On newsstands now, in the October issue of Outdoor Photographer magazine, you’ll find my interview with landscape photographer Marc Adamus. Every time I talk to Marc I’m impressed with his drive and passion for photographing the outdoors. It seems like he’s always traveling to the most remote locations in the world in search of dynamic and dramatic landscapes. During our recent conversation he told me about his secret for preparing for a trip to someplace he’s never seen before: traditional topographic maps.
"I’m really a big map buff," Marc told me. "I absolutely love looking at maps. If I’m going to go to a mountainous region, I’ll get out a topographic map, which I’ve loved my whole life. Looking at that type of map for me is like looking at the location itself. I can just imagine myself being there, I know what the peaks are going to look like, what the best routes are, how the light’s going to hit the peaks, what the shape of the peak’s going to be. I can determine a whole lot just by looking at maps. I like to pore over maps and then just imagine myself exploring some of these beautiful areas."
"For example," he continued, "just this last week I have been spending hour after hour looking across maps of northernmost Norway and Scandinavia, which is where I’m going to do a trip this fall and winter. Even though I’ve never seen that area in photographic images by anybody else, I recognize just through the map study that there’s a huge amount of potential. I’m really putting myself right there. And more than that, I’m determining what specific aspects, or specific points, would look like through my lens. And, of course, how to get to those points. It helps me get to know places. I can determine down to the most finite details exactly what the best route from point A to point B is, and I can learn a whole lot about the terrain in between the two. Just by looking at a topographic map I can tell exactly what a peak is going to look like through my wide angle lens looking at this distance away and I can tell how the light is going to hit that peak at what time of year. It does take a lot of practice to really be able to determine the obstacles, the geometry if you will, to kind of put yourself there on the ground in that scene, but it’s something I’ve become really adept at doing throughout the course of my life. At first just for route planning backpacking and climbing trips, and now it’s an integral tool in my photographic research as well."
The U.S. Geological Survey, linked below, is a great resource for downloading detailed topographic maps of areas throughout the United States. And to learn more about Marc Adamus, here’s a link to the new OP article, as well as a link to his web site.