Friday, October 17, 2014

How To Capture Unique Photographs of Iconic Locations

It's the big question whenever I travel to well known, highly photographed locations: how do I capture something unique? If there are millions of look-alike images, how do I break that mold?

Rock Behind Ice Plant - Morro Bay, CA
I mentioned in my last post that I'm heading to Yosemite National Park this weekend. I've never been, and I'm really looking forward to it. What I don't want to do is make a bunch of exposures that look like everyone else's.

A place like Yosemite has been photographed millions and millions of times. Not only do tens of thousands of people snap photos of the park each year, but there are people who basically dedicate their lives to photographing the place. How do I over this weekend create something different than what has already been done?

Capturing unique photographs of iconic locations requires photographic vision. This is a prerequisite. It is not possible with it.

I define photographic vision as a vivid and imaginative conception. Essentially, it is both creativity and previsualization rolled into one. Put more simply, it is adding a bit of yourself to your photographs. There is only one unique you, with your own perspective and approach. By tapping into that you can create images that are different than those captured by others.

One tip is to find less travelled, less viewed angles. Several years ago when I visited the Grand Canyon I hiked to Shoshone Point before dawn to catch the sunrise. It was summer and the park was crowded, yet nobody else was there. No one made that hike. Another example is Morro Bay. I found a lesser known beach entry that provided an uncommon view of Morro Rock.

Sunrise Over Vishnu Temple - Grand Canyon, AZ
Similarly, photographing at times when others aren't around is another idea. This might be at night. This might be in the off season. Times when other photographers are not capturing the scene are great opportunities for you to be doing so.

Finally, one can use unusual equipment to capture unique photographs. If everyone else is using a wide-angle lens, pull out a telephoto lens. If everyone is using a telephoto, attach a wide-angle to your camera. Perhaps use something really unusual like a Holga camera. If you are doing something different, your photographs will be different.

The impossible prospect of capturing unique photographs of iconic locations isn't quite as daunting as it at first seems. Yes, it is difficult, and requires the photographer to do his or her absolute best. But it is far from an impossible proposition.

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