The Power of Familiarity in Photography

In landscape photography, there is a powerful reason why it's important to have a go-to location, which cannot be overstated. While the attraction of venturing into new and potentially uncharted territory may be strong, there also exists meaningful value in revisiting familiar spots time and again. This article will delve deeper into the significance of returning to familiar locations and how it can enhance your photographic skills and artistic expression.

Understanding the Landscape

Confidence in navigating the intricacies of a landscape is fundamental in capturing its essence through your shots. By returning to familiar locations, you can develop an intimate understanding of the terrain, its contours, and its moods. With each visit, you can uncover new facets of the landscape, from hidden vantage points to subtle changes in lighting and weather conditions. This increasing familiarity empowers you to anticipate and seize the perfect moments for capturing breathtaking imagery and banger shots.

Evolving Perspectives

The passage of time brings with it an evolution in perspective. Returning to the same location over days, months, and years allows us to witness the landscape's transformation through different seasons and varying weather patterns. What once seemed ordinary may now reveal itself in extraordinary ways, as we adapt our vision and photographic eye to the changing canvas of nature. Each visit offers fresh opportunities for experimentation, pushing the boundaries of our creativity and skills and expanding our artistic opportunities.

Capturing Moments in Time

Nature, as you know, can be a master of fleeting beauty and light, with every moment presenting a unique view. By revisiting familiar locations, we can document the landscape's ever-changing conditions, from the soft hues of dawn to the fiery glow of sunset. Through patient observation and careful planning, we can encapsulate the feeling of a place across different times of the day and year, creating a visual story that goes beyond just imagery to evoke emotions and stir the soul of both us and the viewers.

Building a Portfolio

A varied portfolio is the hallmark of any seasoned landscape photographer. While venturing into new territory may yield stunning results, returning to familiar locations ensures a consistent body of work that reflects one's style and vision. By understanding and ultimately mastering the subtleties of specific environments, we can cultivate a distinctive look and feel that sets us apart in a crowded field. This sense of identity not only strengthens our brand but also establishes a deeper connection with our audience, who come to recognize and appreciate our unique perspective. It can also be great to look at the entire body of work from the same location to see not only how it changes with each moment but also how our skills and photographic eye have evolved along the way.

Embracing Challenges

Excellence in landscape photography is created in the mix of challenges. Returning to familiar locations provides a safe yet stimulating environment for honing technical skills and overcoming creative hurdles. Whether it's grappling with harsh lighting conditions, refining composition techniques, or experimenting with new equipment, each visit presents an opportunity for growth and self-discovery. By embracing challenges head-on, we can push the boundaries of our skills and emerge stronger, more resilient, and more inspired than before.

Connecting With the Landscape

Beyond mere observation lies a deeper, more meaningful connection with the landscape. Returning to familiar locations creates a sense of intimacy and belonging, as we immerse ourselves in the sights, sounds, and sensations of the natural world. This connection with nature can go beyond the act of photography itself, becoming somewhat of a spiritual journey of self-discovery and growth. With each click of the shutter, we can not only capture moments in time but also etch our stamps and emotions onto the images we take of the landscape. These locations can also become an area of comfort, in that we no longer need to search out the best spots as we are acutely aware and familiar with most of them already, so we can match the compositions to the light and conditions much easier.

Finding Inspiration in Familiarity

While the attraction of new areas may beckon, there is solace and inspiration to be found in the familiar. Returning to a location can often reignite the spark of creativity, as we rediscover the beauty and wonder that first captivated our hearts. Whether it's the familiarity of a winding path, the comfort of a familiar view, or the nostalgia of past adventures, each visit stirs the imagination and fuels the creative spark. We can often find sanctuary, inspiration, and the freedom to express ourselves authentically.


In conclusion, the significance of returning to familiar locations in landscape photography cannot be overstated. From deepening one's understanding of the landscape to evolving perspectives, capturing fleeting moments in time, and building a cohesive portfolio, the benefits are substantial enough not to be ignored. By embracing challenges, creating connections with the landscape, and finding inspiration in familiarity, we can elevate our skills to new heights. So, while the draw of new adventures may beckon, there is immense value in revisiting the places that hold a special significance in our photographic journey.

