I’ve been asked a few times recently as to why I rarely share specifically where my photos have been taken or why I don’t write down exact settings for many of my images. Instead of answering the question directly, I thought I’d put together a blog post on what my process is in finding my locations, that way you can do research and find your own too!
Tip 1 – Visualise..
I know it sounds a bit weird, but the photos of mine that I love the most are the ones where I’ve started with a specific type of image in mind, a general look and feel, I can see the photo in my mind before I’ve even found the place to take it. This image here was taken in The Otways Ranges, Victoria, Australia
I had been thinking for a very long time that I wanted to find a mossy green creek bed to photograph, I had a general idea of what I wanted and a few things on my “wish list”. I was out exploring the Otways with this shot in mind and found the creek bed that ticked all the boxes.. as far as I know, this creek bed had not been photographed before I found it. I’ve not seen any other photos of it to date and I originally photographed it in 2006. I would have never captured this image if I hadn’t already had the image that I wanted to create in my mind.
Tip 2 – Research, Research, Research!
Once I have an image in mind, I will start to research possible locations, for this, google is your friend! I have had some images that I’ve wanted to capture in mind for several years, but have not been able to find the right locations just yet. What I do to find potential locations is a combination of things:
– Google Earth is a great tool for finding locations anywhere in the World! It helps me find potential angles and check out the surrounds of where I’m going to be travelling to.. street view can be alright sometimes, but I don’t use it all that much.
– NearMap – As far as I know this is just an Australian site for now, but it is a much higher resolution, so you can get closer to the areas you want to explore, although their coverage isn’t all of Australia yet, just metro and surrounds at the moment.
– The Photographers Ephemeris – This is an iPad and Android app that you simply *must* have as a photographer, it’s not cheap for these devices, but there is a free desktop version that runs on Adobe Air.. It will let you know where and when the sun will rise and set, what phase the moon is in and rising and setting times for it as well.. perfect for working out morning or afternoon light!
– Tourism Information Desks / Booths – These guys are a source of very valuable information, as they will most likely be locals and will be able to guide you to locations if you describe what you are after.
– other photographers – I’m usually cautious about doing this.. as I don’t want to go and copy their images, I don’t want to have a pre-conceived composition many times too.. that said, sometimes when it’s a highly photographed location.. it pays to have a look at other photographers images so that you can avoid the most common compositions!
Tip 3 – Do the leg work (and the kilometers)
I’ve long ago lost track of how many kilometres I’ve travelled searching for and exploring places to take photos, many of these trips have just been location scouting, keeping note of places I need to come back to at a better time of day or a different time of year. Many photographers will only head out during the “golden hours” of sunset and sunrise.. but get there earlier, or the day before and check out your location ahead of time. Build up a database of locations that you would like to shoot, angles and compositions for when the light and weather are right for the shot.
To give an indication of how many kilometres I do.. I bought my Nissan Navara 4×4 in September last year.. since then I’ve done just over 45,000kms in it, I’ve not even owned it a year yet! This takes a lot of time and a heap of money in petrol and food and accommodation.. but it’s been worth it. Some of the locations I’ve found are incredible and are just begging to be photographed in the right conditions. Just in the last 4 weeks I’ve clocked up nearly 6000 kms in trips to the Gold Fields and down to the Southern Ocean. I’ve come away with some of the best photos I’ve ever captured as well.
I’m sorry if I don’t share all my locations and most of them I don’t share publicly.. I put a lot of time and effort to find them and I would rather people focus on my art work than trying to figure out exact locations and how I shot it.. The intended audience for my art work is really the general public.. not other photographers :) That said.. if you send me a private message or email, I’ll share some of my locations.. depending on the image. Some places I’ll never share, others I’m still waiting until I’ve managed to capture the image that I’m after.
Keep getting out there and keep shooting!