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Canon 1DS Mk III, f/13 @1/15 sec, ISO 100, 24mm (24-105 EF L), no filters

Returning to familiar locations over and over again is one of the great challenges for any landscape or nature photographer. It’s also one of the best ways to develop your skillset and build confidence at the same time. It’s real work to find new images from locations  you think have no fruit left to bear, but nothing could be further from the truth. It’s one of the great fallacies in landscape photography, and any experienced photographer will tell you the best images come when you push your limits, and not necessarily your skymiles. It’s one of my great joys as a photographer.

I have photographed at Dennings Point in all conditions and weather, yet there is always something extra to discover if you look hard enough. Between the changing tides of the Hudson, the micro-climate of the valley, and the broad ridge line of the Appalachian montains to the east, it’s a very dynamic location.

But how do you find new images? How can the same basic view continue to provide visual material for interesting images? It’s a question I’ve challenged myself to answer for years, and the lessons I’ve learned are numerous and valuable.

Here is as suggestion.

Find someplace you enjoy visiting, a place that makes you feel good. I don’t care where it is or how often you’ve been there. It starts inside first.

Without the connection, you’re just making postcard images, regardless of where you are. If you can connect with a place that is far from home, great! But the more common scenario for most of us is that we only have the time and resources to truly get to know the places we live close to.

For example, I have visited and hiked around Moab, Utah nine times in the past ten years. I’ve made lots of images there.  But I’ve only started to get really comfortable with the character of the area,  a sense that I understand what makes the area what it is, the past year or so. And I’ve learned that the better I know a place, any place, the better my images become.

I’m not suggesting you shouldn’t travel, nor am I suggesting you can’t make great images on the first or second visit. Many of my workshop students make great images visiting a location for the first time. But if you ask them, they feel there is more to discover, a sense that the truly great images are out of reach – for the time being.

I’m talking about going deeper. Finding more meaning in your photography of a location that is broader than just one or two images, but encompasses a body of work. For that to happen, you need access to a place – mental and physical access.

And that takes time, pure and simple.

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This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. Thanks for the insights, Robert! Great article!

    I, too, found that I make great images when I’m at a location only when I truly connect with that place then and there. I also found that the most beautiful images I can make are only when I am close to the essence of that place. Whether it’s a nature photograph of some beautiful trees, or flowers in special kind of light, using special photo techniques, or it is a landscape photo that I shoot differently. It is really like capturing the essence in that image I make. 😀

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