Why Returning To A Photographic Location Is Such A Good Idea
With so much of the world to explore and photograph, it can sometimes feel like a waste of time to revisit a location which you have already tried to represent photographically. However, when all the possible variables come into play, one location can offer huge scenic differences only months, weeks or even days apart.
What is your objective?
Before you head out to your location of choice, it’s important to assess what your primary purpose of visiting is and be clear in your head regarding your objectives for the shoot. In some situations, I am very keen to replicate work that I have done in the past, in fact, it can be a very rewarding project idea to keep visiting a location, putting your tripod in exactly the same spots each time.
This way, you can clearly represent the changes within the scene and compare the images from previous visits. In contrast to aiming to take the same shots as you have done in the past, you may feel that you want to approach the location with a fresh perspective and represent it in a completely different way. I would suggest that this is a far more challenging and creative way to approach this type of work.
Knowing What To Expect
When revisiting a location, there is one distinct advantage and one distinct disadvantage. The advantage is that in the most part, you’ll know what to expect. Having visited before, you won’t have to spend time finding your way around and searching for the best vantage points.
However, this is also your greatest disadvantage, as the familiarity will block out your original inspiration. When visiting for the first time you have fresh eyes and a new awareness of the location and it’s easy to feel inspired. Upon the second visit, it can be difficult to feel the same level of inspiration, so you have to think creatively, try and view the scenes before you in a new and interesting way and I find this really helps me to develop my photographic eye and aid my quest to take more engaging photographs.
How To Keep A Fresh Perspective
Even though you may feel you know the location, take your time to soak in the scene before you, noticing the differences compared to your previous visit and engaging with the aspects of the location that you worked with before.
Certain elements of the location will be different, so it may be a good idea to work with them to begin with. But maybe explore slightly further and deeper than you have done previously, following that path that you’ve not had time to walk down before, or simply facing the opposite direction at previous viewpoints.
It’s All About The Light
The main differential, and in my mind the primary reason for revisiting a location, is the change in the light. This element has the greatest affect on your photographs, and it’s essential to appreciate this and learn how to work with the available light effectively.
Many photographers like to work within the golden hours, around sunrise and twilight, as they believe it offers the warmest and ‘best quality’ light, so you may want to plan your visit around those times. Visiting at a different time of year will offer a different type of light, the summer will offer more direct light for a longer period of time, where as the winter months will have much softer light which will come and go far quicker.
Regardless of which day you visit, the light will change as the hours pass, so it’s important to be aware of that and know that waiting that extra hour or so might just make the difference to your shots!
Seasonal Natural Features
As all you landscape photographers know, seasonal changes can be a huge blessing, (or you can spend days on end cursing the poor weather!) and it’s well worth taking advantages of the changing scenery through the year.
Not only do the trees, flowers and crops change, the wildlife and light vary as well, offering contrasting contexts for the same scenes. There may well be a location that you’ve visited in the extremes of winter, that you’d love to represent on a summer evening.
On a far less extreme level, a tree in spring may have large buds one week, and then blossoming flowers the next, so consider the possible changes and developments of the scenery and don’t wait around. Where seasons and the weather are concerned, you have to take your chances!
Engaging With The Atmosphere
With all these seasonal and light changes, the atmosphere of a location can change completely compared with your previous visit. As a photographer, it’s important to be sensitive to this change and to work accordingly. Get a feel for the environment you’re working in.
This will depend mainly upon the available light, whether it lends itself to a warm feel to the shots, whether it suggests something more ethereal, a shot with strong contrasts or a shot with a cold stark feel. The subject matter will naturally lend itself to a specific type of shot, particularly when the seasonal element involved.
You may find you want to capitalize on those aspects and maximize defined seasonal feel, or you may want to stray away from a distinct feel for a specific time of year and represent the scene in a more abstract or alternative way.
Events & Occasions
When considering revisiting locations of a more urban or populated environment, it’s well worth planning your visit for a specific occasion or event, whether that’s Independence Day, Labor Day, a national holiday or a carnival. Revisiting a place on a day like this will show it in a completely different way.
It will really enable you to highlight some of the features that you worked with before in a different and exciting way. People are far more responsive to having their picture taken on days like these and it will enable you to capture the essence of not only the location, but also the community and its residents.
You may have a particularly favorite location that you’ve got great results at in the past. You also may have locations in which you’ve come away disappointed with your shots and have almost given up on that specific place.
I would challenge you to attempt that location again. Select your day and time carefully, plan ahead using weather forecasts and give it another try. Given another chance with different light and atmosphere, you may rediscover why you felt it was a good location to visit in the first place.
Give it a try!
In some cases I have found that my experience on the second visit is more fruitful than the first, however, sometimes it’s hard to beat the first set of shots you took. It can be very interesting to compare the results from the shoots.
Apart from the natural differences within a scene, it’s important to remember that there will be personal differences, you may have learned some new photographic techniques, have a new piece of equipment or have been recently inspired by a collection of photographic work. All of these will influence your work.
I view returning to a location as an artistic challenge. It forces me to really work for my shots and think creatively and as far as I’m concerned, that’s no bad thing.