New Locations and How A Photographer Can Find Them

New Locations and How A Photographer Can Find Them

When I was younger, my dad took a class on photography at a local community college. To this day, he says that the biggest thing he learned from the class was that to take interesting pictures, you have to go to interesting places. I suppose that if you are a travel, landscape, or nature photographer, that is true. What a lot of people don’t realize is that interesting places are all around us. Having grown up in Ohio, I always thought that I was stuck in a dreary, featureless landscape of corn and soybeans.

While partially correct, that notion was thrown aside when I sat down one evening and told myself that I would scour the internet for some new locations. I thought about how Ohio has so many state parks, (and even a national park), and thus, there had to be something worth capturing somewhere. The list that I came up with was almost three pages long with 30 unique locations. 

This was the product of roughly thirty minutes of searching. I searched Google for some state parks, looked through Instagram pages, such as Ohio Explored, and found photographers using hashtags of areas or cities. This quick search gave me a rough idea of how many places I could potentially visit. The best part was that I was able to see pictures to gain an understanding of what the location was like and what sort of weather might work best for it.

Pages like Ohio Explored are awesome for inspiration and encouragement to really check out the area around you.  I was shocked at how many cool places there are in what is seemingly a pretty boring state. Seeing some images that interested me led to a quick search on Google Maps. Surprisingly, a lot of the shots were at small parks less than an acre or two in size, something that could easily be passed by with no real interest. I even looked at a few places that I had already been. A park near my house has a few cool waterfalls and nature trails. Sure enough, I stumbled on something interesting. A nice little waterfall sat at the end of a creek. It took some climbing to get to the right spot, but provided an image that I have printed, which may stay in my portfolio for a while. With nature and landscape work, you have very little control over the situation. When I shoot portraits, I enjoy the ability to create each aspect of the image. Every shadow and highlight is placed because I put it there, whether I realize it or not. If I don’t show up to shoot a landscape at the right time, I’ve missed the opportunity. Because of this, I often find that revisiting locations can yield new and better work. Even in cliché locations, such as Hocking Hills State Park (one of the most overly photographed locations in Ohio), I found some angles that I haven’t seen on Flickr or Instagram. Each individual will find something different that pleases them, and that is why I prefer to experience new places for myself, rather than basing my judgment off of someone else’s experience. This applies to portrait work as well. I happen to live about twenty minutes from downtown Columbus. As any photographer based in a city knows, this provides almost endless possibilities. For portrait and lifestyle work, the city is your best friend. Weather can change everything, but so can walking a few blocks and finding a new alley, piece of architecture, or unexpected park. If you don’t live near a city, you still have some great opportunities. Nature is the best backdrop. You can shoot almost anything in a small nature park or preserve if you point your camera in the right direction. Exploring can be refreshing for your photography as well. I find that I have no stress when I go out to shoot casually. With models or a planned nature shoot, I’m often on a time crunch — maybe I only have a half-hour with them or that golden hour is really only twenty minutes. Being able to slow down and relax with my camera can be awfully revealing. I often find that I could have been doing something differently with my camera or my composition that I hadn’t realized in my haste, or I start to learn more about what could make an interesting image. Sometimes, I point my camera at something and realize that it is a waste of time. Shooting often, even casually, is an incredible way to train yourself in restraint. When I shoot work for printing, I am better able to better analyze all of the image rather than just the subject. Starting out with portrait photography, it is easy to get caught up in that shallow depth of field or perfect catch light, completely missing a distracting element in the background. Waterfalls often capture the attention of a lot of beginning photographers, so much so that they don’t see the low hanging branch or drab landscape in which the waterfall sits, ruining the image. The more you shoot and analyze your work, the better you will get at seeing these flaws while you’re working. Exploring with my camera has also helped tremendously with finding locations for portrait work. It is awfully surprising how many nature shots can double as portrait backdrops. The difference between a wide lens and a 50mm can make a huge difference in how the scene renders. If you don’t get out, explore, and revisit, you could miss that. The biggest weakness that I see in people’s work across the board is a great subject that is presented in an uninteresting way. Product, portrait, nature, sport, and even food photographers can all benefit from spending a little more time with their camera in a new and different situation. Having that refreshing moment with your camera on a cool fall morning or watching a beautiful sunrise can change your workflow, which I’ve learned from experience. Regardless of what state or country you live in, a quick Google or Instagram search could open your eyes to some great images just waiting to be made. 

What are some ways you look for new places?

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13 Comments
Taylor Franta's picture

Yes! I'm glad you posted this. I recently moved away from the mountains and was mildly depressed at first. I eventually realized that was hindering my creativity. After a bunch of scouring the internet and google earth I came up with some new locations. I realized that while location means a lot, ultimately it comes down to the photographer. This is completely in sync with what I've been thinking lately. Great article!

Spencer Lookabaugh's picture

Thank you!

Kyle Medina's picture

Ha you'll have to read what I commented on this topic.

