Familiar Ground

November 19, 2020  •  Leave a Comment

Can a location become "worn out" with nothing left to photograph? 

I don't think so.

To be sure, shooting somewhere new is an exciting challenge. Who doesn't enjoy exploring a location you've never seen or worked previously? It's interesting. It can boost your creativity. If you feel like you've been in a rut, it might push you out of those well-worn tracks.  

But unless you're planning on endlessly globetrotting in search of unfamiliar destinations, at some point you'll find yourself revisiting old haunts. Embracing areas you already know can improve the quality your work.

Nothing looks exactly the same from one visit to the next. Locations change from year to year; with the seasons; from one day to the next; from morning, to mid-day, to night. The light is different. Weather conditions vary. Water levels change. Vegetation grows. And on, and on, and on.

Slow down. Open your mind to see new things. Expand your horizons.

Challenge yourself to find new ways to make photographs at places you've worked before. There are many ways to do this. Limit yourself to using one lens; leave the in others in the bag. Move around to look for unusual angles. Don't normally make panoramics? Try one. If you usually work in color, create compositions with black and white processing in mind. Vary your shutter speed. Employ intentional camera movement. Visit during a different time of day.

Challenge yourself by eliminating a favorite location from your itinerary the next time you visit a well-worked area. Force yourself to find something different. Look for another back road; a new hiking trail; an alternative vantage point.

There's something to be said for revisiting familiar ground. Your eye improves. You notice things you didn't see previously. Your artistic vision expands. You move beyond postcard shots. The better you know a location, the more effectively you'll be able to capture it.

The image below was made at a tidal pool on the Atlantic Coast at Rye, New Hampshire: one of my "familiar spots." In the broader sense, it was always the same: the sea, the rocks, the horizon - yet each shoot could be wildly different (which is what attracted me to that location). Other than the tidal situation, I never knew what I'd find. Reasonably close to home, I worked there regularly. As with any location, sometimes it was maddening - but it was never boring!

TranquilTranquilColorful palette in the eastern sky at daybreak is reflected in a large tidal pool. A long exposure blurs the ocean beyond, contrasting nicely with the still water in the foreground. (Rye, New Hampshire)


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