Practicing Landscape Photography Locally Is Essential for Your Growth

Practicing Landscape Photography Locally Is Essential for Your Growth

Grand trips for landscape photography are exciting and can make it look like you’re really living the landscape photographer life. But practicing your landscape photography locally shouldn’t be underestimated if you want to improve your technical and compositional skills.  

I like to travel as much as the next landscape photographer. I enjoy my trips cross country to photograph places outside my usual locations. Even regional trips that are just a handful of hours away are welcomed.

But if I only practiced my landscape photography on trips rather than locally, my photography skills would take much longer to mature. There are many advantages to practicing your landscape photography locally — no matter where you are!

Regular experience being outside taking pictures is one of the surest ways to improve your technical skills with the camera. You can also practice refining your creative eye when it comes to interesting compositions. Practicing locally allows you to do so more frequently and be more prepared for when you travel for your hobby.

Here are five reasons I think practicing locally positively benefits the landscape photographer.

Practice Technical Camera Skills

There is only one way to improve your technical skills with the camera. You can read book after book and watch video after video, but at some point, you need to put those lessons into practice. The best way to do that is to go outside and practice. 

Practicing locally gives you many more opportunities to practice foundational photography skills — adjusting shutter speed, aperture, and ISO — and more advanced skills like exposure bracketing, focus stacking, and more. These don’t need to be portfolio-worthy images, but it does need to be time outside with the camera and deliberately practicing with it. 

Once you have the basics of getting a good exposure and adjusting the settings to get that exposure, then you can practice doing exposure bracketing and getting a feel for how many stops of light difference you want to capture or learning how to focus stack so you aren’t missing an in-focus frame for blending later. 

Practice until all of this is second nature. Learning these close to home allows you to experiment more and be more confident when you do travel to a far-off destination for your landscape photography.

An additional byproduct is you become more familiar with your camera. Whether that be button locations or little quirks of your camera — you can learn these locally to be better prepared for future travel.

Practice Creative Photography Skills

Similar to learning the technicals of photography, practicing locally affords more opportunities to practice the creative side of photography — primarily composition. 

This is an area I constantly strive to improve in. I make mistakes all the time — take an image, looks good on the back of the camera but get home and I’ve made some error or not left enough room on one edge of the frame or have things protruding into the frame from the edges. 

By practicing composition repeatedly locally, I can more quickly get those repetitions in and learn what works in an image and what doesn’t. Learning this close to home lets me apply it when I travel and hopefully capture more pleasing photos than if I only practice my landscape photography when I travel outside my local area. 

Busy Schedule

Traveling for landscape photography can be challenging to fit into the schedule. At the very least, a long weekend takes me away from responsibilities at home, so these trips often need to be coordinated. Longer trips do the same but also tap into vacation time banks and even more family activities to schedule around. 

If I were only to practice my landscape photography when I traveled, my growth as a photographer would be quite limited. But practicing locally lets me get out much more often. I can head out early in the morning, get the nice soft light of sunrise, and still be home for the rest of the day. Similar to the evening, when I head out after dinner and spend some time outdoors practicing. 

If I only need to spend ten to fifteen minutes to get to a spot, I don’t feel back about only having an hour or two to be out. I can still get a lot done in that time.

Reduce the Expense

Traveling can be expensive; gas, flights, and a place to stay, it all adds up! To keep costs in check, one may only be able to make one big trip a year and maybe a weekend trip or two.  Photographing near home is inexpensive. You don’t need a place to stay, you can often walk, bicycle, or take a short drive and start practicing. 

Photography can be an expensive hobby, practicing your landscape photography locally can help offset some of that expense while still allowing you to enjoy the hobby.

Learn an Area

And finally, practicing your landscape photography locally lets you learn and experience an area over time. On big trips, I hope the weather conditions line up for incredible sunrises, sunsets, or nice light for the scene. If it doesn’t happen, then it doesn’t happen.

When practicing landscape photography locally, I can revisit an area and be more patient with capturing just the right conditions. I can start to notice smaller details that I might have overlooked before. I have more opportunities to refine my compositions for the perfect image if I continue to revisit an area. 

I think practicing landscape photography locally is critical. How about you, do you visit your local areas to practice your technical camera skills and compositions? Let me know in the comments below!

Jeffrey Tadlock's picture

Jeffrey Tadlock is an Ohio-based landscape photographer with frequent travels regionally and within the US to explore various landscapes. Jeffrey enjoys the process and experience of capturing images as much as the final image itself.

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Ohio certainly has its challenges! I have a couple of metro parks that are pretty good to me and only an hour from Hocking Hills which is my real playground!

Yep! Columbus area! And yes, it takes a good amount of rain to help the Hocking Hills waterfalls. Love them in the winter and spring though - but definitely in the dry time right now.

Great article! Your last point of learning an area is paramount in landscape photography. Not only does it allow to visit the area over and over during different times, but it also allows you to compare the growth of your craft too.

Thank you! I hadn't even thought about how well it helps compare growth! Good point!

I do like how I only start to notice certain details after I've visited an area multiple times. It is like I have to start getting used to or more comfortable with the larger scene before I can see the details of the smaller scenes or more unique compositions.

I live in South Florida in a gated community. To make the place attractive, developers add water falls and rock scenes. More than practice, since I don't camp, hike or walk with ticks, it counts as wilderness.

I really like that scene! Developer made or not! I'm always in favor of using what you have near you!

I live in Mesa AZ & am fortunate that I am within 30-60 minutes by car to scenic trailheads in Tonto National Forest. I can observe the weather & figure out which trailhead would potentially have the best landscape for the current weather conditions & lighting.

Oh - what a great area! I used to live in the desert Southwest and despite being back in the Midwest now I am a desert rat at heart! I'm actually going to be in the Mesa area in several weeks - hoping the monsoon season kicks up a bit and for some Superstition Mountain images!

It has been pretty much a nonsoon so far this year in the East Valley, and HOT. Even in the mornings it is in the low 90'sF!

Going to launch my Mini 2 next to the Salt River on Saturday morning when it will be in the 80'sF, to look for the famous wild horses grazing on eel grass on the river bottom while ignoring the tubers & paddle boarders drifting by!

I’d been watching and seems like it has been nonsoon so far! It has 2 weeks to change that! ;)

Or at the very least, hoping the early, early morning temps aren’t too crazy. Fingers crossed.

I live on the coast in Sydney, which is a very photogenic landscape, but I still make a habit of getting out every week to practice those things - composition, bracketing, long exposure, getting to know my camera, experimenting with different light. I can feel that the techniques are becoming more natural with practice - building the muscle memory.

I think that is so important. That practice pays off for just the reason you note, it builds muscle memory and makes the technical elements more natural, allowing the photographer to focus on the artistic side with the technical execution not getting in the way!

I’ve been calling myself a professional beginner. The point of this article basically depicts my lack of progress and forgetting previous gains from the “big” workshops; and waiting to go to the next one. I’ll take advises of this article, put to a serious practice, and finally get off my self imposed professional beginner status.