Barry Chapman's picture

Why? From your comment it seems you didn't read the article, or if you did you didn't understand it.

Kyle Medina's picture

So to quote from writer, "What a lot of people don’t realize is that interesting places are all around us. Having grown up in Ohio, I always thought that I was stuck in a dreary, featureless landscape of corn and soybeans."

Now lets jump forward to my comment. I didn't pull my camera out because nothing was of interest because it was just cornfields. Which the writer had the same mentality. Nothing of interest. Until he sat down and started to search.

So, like I said, when I go back Ill be doing the same thing. Because there is always something around. I just never put the effort into in a positive manner.

So did or didn't I understand? or Maybe you didn't read the whole thing?

Barry Chapman's picture

I read the whole thing. Your comment suggested to me that despite what the writer said you still believe that Ohio is nothing but cornfields, irrespective of his findings to the contrary.

You're now saying that you'll try the same thing as he did when you go back. But in your comment you said next time you'll take pictures of cornfields because that's Ohio, which seems to fly in the face of the writer's findings. It also seemed like you were saying everything's better in Colorado (which it may be, but you don't need to rub it in!)

Kyle Medina's picture

Thats why I said, "I won't be back for awhile but next time I'll take some pictures of the cornfields, because that is Ohio."

I don't know if you're from Ohio but Southeast Ohio (Hocking Hills) is vastly different from Northwest Ohio (where I am from). So you can go from fields to the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. Which fits his story. Where my area you don't have that.

Sorry, not sorry, for bringing up Colorado. Jealous or just sensitive? Negative thinking if you thought I was rubbing it in. So, yes it is way better...for me.

Barry Chapman's picture

Unfortunately I'm not personally familiar with Ohio or Colorado (although I know which one I'd want to visit first for photography opportunities). I'm an expat Australian who's visited a lot of countries but I haven't yet had the opportunity to see a lot of the US, outside of the northeast and Florida.

Thanks for letting me know about the distinct regions of Ohio, which I wasn't aware of before.

Kyle Medina's picture

Also being from Ohio and living in Colorado. I TOLD myself I couldn't do this back home. When all you have is cornfields. I flew home for Christmas with all my gear and only got it out once. Why? because I am spoiled with the Rockies. I won't be back for awhile but next time I'll take some pictures of the cornfields, because that is Ohio. The time I did take it out I was photographing my mother, while she does a puzzle. Which is her thing. Which I am still happy that I have. OH!

Bill Peppas's picture

Tracking down nice locations in the US, Iceland, New Zealand, Australia, Norway, is very easy.
Within a few minutes you can find a wealthy amount of locations with all the necessary info.

Try doing the same for a less organized country with significantly less amount of landscape photographers like Greece :p

I normally scout pretty much everything I can look into.
Panoramio.com ( always checking the place to find the same scene from various users to make sure it isn't a badly placed photo pin! )
500px.com with appropriate tags ( greece, greek, hellas, athens, epirus, peloponnese, etc )
shothotspot.com ( sometimes helps, but most of the time it ain't any good for Greece )
instagram ( location hashtags, cities, places, regions )

But most of the time, the best locations, apart from the very well known ones such as Santorini, Meteora, the Parthenon, etc, have been found by hear-say from friends or relatives, and sometimes by luck, cruisin' with the car in unexplored and usually very crappy rough terrain and luckily spotting something :p

Peter Nord's picture

Having lived in both Ohio and Colorado I find the stereotyped views of each amusing. While corn fields may be flat, there's nothing flatter than a Colorado sugar beet field, nor more boring drive from Idalia to Denver. Well maybe the drive from Cincinnati to Columbus might be close. Uniqueness is where you find it. Remember there are no lightning bugs in Colorado.

Shannon Palmer's picture

Very well-timed article! I just got home not too long ago from traveling around Norway and once I came home I was beyond bummed at the limited opportunities for landscape and travel photography around Baltimore, MD. To try to beat the depression I've been doing exactly what you said (searching instagram for cool spots, googling interesting hikes/vistas nearby) and it's been working somewhat well. There aren't any huge waterfalls or snow-capped mountains here, but I'm making the best and exploring as much as possible. Maybe the real solution is to stop following so many epic instagram accounts because, by nature, I end up comparing my work with theirs and there's no way the landscape of Maryland can compare with Banff :] I've seriously been contemplating moving somewhere so that I have new places to explore (or maybe even just renting an apartment for a few months) but then I go down the rabbit-hole of realizing I don't have the funds for it... anyway, great article! Glad I'm not alone in the struggle for finding new gems!

Alan Klughammer's picture

There is an old teaching trick in photography. Take a hula hoop. Throw it in the air. Take 36* different pictures of where it lands. or a variation, stand where it lands and take 36 different photos.

*of course 36 was based on a roll of film. The point of the exercise is there are countless good photographs all around us every day. Part of the skill of a photographer is recognizing those opportunities...