There are only so many locations around me that I have deemed worthy of visiting, of spending time to find a composition. With this in mind, I am left with a choice: travel multiple hours away, or simply revisit locations multiple times a year. Quitting is never an option. Even though I do travel hours away at times – such as when I went camping in Western Pennsylvania or when I went out to Wyoming – I am more often inclined to travel short distances, spending the entire day exploring the same location. Why would a person do this, besides saving for gas?
You May Not Have Explored the Entire Location
Even if you go to the smallest park in the world, I promise you that in a single day, it cannot be explored in its entirety. There is always something more to see when you are outside, whether you are looking at the bigger scenes or those miniscule details on the ground. Often, I will walk around my own back yard with my camera and tripod, looking all around, trying to find a new composition. Every time I do that, I find a new composition. It never fails.
How do I do this, you ask? It’s simple: I look.
I look at the tiny details in the trees; I look down at the ground, admiring the formations of the grass, the rocks, and the leaves. The insects around me, the bugs, the small wildlife: they all make for wonderful subjects. And each time you go back to that same location, you begin to see things you had not noticed before. You form a better knowledge of the area, beginning to notice the intimate parts of it that you never would have seen, had you not come back.
You Are Always Improving Your Skills
With each snap of the shutter, your skills as a photographer grow. With each peak through the viewfinder, you learn of new ways to compose the same old scene. Slowly but surely your camera becomes an extension of your arm, your fingers wrapping around it gently, your skin melting into the rubber grip. (Imagine if this actually happened, like, that would be so cool!)
Think back to when you first picked up a camera, when you first looked through the viewfinder, and snapped that shutter, exposing your first image. Do you remember how bad it was? How it wasn’t composed properly, your exposure was way off. Now, think to the most recent image you took. I bet your exposure is damn near perfect and you nailed that composition. Yeah, you’ve got some work to do to get better – we all do, believe me – but the amount of improvement you have faced over just a few years, maybe even a few months, is simply unbelievable.
Nature is Always Changing
My absolute favorite thing about nature is that it is never, ever the same. You can setup your camera in the same spot every day, shoot the same exact scene with the same settings, and you will get a slightly different image every time. Yes, it may be the most minuscule of details that are changing but still, the scene has changed. One day you may go to a location and the sun will be shining, the wind will be calm, there won’t be a cloud in the sky; the next time you go, rain could be pouring from the skies and the light could be flat as the fields in Montana. That third time you visit could be in the fall, the trees full of vibrant colors; the fourth time, there could be snow on the ground and the trees could be bare. Truly you never know what you are going to get when you revisit a location, time and time again.
You Can Create a Collection or Series
Something I am currently working on (shhh!) is creating a collection. What is a collection, you ask? Well, it is a series of images that tell a story, that go together in one way or another. This could be the same waterfall, composed the same exact way, but shot during each season to show the change it undergoes. Or it could be multiple images from the same location that tell a story of your travels. You get the point, I am sure. By going back to the same location, you are able to create collections like these. The biggest benefit to doing this, besides your work then looking much more consistent, would be for galleries. If you plan to submit your work to a gallery at some point, they are more often than not looking for collections because it simply looks better. Speaking of collections, the galleries I have on my website are configured in such a way that each image goes along with the other. I hope that makes sense…
Also, check out this excellent article by Vaclav Bacovsky, where he created a collection of beautiful images from the same location, photographed during different times of the day, different times of the year and from various viewpoints.
To Wrap Things Up
Just because you cannot drive many hours away to get to a new location does not mean that you should call it quits. Don’t give up on creating something new, something unique just because you are forced to revisit a location. Most of my images have been taken in the same few areas. It’s just that each time I come back to that area, I look for something new. I view the area as though I had never been there before.
Try it out and let me know how it goes!