You’ve very likely heard that phrase before. Wikipedia tells us it’s a cliché used by property experts. It’s the three most important factors in determining the desirability of a property —- “location, location, location“. And dare I also say for some businesses to be successful as well.
I contend “location” is also a VERY big deal for landscape and wildlife photographers. Oftentimes when I publish a photograph on social media or some such, someone will ask me where it was taken. Finding unique locations is one of the more challenging yet rewarding experiences I have as a photographer.
I spend an inordinate amount of time driving down unnamed roads with my head on a swivel scouting and as well as hiking unnamed trails from a wide spot in the road looking for that unusual land feature or a new angle on an old one.
Often times I take my photo tour clients to these special locations so they can experience that one-of-a-kind view. But I oftentimes do not share the locations with the world. This particular waterfall location (below) I found this year is one of those times.
I, and hundreds of other people, have flown over this area many, many times every year. But usually from a higher altitude and further inland. One day we just happened to be very low flying over this expansive area and also just happened to fly directly over the top of these falls. It’s just one of those unusual places that you would not expect to be in this location. There’s absolutely no way to land here other than by helicopter.
Here is a behind the scenes video I made of shooting at this location and also a look at how the image was processed in Lightroom.
New location finding is one of the things I support you in doing to help make your photography stand out from others. Sure, you may go to the same park or nature trails as many others, but then go off exploring in a different direction and looking for something less people have found.
One tool I use that allows me to begin to find those unique locations is viewing topographical maps of places I’m about to go. Oftentimes on the map there’ll be a trail shown or an old road that I’m not aware of. And just knowing that allows me to have a more keen sense of awareness when I’m out there looking for that particular spot. Also on topographical maps, one can see by the contour lines what may make a unique image because of some steep valleys or drop off cliffs.
And another option, of course, is going on photo tours with photographers who have those off the beaten path secret locations is always a good bet. Likely they’ll be much less people having the same photos there.
I’m just not wild about creating the same shots everyone else is shooting. Certainly, there’s something intriguing about making a photograph of a famous place that is similar to other photographers’ work, but I find it more rewarding and more of an adventure-life-experience when I find a new location on my own.
For instance, I don’t go to Brooks Falls and photograph the bears there. That’s where the famous photos of a salmon flying into the mouth of a waiting brown bear are made. Everybody and their brother seem to have that photo or want it. I don’t.
I went to Brooks Falls twice over the years and I shot photos that were different than the normal salmon jumping shot. So that was a worthwhile experience. But overall, I just don’t care to shoot the same picture as others.
I first got intrigued with scouting new locations as I was growing up as a kid in California. Once I got my driver’s license, I drove to a lot of different state and local parks and plenty of hiking looking for those unusual locations.
Finding that new, great setting certainly can help with making an exceptional photograph—- As does the lighting and the subject matter. But also, it’s what you do with the scene or setting that separates you from others. Using the “Art” gene that’s in your heart to create a different composition is one aspect to making the image better. And then there’s the utilization of the “Science” of photography you’ve learned to make your photo look “different” somehow — longer or shorter exposure, more or less depth of field, etc. While you may be in the same place at the same time with another photographer, I suggest you do all you can to come up with a different take on it than others have done.
And that’s what I really enjoy about photography—it is creating an image that speaks to me. One that I truly enjoy. I think if I create an image that pleases me, then the image will please others as well.
Shoot more, and shoot often…