A few things have happened recently that have got me thinking about how to stay safe as a photographer. Most of us don't think twice about picking up our kit, going outside and shooting. But how many of us think about what we would do in the event of an emergency, not many I bet. What follows is my suggestion of safety tips to consider before you go outside taking photos.
In this digital age we rely on our mobile devices for everything. Weather and trekking map apps help us to plan our days out. But don't rely on your phone, batteries run out, so make sure that you always carry a physical map and a compass. Pack food and water, even if you think you'll only be gone a short time. Energy bars are lightweight, easy for the body to assimilate and will keep you going when your blood-sugar levels drop.
Always tell someone else where you are going and how long you expect to be. If you are travelling by car, remind them of your registration number and phone them once you have arrived at your destination. Also, don't forget to let them know when you have returned safely to avoid them worrying about you, and calling out the emergency services.
There are still many places in the countryside have black spots for cellphone signals. Good old-fashioned text messages (SMS) will often get through when messaging apps or even voice call signals do not.
This is probably obvious but check what the weather is going to be like throughout the day. There are many websites and apps out there that you can use. I'd say make sure that you choose one which provides updates at least every hour. Dress like an onion. Wear clothing in layers so you can maximize heat retention, and adjust it to changing weather conditions. Keep a dry change of clothes in your car. There's nothing worse than having to drive back home for a couple of hours when you're wringing wet.
Tide times vary around the world depending on the position of the moon, sun and various other influences. In the UK https://www.tidetimes.org.uk/ has tide tables for 711 locations. There is also an app for iOS.
Many rivers are tidal too so don't be fooled into thinking you are necessarily safe. Tides are dangerous. Every year people die because they get caught out by the speed at which tides turn and the power of the rushing water. It's easy enough to be distracted when you are concentrating on getting the right settings or waiting for that long-exposure to finish.
No matter which location you go to, do not rush. Take the time to observe the lay of the land before you set up. It is better to miss the shot you wanted than to rush into a hazardous area from which you will need rescuing, or even not return. This is especially true if you are on the coast and there are waves. Look to see where and how the waves are breaking. Be aware of the ground conditions too: rocks are notoriously slippery when wet. As with tidal locations above, have an escape route. And don't take all your kit with you, only what you can grab with one hand should you need to.
If you are going to a location before dawn, take a proper torch with you and ensure it has a wrist strap. Don't use your phone, you'll drain the battery apart from possibly dropping it.
Without doubt the most important piece of clothing you must invest in if you are serious about landscape photography is a decent pair of walking boots. You are going to want hiking boots which provide ankle support to avoid injury, and stay dry in wet weather. I've already touched on dressing like an onion. You can pick up appropriate clothing (waterproof jackets, fleeces and so on) quite cheaply now from a number of retailers. I'd recommend not wearing jeans. Whilst they are hardwearing, they absord water like a sponge and take an age to dry out.
First Aid & Health
Everybody needs to know something about First Aid procedures. I'm not suggesting you should take a course, but I recommend investing in a manual and learning how to treat basic conditions. Carry a small First Aid kit. They are light and don't cost much.
Another aspect to consider is altitude. If you are planning on going to high altitude, your body will need time to adjust. Hypoxia is a serious and potentially fatal condition.
Landscape photography gets us close to nature. It gives us a sense of being at one with the world we live in. But mother nature is a fickle lady who will occasionally make conditions difficult for us. By following some simple safety tips you can help yourself to stay safe, and enjoy your photography.