I decided I'm gonna photograph my childhood neighborhood so I went on Google Maps to plan out what I'm gonna shoot.
How do you plan your shots?
>wasting valuable time and sunlight aimlessly wandering around for something interesting in a place you haven't been in years instead of doing research beforehand and having a plan knowing exactly what you want to shoot
Both. If you are going to do it properly
Google maps helps familiarise yourself with an area in advance and often points to ideas you can explore when you get there.
Walking around will show you details and events that Google can't
This. Plus you'll inevitably end up walking places the maps car can't show you, so hoofing it is pretty important regardless. I don't really think I've ever gotten an amazing shot out of scouting/planning well in advance. What usually happens is I'll wander into a place, notice some really great light or scene, then keep re-visiting it to get a better shot since I usually don't get the best shot the first time around.
Fucking amateurs always think photography is just one thing or one way of doing things...
Because hauling an 8x10 view camera + gear around without any prior thought makes perfect fucking sense.
It depends on what I'm planning to shoot and how long I'll be there... but things such as google maps and sun tracker apps are handy to plot the path of the sun at specific times and obviously sunrise/sunset.
If it's a place I've never been before I like to go to gettyimages and search the place name. It gives me a rough overview of popular locations. If I spot a location that looks like the sort of thing I might want to photograph I can pinpoint the area on google maps or take a look a street view.
If it's a place I've been to before, or more own city, I'll often take quick snapshots with a compact or camera phone and use that to plan for a location. I might make a quick sketch or jot down some notes about the idea I have - 4x5, 8x10, or digital, what lens, what film, how I want the light, etc. There's a good app for iPhone that lets you simulate various camera formats and focal lengths so you can take a few test shots of a sight you want to revisit (think it gps tags the location too).
Planning and thinking about your work is a good sign OP. Ignore any idiots criticizing you for it.
I just wander around aimlessly.
I used to pick a random subway station and continue from there — nowadays I start from campus and just go on 3-4 hour walks or until I'm tired.