One thing I haven’t had the opportunity to do much is travel for landscape photography. Granted, I’ve taken photos while travelling on holidays and I’ve had a few dedicated road trips for some bucket list snaps, but the majority of my work is done locally. How do I define locally? Well, anything really within a 1 hour radius of my house fits the description. So, while I can’t compare the two, I want to share the benefits of how shooting locally can not only improve your photography game as a whole, but make those locations stretch beyond the obvious landmarks.
Above: Sea Cliff Bridge is a shot I've wanted for a while, but it's definitely not new. In fact, the only reason I knew about this shot was because of Instagram.
It’s harder to follow a crowd.
The guys behind Project RAWcast recently discussed how, for some, Instagram has become a checklist to fill. This means people will travel to a location to shoot the obvious landmarks, maybe a few from different viewpoints, and tick off that location and move on. The easiest way to describe it is like a Pokédex – you take the shot just to say you’ve been there and therefore craft the image of yourself as a well-seasoned photographer. Creating what is essentially a photography guide book, photographers could stop doing photography for the sake of doing photography and just want to “catch ‘em all”. Shooting locally combats this fad by forcing you to think outside the box and find compositions the passersby wouldn’t notice.
Composing becomes a hunting game.
As someone who is heavily inspired by the great photographers of world, seeing amazing photos published in magazines and on the web, composition is almost the most important thing for my photos. Depending completely on the area you live in, great compositions can be few and far between. For me, I’ve really had to go hunting for new shots. I’ll admit this can sometimes be the most frustrating thing about wanting to shoot, but when it pays off it pays off big time.
Above: Sometimes the best spots are right under your nose, sometimes you have to go hunting.
To say this isn’t true for travelling would be a lie, but the more you shoot the same location the harder it is to find something you haven’t done before. This, I feel, really separates the men from the boys (if I’m allowed to use a gender-biased phrase) and forces you to put way more thought and effort into your shots.
You’ll see more.
I’ve been doing this photography thing for just over a year and a half now, and I’ve shot at what feels like everywhere possible in my area. But if I’m honest with myself, there’s so many nooks and crannies I haven’t even seen. Forcing yourself to get out and explore more for those sweet shots will naturally allow you to see more places you would have otherwise. And of course, the more you see the more areas you’ll have to scour for a more diverse gallery of shots.
Places change, skills develop. It’s easy to reject going back to a location you’ve visited before and have a photo from. I’ve had the mindset before of “I have my shot of x, why go back?” But the reality is I’ve revisited locations before and returned with a shot I was much more proud of because I had better conditions and my skills as a photographer developed significantly, so my image was stronger overall. Places like beaches are highly influenced by weather – high tides can shape sand dunes, things can wash up on the shore, rocks can move and morph. It’s highly unlikely you can go to a location twice and have it look the exact same. I’ve taken 2 shots of the same composition and come back with 2 very different images. As you get more familiar with an area you’ll learn how it interacts with nature. Take the photo below as an example – it was a complete surprise that the water would wash over these rocks and create a waterfall effect. I’ve been waiting over 8 months for this to happen again, but the tide just hasn’t been high enough during the light hours for me to get it again. If I had have visited this place once without the tide there, I would have assumed nothing would come of it. It’s only by going back week after week that I’ve learnt how different this place can look.
Above: A photo taken in my early days, complete with old cringe watermark. My skills have since developed, and I've been waiting forever to recreate this image.
You’ll become the local expert.
If you have a gallery full of local gems there is a higher chance people will recognise your work. This is beneficial for networking and exposure, as people will see you as “that local photographer” and there will be a higher chance someone will purchase or commission work from you. By focussing in on certain local areas, your work will have a higher chance of connecting with that local audience more and could influence them to refer you to others.
You can do a lot with a little.
Just remember that great landscape photography isn’t just about the world’s best waterfalls or stunning snowcapped mountains. Great composition, foreground elements and conditions to match can create world-class images. It’s just like Uncle Ben said – with great power, comes great compositions… or something like that. *** This article was first published on Jake Traynor Films