How to plan a Photo-Hike

September 12, 2016  •  2 Comments

Hello and welcome back to Just Ben!

I haven’t been working on my blog for a while (busy, busy all the time…) but I finally found some time to write another post.

Today I want to start a new series about the hiking trails I use to get some of my pictures. I will call it my “Hiking Memory” because it will also act as my personal log book. By writing down what I saw and experienced during my hikes I want to create something I can always go back to if I want to take a picture of a specific location.

This enables me to remember what views or locations a hike offered, if it is easy or hard to get to it and so on and so forth.

Before we start with our first hike, I want to talk a little about how I pick the hikes I want to walk (or promising photo locations in general), and also about what problems or issues might occur when you plan a hike but you have never been there yourself yet.


Here is in short how I plan my photo hikes:

  1. Search online for trails that are in the general area I want to go to
  2. Pick some trails and research if there are nice photo locations
  3. Create the hike in my Hiking App
  4. Check how the light will – most likely – be at my chosen locations
  5. Make a plan on when to leave the house to make sure I am at the right location at the right time
  6. Prepare backpack and equipment


Let’s look into the details. First things first, here is number one:


1. Search online for trails

Most of the time I either use Google Search and just search for hiking trails in my specified area, or I use which has lots of prepared hikes ready to go for you!

I also found two great websites that provided some great information for hikes near my hometown Colorado Springs:

I really appreciate the work of František Trenkler and Steffani GreenLeaf and would like to use this opportunity to thank both of them for their great work! It really helped me to find some really nice spots in the area! Thank you!


2. Research photo locations along the trails

This is fairly easy since all the websites I mentioned above have photo galleries so you can see what to expect of the trails. Google picture search or Google Earth are another great source to figure out where the best spots might be.

Sometimes it is hard to judge a trail just from pictures though, and sometimes they trick you quite a bit. I had planned a hike a couple weeks ago that was supposed to have a lake. The pictures on the website I found it showed a lake and so I didn’t bother to double check on google maps or google earth to see if there really was a lake. Hint: I should have checked it…

Anyway, I went on my hike and after about an hour going constantly uphill I arrived at the “lake”. The lake was actually a small pond , something like some people have in their backyard. I don’t know how that picture tricked me, but it got me good ;-) Of course the nice “Mountains-reflecting-in-the-lake-picture” I had in mind never happened.


3. Create my hike in my hiking app.

For most of my hikes I use an app called komoot that I had bought in Europe a few years ago. Unfortunately this is their main market right now and there are not many pre-planned hikes in the states yet.

This is not a big deal though, since I almost always have to derivate from the original planned hike anyway because of nearby locations and possible photo opportunities.

Once I am done creating my hike in the app I get a map and some additional information about it.

For example: altitude change, weather, distance, time to complete (of course this is an estimate for the walking part only.

 Don’t forget to account for your photo stops!!) and condition of the terrain.



4. Check how the light will be

This is – at least for me – the tricky part. I use Google earth to get at least an idea how the light could be at a specific date and time. In case you haven’t used this yet, here is a screenshot of google earth to show you where you can activate the function:


See that little icon on top that looks like the sun behind a mountain? That’s where you will find it.

A slider will appear in the top left corner where you can adjust date and time. I set it to the date I want to go on the hike and then zoom in to the locations I picked. By adjusting the slider I then see how the light will change as I go forward or backward in time.


5. Based on the information I get here, I plan the time that I need to leave the house, arrive at the trailhead and reach my photo locations.

What google earth will not tell you though is the weather! So always check the weather before you head out!

Tip: Give yourself at least half an hour to an hour more time than you think you will need. Something unexpected might occur on the drive or on the trail and you also have to get a feeling for the location, so you know how and where to setup your camera. Don’t rush!


6. Prepare backpack and equipment

When it comes to the camera equipment this is pretty much self-explanatory.  You need to decide which lenses you will need, check your batteries, check your filters, check you cards and so on and so forth.

When you hike in the mountains make sure you always have enough water and some snacks with you. Believe me when I tell you that the high altitude is just soaking the water out of your body. Stay hydrated! Most areas have valuable information about that topic and you can find much more searching online. If you are not used to hike in high altitudes plan in more time – you will need it – and make yourself familiar with safety rules and regulations!


These are the basic steps I take when I plan to take photos of locations close to a hiking trail. I hope this helps and you found some useful information. If you need additional help or would like to ask a question: Just let me know!


Thank you and I hope you have a photo-tastic week!



PS: The first hike I will add to the Hiking-Memory will be St. Mary's Falls! Don't miss it!






Benjamin Schneider Photography
Hi Steffani, i am sorry to hear that you had to move because of your altitude issues. I hope you are feeling better in North Carolina!
I haven't been there yet but online it looks like a very beautiful state as well! I hope you have plenty opportunities to hike there!
Thanks for the tip with Handies Peak, another one for my list!
Steffani Greenleaf(non-registered)
Hi Ben,

I'm glad you have benefited from my website. I wish I had added many more hikes we did, but I stopped writing about trails after our daughter was born. We moved to North Carolina when I couldn't breathe well at high altitude anymore. My favorite 14er (I only did 4 and my husband did about 16) was Handies Peak for the solitude and fairly easy trail and wildflowers near the end of July. I love Crested Butte trails, too. Happy hiking!
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