If you’re looking for a new location to shoot, consider checking out these destinations that might be right by you.
Art Galleries, Exhibitions, and Pop-Ups
Times are changing when it comes to photography in museums. While some classical institutions still ban it, newer galleries and exhibits embrace photographers. You’ll want to check the website before you visit, however, and make sure to respect their policy. For those exhibits that welcome photography, you can have a great time exploring the artist’s work, and creating some art of your own. Museums can feature unique architecture and serve as a subject of their own, while the art can work as a backdrop or centerpiece of your composition.
Modern art typically has some of the best galleries, pieces, and policies for photography, with some even explicitly marketing themselves as Instagram-friendly.
I recently shot at a newly opened gallery space called Wonderspaces in Arizona, and I really enjoyed the combination of photo-friendly policies and visually interesting exhibits.
One critique of all these exhibits is the constraints on creativity. You'll probably end up with a very similar view to every other visitor, though this can still be a great experience to share with non-photographer friends or family, as you'll both get something out of it.
If you are looking to get shots without other people, consider your framing. Certain angles may work better than others, while if you can setup a tripod, you can shoot multiple images and blend them to remove individuals.
Regional and State Parks
In the United States, the National Parks seem to take all the glory. Covering dream destinations like the Grand Canyon, Yosemite, and Zion, the National Parks make for great options when planning a longer trip. However, since they are typically more remote, they aren’t a great day trip option.
If you only have a few hours, check out your local, regional, and state parks. While they may not have the name recognition of the national parks, regional parks are typically easier to get to, cheaper to enter, and less crowded overall. Also, there are some hidden, or not so hidden gems in the state park system. Some of my local favorites include Red Rock State Park, which covers the famous scenic expanse of Sedona, and Lost Dutchman State Park, a dramatic mountain range just 20 minutes from Phoenix, but regardless of your location, your state or region should have many options to choose from.
Local parks can be a perfect day trip or opportunity to practice with new gear and techniques before a larger trip. It’s a lot better to realize you forgot a tripod plate 15 minutes from home, instead of 3 hours into a flight. Also, your local parks may offer classes, ranger walks, or other activities that typically aren’t available at the larger sites.
Depending on the state, you may want to consider purchasing an annual pass. Some break even after only a few visits, and combined with the wider selection, it can be easy have multiple eligible visits in the year.
Historic and Specialty Districts
If you’re looking for a new backdrop for portraits or want to try your hand at architectural photography, consider visiting your city’s historic districts. These can have a truly unique feel and make for a great set of subjects. Many cities or community organizations promote these areas with signage, special events, and marketing, so you should have an easy time finding one nearby.
Famous examples include San Francisco’s Chinatown, San Diego’s Balboa Park, and Vancouver’s Gastown. Each is a major departure from the atmosphere of the surrounding city but convenient to the major downtown points of interest.
Each one is unique, so when exploring your local district, consider a variety of subjects. I’ve had luck with architecture and street photography, as well as food photography at the specialty restaurants.
It’s easy to fall into the trap of shooting the same locations or thinking that you have to book an international trip just to find some inspiration, so next time, consider some of these unique and local options.