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Returning to a location

Many of us amateur photographers have a daytime job and spend most of the year at home, which doesn’t leave us many options when we feel like taking the camera out for a shoot. We often find ourselves shooting the same scene multiple times over the course of a year, because there are only so many great places (if any) in a, say, 50km radius. In order not to shoot the same picture over and over again, we need to come up with fresh ideas and in that regard shooting local is way more challenging than travelling to epic locations and taking pictures at sunset or sunrise.

There are a couple of things that can greatly impact what seems to be a familiar scene, some of which we can control and some that we can’t:

  • Angle of view
  • Focal length (combined with distance from the subject – exaggerate/compress)
  • Shutter time (i.e. short exposure/long exposure)
  • Season of the year
  • Time of day
  • Weather (at the time of shooting, but also long term)

That makes for a lot of potential compositions, because the number of possible permutations is n! (that’s factorial n). Not all of these combinations will be keepers, of course, but the hunt for the best picture to be had at any given location is enough to keep us engaged.

So over the past couple of months I often visited one particular spot in the Teutoburg Forest, Germany to shoot some flowing water again. Here’s the picture I shot on my first visit:

Not a bad picture by any means, I certainly love the detail in the water, but there’s one crucial thing that is missing: Light. Yes, there is light, or else the picture would be all black, but it’s highly diffused light and the picture looks boring overall.

The trouble with diffused light is that it’s flat, it doesn’t add to the depth of the picture so that the picture has to rely on other visual clues instead, such as leading lines, curves etc.

In some cases diffused light is desirable, such as isolated objects (a lone tree, for example), but in images that have to convey distance and depth it’s far from optimal.

A boring subject can make for a great picture with good lighting (there’s ample proof for that, look at billboards, watch tv ads) and the opposite is also true: Boring light can utterly destroy an otherwise interesting subject. I wrote a separate post on the importance of light, you can read it here – On Light

What further takes from this picture is that patch of sky in the top left corner, because it is a masive distraction.

So there certainly is a lot of room for improvement in this picture and I had a lot of reasons to return to this very spot.



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