The Best Thing You Can Do to Improve Your Landscape Photography

When you schedule a couple weeks for landscape photography, do you revisit locations from prior trips? It’s tempting to visit new places, but if you want to drastically level-up your portfolio quality, start investing more time in one spot.

In his weekly vlog, Nigel Danson shares how spending more time at a location — often without snapping any photos — has immensely improved the quality of his imagery, particularly compositions. That can mean spending hours or days at the same landmark, or revisiting it throughout the trip.

More time and more tries yield better quality images. It’s not a particularly controversial observation, but one that can be surprisingly difficult to justify to yourself at first. After all, giving up variety to focus on a few shots is fairly risky. You might come away from two days of shooting with nothing, and from personal experience, that can very well be the case.

I’ve spent the last couple months photographing landscapes in the U.K. Four of those weeks were spent in the town of Ambleside in the Lake District, where I revisited the same fells between two and ten times. Only a handful of visits produced portfolio-quality images.

Consequently, my portfolio is not particularly flush with variety, and I took fewer images over two months than I have on previous two week trips. But the difference in quality and the rate of improvement has completely redefined my portfolio, instead of simply expanding it. My top photographs from the Lake District came on the third and seventh visits, and a shot of Mam Tor in the Peak District took three visits. On some occasions, I left my camera behind so I could focus on scouting the area rather than shooting mediocre compositions.

It may not be a controversial idea, but it may be an unnerving one if you’re accustomed to variety. But if you make it a priority, you will see unprecedented improvement.

Do you make time to revisit locations or spend hours just scouting a location? Do you see a significant improvement in your portfolio over the last year?

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8 Comments

Jordan McChesney's picture

I couldn’t agree more. I’ve been to lake Kawaguchi 3 times for photography, and every time I’ve gotten a different image. It seems like the more time I spend there, the more new locations, compositions, and idea I think of. It’s so much easier to get the shot when you’re not fumbling around trying to find the right spot with the best light in a new location.
Of course, that’s not the only place I often visit. I frequently go up to the same spots in Tokyo or down to southern Kanagawa.
As for if my work improves, it usually depends on if I’m trying something new, or doing something I’ve done dozens of times before.

user-156929's picture

My wife is Japanese and every time we visit her family, in Ukima, we go to a different location. Since you live there, maybe you have some photographic suggestions!? We'll be going to the Ashikaga Flower Park; Kurume, Fukuoka to see the Dai Kannon; and Nikko, which I've been to 3 or 4 times.

Jordan McChesney's picture

These will depend on the season, but personally, my favorite places I’ve ever been with my camera are Lake Kawaguchi (Yamanashi), Mototaki waterfall in Akita, Miyajima in Hiroshima, and Nikko (plenty of good waterfalls there - not just Kengon). If you’re getting a rent a car, basically anywhere in Tohoku is magical. Also, if you’re interested in giant statues, the Ushiku Daibutsu in Ibaraki is a must see. It could make for and interesting photo in the right conditions, as well.

Unfortunately I’ve only been to 22 of the prefectures in Honshu, so I can’t recommend anything in Kyushu, Shikoku, Hokkaido, or Okinawa based on personal experience.

user-156929's picture

I was more specifically interested in the area we're already going this time. I've been to Miyajima about 16 years ago and quite a few other places. I really want to see Hokkaido, eventually, and the Snow Monkeys.
Thanks!

Jordan McChesney's picture

Ok, well, in terms of the places you mentioned, if you haven’t checked out some of the lesser known waterfalls in Nikko, they are worth checking out (Urami falls and Shiraito falls - Ryuzu falls look interesting, but I haven’t been there myself)

user-156929's picture

Thanks!

Michael Lev's picture

Agree completely - one of my daughter said lately - Aba you always go to the same places, isn't it time to relocate. When I showd her the improvement of the pictures from visit to visit she understood ..

The problem is in another realm - from week to week the sunrise point changes and one good angle you found this week next week is no more (:-(

user-156929's picture

I've always wanted to visit Israel but, from a photographic standpoint, thought it was always about the history and architecture. Are there landscape opportunities?