I have many places that tick all the above boxes for me, and one in particular is Ballycotton, which is on the east side of Cork, Ireland. Its unusual black-painted lighthouse sits proudly on the horizon, and the ever-changing ocean waves add many different aspects to my shots with every visit. A perfect case in point for this is in the video I have included above. I have photographed here many times and each time not only did I come away with a shot, but the conditions were different. However, in all my years here, I had never encountered such calm water close to the shore; it is known for its wild waves, and while wild waves were crashing just off the shore, what I had were calm areas of water which allowed me to see into the underworld that lies just beneath the surface, offering me a whole new perspective on a familiar location.

Thanks for reading. I’d love to hear your thoughts and also, more importantly, areas that you have that offer you the chance to return and how they have helped your photography.

Darren Spoonley's picture

Darren J. Spoonley, is an Ireland-based outdoor photographer, Podcaster, Videographer & Educator with a passion for capturing the beauty of our world.

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The familiarity of returning to a place many times affords the opportunity to discover something that had been hidden from view previously… figuratively speaking. I'll often remark, upon going back to the same place I'd been many times before: "How come I never saw that before?" Once every few years I give myself a personal project of photographing an amaryllis plant every day for the duration of its life, about two weeks. Not just the same picture from the same angle, but an entirely unique perspective. After a few days, I’m really familiar with the subject. And the more familiar I become with it, the more creative I become.

The same creative approach can be applied to landscapes. Keep looking at the same subject for a different perspective. I am fortunate to live close (as in immediately adjacent) to a US federal park called Colorado National Monument, filled with canyons and rock monoliths, and picture postcard shots wherever you look. In winter, we get temperature inversions where cold air sinks to the valley floor while it’s warmer at higher elevations. A look at the weather forecast the night before will often suggest the occurrence of fog the next morning. Knowing when and where to go for certain rock formations and trees comes from familiarity, and often produces unique images that a casual visitor to the area would not experience.

Fantastic playground to have so close 🤩 I like your example the plant also

I agree. I have lived a 1/2 to 1 hour drive from some very scenic trailheads in Tonto National Forest for 11 years. I have photographed that area in all weather & in all light.

It’s a super thing to have to hone skills and experiment too 👏

In the last few years there has been a trend of articles and vlogs “How to photograph like Ansel Adams” all that I have read and viewed miss the mark of Ansel’s true mastery that he learned and honed on masterpieces like Monolith: Face of Half Dome, El Capetian (in a variety of seasons and views) feature up and down the valley and it’s surrounding mountains. He lived there! Thought the knowledge and experience he learned how to recognized “good” light and how to photograph it, in time it almost becomes a sixth sense and almost see it coming. Once you have these skills they can be applied to even unfamiliar locations.

That’s a good point for sure! Having a familiar subject and location helps in this quest? I bet he photographed these locations hundreds of times before finding that perfect shot and wasn’t his first rodeo at a specific location?

I’m sure that is possible, probable however I doubt it. Possibly over his long photographic career of some roughly 60 years of a specific subject, but from the same location enters the doubt. Over the course of any good photographer life they only show their very best, especially a master like Ansel Adams. You need also to consider Adams was shooting large format 8x10 and 4x5 and averaged around 12 sheets of film for a days outing. Two exposures per subject was usual, often the second image was only as a backup of the first exposure. It is widely excepted his view on exposure bracketing was a sign of insecurity.

In the making of his “Monolith: Face of Half Dome” it was only his second or third hike/climb to the location known as The Diving Board. He only had one of 12 sheets of film upon reaching this destination, and made one of his most famous masterpieces, at the age of 25.

He continued to photograph this feature dozens of times from a variety of locations and printing only about a dozen and a half of them, up to 1960 and this image “Moon and Half Dome” :

This site has possible the largest online collection of his work, but keep in mind nothing online or in printed publications come close to see an actual prints made by Adams. On your next or first trip to Yosemite take the time to visit the Ansel Adams Gallery in the valley they should have some originals.

Another enjoyable video
Preference was for the last 3 shots, I liked the idea for the earlier shots but unrealistically I wanted sharp rocks under the water.
for the comparison shots, preferred the lower viewpoint.
Go raibh maith agat.

Thank you very much Mark! Ya the movement albeit slight in the water was a challenge for clear / sharp underwater
Thanks for watching
Delighted you enjoyed it