The Lake District is, arguably, one of the most beautiful places in the UK and attracts millions of visitors each year. It has become a mecca for landscape photography with a plethora of diverse locations to choose from. As a result of its sheer beauty and popularity, many of the classic locations and views have become over saturated and it can be hard to find originality. We hear the terms 'done to death' and 'photographed a million times' and some even consider it 'lazy' photography to photograph the classics. I'm certainly not knocking these locations, they are stunning and I can't argue with anybody wanting to go and see and photograph them, they are popular for a reason. I often photograph these places as well and have done and will continue to do so......because regardless of popularity I still get great enjoyment and satisfaction from shooting these places. Visiting these classic locations also helped to teach me a lot about photography and the Lake District. Knowledge I didn't have when I began. Visiting locations on numerous occassions has given me understanding of the landscape and surrounding areas and as a result I had more confidence to explore and stretch my wings. It has been a very important part of the learning process and for that I will never belittle anybody wanting to shoot these wonderful locations. Having said that, as a photographer is is important to find your own originality in your photography, to keep the interest and creative juices flowing. It can also be highly rewarding when you do find something a little different. But how do you do this? How do you find original compositions in an overly saturated environment. Well I believe you can and in this blog I'm going to try and provide some guidance how I approach looking for originality in my photography.
Misty Morning - Using mist in your images can really change the look of a landscape:
Avoid the obvious locations:
The first way I try to be original is to avoid the 'hot spots' and 'classic locations'. It can be so so difficult to find an original shot at a location like Blea Tarn for instance, yes we have different seasons, weather and light but there simply is a limitation on the differing combinations of rocks, tarn and mountains we can come up with. I understand that its not easy to dismiss these wonderful locations, but if you want to be original then you need to starting thinking a little differently, if your at a location with 20 photographers taking the same shot, then grab your camera and walk 100 yards down the road and see what that brings. Thats how you need to think in the world of photography. After all we are landscape photographers and not landmark photographers.
Don't Plan ahead and go with the flow:
For a number of years I always regimentally planned my shoots, so I new exactly the shot I wanted. I would research the location and look at other photographers images to get a real feel for the area and previsualise the shot. There is nothing wrong with this, however it can be premeditated and stifle your creative juices. More of late I like to just get out with no set plan in mind and go with the flow and see where this path takes me photographically. With not having a preconceived shot in mind I can asses all my options and hopefully find an interesting compositions which is not pre planned or inspired by another photographers images.
Blawith Common Birch - A shot taken after an explore of an area I've driven past on may occassions.
Get off the beaten track and explore:
One of the most fun parts of landscape photography is to explore and find new locations and ultimately images. I understand that there is always a gamble with exploring and you can end up heading down blind alleys and come away with little for your efforts. However exploring is a great way to identify new locations, the more we explore the more we are likely to find. This doesn't necessarily have to be physically as we can use maps, books and computer research to identify potential locations. I like to use google maps as this allows me to look at a location in 3D and I can roughly work out what the view will look like and whether it will be suitable.
Compose for the light:
There are a couple of ways we can form our compositions, we can compose an image and wait for the light to hit or we can compose directly for the light. What I mean by this is instead of setting up an image and waiting for the light, we essentially base our composition around the light, ineffect we are chasing the light and at its mercy. If we are composing for the light then we will have to be a little more spontaneous and react to the changing light, this can allow us to be taken off in a direction that we may not necessarily have thought about. Granted it can be a little hit and miss but it can yield some fantastic results and get us to think outside of the box.
Lingmoor Light Rays - An example of composing for the light when decending Lingmoor Fell.
Reach for the longer lens:
One of my favourite ways to look for alternative compositions is by putting the wide angle lens away and reach for the telephoto lens. Using longer focal lengths can really help for us to create interesting compositions as we start zooming in on the action. Telephoto lenses can help us to get closer into our subjects and pick out details in the landscape that would be missed on a wider shot. A long lens can let us create layers and alternative perspectives in our photography giving our shots great depth. Looking for smaller scenes within bigger scenes is a superb way to help you look at a landscape differently, instead of looking for traditional compositions we can look at using shapes, textures and points of interest to include in our compositions.
Passing Storms - A shot taken on an explore of Lowick Common. A great example of composing for the light, weather and using the longer lens to get closer to the action. I also used the shapes in the field and walls as further interest in my shot.
Always keep your eyes open:
As photographers we are always using our eyes and surveying the land infront of us, even if we aren't directly out with our cameras. This is what we have to do, constantly look and gain ideas and inspiration, whether it be out on a walk or as a passenger in the car, I'm always looking and seeing if anything takes my eye. There is nothing wrong with constantly saving these snippets and ideas to our mind for future. Some may work some may not, but you aren't losing anything by doing this and you never know you may just come up with a gem. This can also be the case when we are in places we wouldn't necessarily think there would be a shot. A few months ago I took a shot in a carpark, never in a million year was I expecting to take this shot, but something caught my eye and I gave it a try and I came away with a lovely image. So you see, always keep those eyes peeled as you never ever know whats around the corner.
Woodland photography can be difficult to master, however the woodland provides endless creative opportunities if we can see past the chaos. Combine this with shooting in different weather conditions and you can further open up your possibilities and compositions. Be spontaneous, look for points of interest which catch your eye, look for relationships between different trees, use colours, contrasts and different textures to further add interest to your images. It really can be fun and a great way to stimulate those creative juices.
Woodland Wonder - Exploring the woods is a great way to find new and creative compositions:
Use the weather:
Shooting in different weather conditions can also help with creativity and open up endless compositions. My favourite is mist and also stormy weather when we can, like chasing the light, use the weather to base our compositions around. Weather can dramatically change a scene and transform it beyond recognition. I like how shooting in misty conditions can help you to find endless compostions as the mist continually changes and reveals different parts of the landscape. Stormy conditions can bring superb conditions with brooding skies, intense light, rainbows and rain showers. We can incorporate all this elements into our shots and as the conditions continually change we can allow the weather to take the lead and we just have to point our cameras and follow. Its such fun and can really through up some interesting scenes.
Passing Storms - Utilising dramatic weather really can help you to form interesting compositions:
Dont be afraid to experiment:
I always say this but dont be afraid to experiment and take as many images as you like. You really don't lose anything by doing this and sometimes you may just take a gem. I sometimes found that the quick experimental shots are often the best and turned out better than the shot I originally went for. If something catches your eye its always worth taking a shot, as its attracted your attention for a reason and its definitely worth exploring further.
I hope thats provided you with a little more insight in how I go about looking for new compositions and try to keep my photography fresh and exciting for me. Photography is a creative pursuit and you constantly need to feed this creatvity, I know many photographers who get bored photographing the same scenes over and over again. So by exploring, utilising different weather conditions, light and just thinking outside of the box can really pay dividents when trying to be original and create new and exciting images.