Home Sweet Home - Shooting Locally
December 10th 2020

This blog was initially published on the Shutter Evolve website.  I have followed Jimmy McIntryre for a number of years, and highly recommend his fantastic tutorials which cover a wide breadth of photography topics.  Check them out below.
ShutterEvolve: Shooting Locally – Home Sweet Home


Towering snow-capped mountains, their foothills cloaked in swirling mists, cascading waterfalls cutting through old growth forests, raging seas crashing around soaring sea stacks and cypress tree covered hills highlighted by the setting sun; scenes we are drip-fed on social media and subsequently dream of spending our time touring between, bemoaning the lack of stunning locations on our doorstep.

There is a certain romance associated with travelling to faraway places to capture these evocative scenes, but the reality can sometimes be very different! Frantically trying to marry locations and weather conditions, battling hordes of photographers jostling for position and the stress inducing non-photography tourists who dare wander into frame shooting selfies. However, these same issues are not normally associated with shooting locally, and with the current travel restrictions Covid-19 has demanded, focusing locally is even more relevant leading me to explore some of the positives of keeping photography close to home.

The SunStar

The famous Durdle Door sunstar, a phenomenon only appearing for a few weeks during the dead of winter.

Shooting Locally
For me, living on the Dorset coastline I’m lucky to be within an hour’s drive of any Dorset location and would class that as local, although others may be slightly more lenient with their ‘local’ radius. Admittedly, it may not be as exciting a prospect, but focusing your energies on shooting locally can have many positives and while it may feel like there is little on offer, in truth there is likely an abundance of natural beauty nearby which may have previously been taken for granted. Let’s explore some of the reasons for focusing locally:

- Capturing images of locations that may not be deemed spectacular focuses the mind and avoids the complacency that can creep in with epic locations – you cannot necessarily rely on the grandeur of the scene to carry the image.

- Working with these less impressive scenes will challenge you to improve your artistic and compositional skills whilst allowing your personal style to develop.

- The sense of satisfaction when succeeding in creating stunning images at these locations.

- The minimal travel, time and cost commitments of shooting locally promote continued exploration.

- The ability to tweak and hone compositions and to return in various conditions and seasons - be that woodland visits in spring and autumn or shooting coastal shots when the sun rises in a particular position.

- It may take additional effort to see past the more familiar images but getting out frequently will aid this and the increased exploration will have obvious health benefits – always a huge positive!

- Flexibility and responsiveness to change plans, or head out on the fly, to best suit the conditions of the day.

- The opportunity to meet, and learn from, other local photographers.

- It’s easy to practice, return time after time, scout, learn the best locations and conditions and apply this knowledge to produce stunning, unique imagery.

Frank's Dawn

Portland Bill Lighthouse, only 15 minutes from home and my go-to location for winter storms.

Exploration and Uncovering Hidden Gems
As landscape photography is so reliant on the right type of light and conditions, scouting locations is a valuable exercise. Being able to spend time understanding a location and how it will interact with certain conditions, be that weather conditions or seasonal change, will massively increase the likelihood of capturing images you’re happy with. Not only is this time a fantastic way to spend a couple of peaceful hours but wandering without the specific goal of creating images can free the mind to see compositions. Knowing a location well will give you a head start when conditions are right; both in knowing where special conditions will most likely occur and utilising those conditions with pre-visualised compositions. Having a number of potential compositions, or nearby locations, in hand can allow you to work effectively with the available light and ensure you make the most of conditions.

There is also the exciting possibility of uncovering a hidden gem; either a composition, or for the lucky few, a location no-one has shot before. The image below would not have been possible if it were not a location local to me. This amazing scene was stumbled upon following a failed bluebell shoot where forecasted mists failed to materialise; this allowed me to wander the area without the pressure of creating an image and eventually sniff out this stunning garlic covered grove. With the scene and potential compositions locked down, I was lucky enough to hit perfect conditions on my third visit but would have continued returning over the following week if not.

Woolland Woods

A hidden gem, deep in the heart of Dorset, stumbled upon whilst foraging for new locations.

Business Opportunities
From a business perspective, becoming a local area expert with a strong portfolio can deliver recognition and a potential revenue stream. While images of the Scottish Highlands, Icelandic waterfalls or rolling Tuscan hills will always have a market, it’s a large and over saturated market, one that will be difficult to break into; the local market however, will be far less competitive and offer those looking for a return on their invested hours the opportunity to do so. Marketing yourself locally will always prove a far cheaper and more achievable option.

Due to that essential connection and familiarity that locals will have with the scenes of your imagery, there is an opportunity to sell prints, cards, calendars and even use local art fairs as a selling platform. Furthermore, that learnt knowledge and expertise of both the camera and the local area can provide opportunities to deliver local photography workshops, and from there who knows – you could be leading your own workshops to dream locations such as Iceland and the Faroe Islands.

The Harbourside

Frequent visits can pay dividends when the light finally complies.

#supportlocal
Whilst finding motivation to regularly shoot familiar locations can be difficult, these locations will normally offer more opportunity than fleeting visits to iconic locations present. Having lived in Dorset the majority of my life, I am still astounded by the beauty the county boasts and the number of places I would have been oblivious to had it not been for photography.

This increased familiarity, the ability to scout, to experiment and to return in different conditions and seasons, removes some of the pressure and drastically improves the chance of creating something special, and more importantly, an increasingly rare opportunity to create a truly unique image. It also offers the time to practice and hone skills, both in technical terms and also in artistic and compositional vision, so when those iconic world-beating locations are on the radar, you can take full advantage.

The Other Way

Returning to a location frees you from shooting the obvious image and allows experimentation.  

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