Today’s post is the first in a series aimed at helping you improve your photography skills and knowledge.
This article explains how I find locations for my landscape trips/shoots and hopefully this will give you some ideas to put into practice.
Finding a Location
There are hundreds of ways to find a good location for a landscape shoot, especially with all the technology we have at our fingertips nowadays.
Although I do at times go far afield in search of that perfect composition, many of my favourite images have come from somewhere local – within half an hour or so’s drive from my home. I recommend that you make that a starting point for yourself.
Why? Because I know the area within half an hour or so of me well and I can also watch the weather conditions develop on the day – so I should have a better chance of finding the the sort of conditions I am looking for. But perhaps just as importantly, being within half an hour means it’s not a chore to get there – it’s within easy reach.
The image below is about 35 minutes by car from me and I spotted it whilst heading off on holiday down to the South West. To get to the A303 means driving right past this rolling downland and it always caught my eye, so I decided to return and walk it to see what I could find. I have since returned several times and have got a range of good compositions in different seasons and different lighting. This one is early summer as the crop is just going over. The moral of the story – keep your eyes open to what’s around you, wherever you are!
“Old School” Methods
Some methods I use include what I guess would now be called a bit “old school” – looking at Ordnance Survey Maps, such as the Explorer Versions, an example of which you can see below. I really like these for the level of detail they give. You can see all the small footpaths which helps you work out how to get to a location and they also show all the orange contour lines, which which link areas of the same height above sea level.
You can use this information to give yourself a visual idea of what the landscape might look like, and how tough it might be to access it! Quick tip – orange contour lines bunched together mean steep slopes which can be great for landscape photography but horrible on your legs!
The Ordnance Survey Website can be found here: https://www.ordnancesurvey.co.uk
Yorkshire Dales – Southern & Western Area
Getting a bit more modern perhaps, I use google earth to search for good photography locations. Here I put in my nearest town or village, or an area I want to research and then zoom in and out looking for interesting parts of the landscape. When I find somewhere interesting, I will switch to the 3D view so that I can scroll around and see the landscape as it might appear to our eyes. This is so helpful in spotting potential locations. Try it if you haven’t – you might just be gobsmacked!
I also use the images tab under the standard Google search. Just type in a location and this is likely to give thousands of useful (and sometimes not as useful !) pictures for you to view. In this way you can get a bit of a feel for somewhere before you choose to head out there. We would all love to have unlimited time but the reality is that we might have to squeeze our photography into a few hours here or there so I try to maximise my chances by using the tools at my disposal.
Magazines and Websites
Other sources to help you find inspiration and good locations are photography magazines such as Outdoor Photography, websites such as Flickr, Ephotozine, Shothotspot and other local or national landscape photographers websites. The image at the top of the page was found in just such a way and was somewhere within 40 minutes of where I lived that I had never previously visited. Seeing a stunning image of the sea defences made me want to head there to see it for myself and see how I might like to photograph it.
The UK is full of amazing landscape locations, just don’t overlook the most local ones to you – visualise them in a way other than the norm, such as that local park lake at sunrise, sunset or with a veil of mist across it. Also, do try and capture your own vision of the location – many will already have been photographed countless times – so try and make your image a new composition and a different take on what is in front of you.
Just Get Out There
The final and probably most widely used method is colloquially known as Shanks’s Pony – using your legs and simply walking. Keep yourself safe but why not go off the beaten path or climb that hill to see what the view is like – what have you got to lose other than a bit of time and energy?
If like me you have a dog then take your camera or phone with you when you walk them. Who knows what stunning light or view you might come across – especially if you get a bit creative with where you walk them! Get out there and enjoy it.
Part 2 of this series will cover what to take and how to plan the landscape shoot.