The Joy of Scouting

There are many times in photography where you get caught up in the details and lose sight of how photography can be fun instead of a challenge. Maybe it’s because of all of the technical jargon you have to remember, or maybe it’s because of all of the gear you carry. Whatever the case may be, photographers need to remember why they love it in the first place. In this post we are going to be exploring the joy of scouting locations and remembering the fun of photography.

It had been a while since I had been on a hike during midday. As a photographer, I’m usually going to locations around sunrise or sunset to catch the best light. Midday light is harsh and pretty gross in a lot of shooting situations. That doesn’t mean that the majority the day is lost to bad light, however. What it does mean, is that you can use the time of bad light efficiently when it’s devoted to location scouting!

I’ve always wanted to hike Alum Cave Trail in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It’s a grueling five mile hike all uphill to the peak of Mt Leconte (oh yeah, then you have to come back down). My friends invited me to come with them to do the hike in what we thought might be some of the harshest conditions of the year in the middle of winter. While the snow and ice didn’t cooperate fully, it was plenty cold and windy, making our hike that much more fun.

Photographers in general have a tendency to lose sight of why shooting is fun. The joy of scouting happens when you remove the seriousness of photography, you’re with your friends, and you might not even take all of your gear!

My moment of joy came when I didn’t even pack a full backpack and left my tripod in the car. I decided I would hand hold every shot and enjoy my team experiencing the surroundings with friends.

And you know what?

I don’t regret missing any of the shots I could have gotten with my full gear.

I noticed that even though I wasn’t getting highly sharp photos or utilizing all of my equipment that I actually had way more fun that if I had followed my usual routine of planning out a full day and lugging around 40 pounds of gear.

It took me back to when I was just enjoying nature with a point and shoot camera.

The joy of scouting happens when you don’t take yourself so seriously as a photographer. I know that sounds weird since photographers can be super serious about composition and getting everything perfect (I’m probably most to blame for that), but when you let go of the extra pieces of the workflow that hold you back from being in the moment you will discover a sense of freedom!

It was also interesting what happened while we were all hiking.

I actually got to experience the adventure!

Since I was only scouting the trail for future photography opportunities, I wasn’t worried about setting up each shot. I had the freedom to simply react to conditions even though they weren’t the most ideal.

So, what’s my point of all of this? I guess it could be summed up in one sentence. Don’t take photography so seriously all the time or you’ll never fully enjoy the process.

About the author: When David Johnston isn’t leading photography workshops and tutorials or hosting his popular photography podcast, Photography Roundtable, he can be found traveling the world taking photos to awe and inspire his viewers. David has a passion for sharing his knowledge of photography and has many educational offerings designed to help photographers improve their work. Visit his website at

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2 Responses to “The Joy of Scouting”

  1. Ralph

    So much to be said for being in the moment, enjoying the fellowship of friends, & really just taking in all of God's creation. I like the idea of not taking myself too seriously..... Thanks for the reminder David.

  2. Sal Russo

    I can really relate to David Johnston's article on trying to enjoy the adventure more and trying not to get everything perfect. I find myself dragging a lot of equipment and getting lost in all the photography details that sometimes I miss the moment. Thanks for the reminder!