I can get really quick shutters for stars and it renders them super sharp. Then I carry the Sony 70-200mm f/4 G. I still have the f/4 because I’m never in need of much more light than that, and it’s a really sharp lens. I love to collapse landscapes and capture layers, and this long focal length makes it a lot of fun to bring an object in the distance closer. For primes I pack the Sony 85mm f/1.6 G Master and then the Sony 35mm f/1.8 which is really great as a documentary-style lens, capturing the event as a whole.”
“Along with these lenses, I bring my Sony α7R IV, Sony α7R III and even my Sony α7S. I take my α7S because it still produces great imagery and it’s one where on my route I can hide it up in the trees and leave it there to shoot timelapse. I mark it on my map and just go about my shoot and then come back for it afterward. It’s called my lone warrior and I love leaving it in cool places.”
Before packing each piece, Best cleans all of his sensors and glass. He formats his Sony TOUGH SD Cards and double-checks that all of the batteries are charged. When he’s packing for a cold weather shoot, he throws a few hand warmers in his camera bag and around his batteries so they stay fully charged for the project. He also packs several different tripods to go with his camera bodies, a couple of intervalometer remotes that are pre-set for certain timelapses, some ND filters and a polarizing filter if needed. Then he brings proper clothing for the elements and plenty of food in case he gets hungry while he’s out.
“You really have to make sure you have everything you need to exist so you can stay out there and conquer your mission,” says Best. “Otherwise you might miss the best sunset of your life.”
Scouting Locations & Planning Shots
If at all possible, Best will try to go to his shooting a day early so he can scout it out. He pays close attention to the weather and uses apps like PhotoPills to help him plan. While he’s scouting he records things like sunset time and the placement of the Milky Way. He’ll take shots of the sun route on his phone just to record the times and get himself comfortable with the next day’s shoot. He’ll have a map with him and map out his route and the timing between different spots.
“I think it’s fun to get really nerdy about it and plan everything out. This way when I’m actually shooting, I can do it as efficiently as possible. I can get a good night’s sleep beforehand and wake up feeling prepared because I have a plan in place and am not going to be scrambling to capture things.”
No matter how much pre-planning you do, Best does warn that you still need to be prepared to be flexible, as things like the weather will unexpectedly change. “As much as you have to be prepared in advance, you also have to be prepared to make stuff up as you go.”
Stay tuned to AlphaUniverse.com this week for Parts 2 and 3 of Best’s landscape photography workflow.