In a previous column, I discussed the wisdom of keeping your camera with you to capture those unexpected scenes and moments. You'll want your camera handy for those times when great photos suddenly present themselves. I've caught some sensational photos in this way.
However, a good majority of my photo shoots are planned. I know where I'm going, the subject I'm shooting, and a rough idea of the image that I hope to capture before I step out the door.
I've found a method of planning that works very well for me. I simply grab my camera and head outdoors without any idea of where I'm going. I'm less interested in shooting photos than I am in finding subjects and scenes to photograph in the future. I call them 'photo scouting trips' and they have been invaluable.
I've found a number of great subjects and locations using this method. I jot my ideas down in a small notebook, along with notes on the best time of day to shoot the subject. When I'm in the mood to take photographs, I consult the notebook and choose an appropriate subject based on sky conditions and lighting.
The photo below, Pure Dakota, is the result of a planned shoot. You'll find that the results are well worth the time it takes to plan your photographs.