It is a great time to be a photographer. Photography has never been more accessible and we have amazing tools for creating and sharing photographs. As the popularity of photography grows, certain locations have become very popular and heavily photographed. Some photographers will say these popular locations are cliché and there is little point in photographing them anymore. In this article though, I tell you that you should indeed shoot those popular and iconic locations, and why.
If you browse some of the popular photo sharing websites such as 500px or Instagram you’ll often see photographs of Yosemite National Park, Jokulsarlon Beach in Iceland, or even Durdle Door in the UK. These locations have been photographed many, many times and you could be mistaken in thinking that they now offer nothing new and should be avoided.
You’ll often read comments that images taken at these locations are now clichéd and people that photograph them aren’t doing anything new. People will often write how important it is to seek out new locations to ensure your work is unique and different. While this sentiment could be considered a good one, it doesn’t mean you still shouldn’t shoot those iconic locations. In fact, there is always something new to be had even from the most photographed of locations.
Here are my reasons why you should shoot those any popular or iconic locations.
Because You Want To
Don’t let anyone tell you that you shouldn’t shoot that location because it’s “all been done before”. If you want to photograph it, then that should be a good enough reason for you to do so. Many of the photographers that say things like that will have in fact photographed the location at some point anyway.
If that location inspires you to get out with your camera then that’s a good thing. I have photographed many iconic landscape locations. While my shots may not necessarily have been truly unique, I photographed them because I wanted to and I wanted my own image from that location. If you are creating images primarily for your own enjoyment then that is all the reason you need to go to that location.
You Can Learn from Others
When you are learning about landscape photography you should seek out inspiration from other peoples photographs. If you see a photograph of a popular location there is nothing wrong with wanting to emulate that. It’s unlikely that you’ll get exactly the same shot but because of that, you can learn why. How was your camera setup differently? Were the conditions different? Did the lighting differ?
By taking your own photographing and comparing it to other photographs from that iconic location you can learn a lot about landscape photography.
One Location, Different Viewpoints
Even the most iconic landscape locations have something new to offer. One of the most popular photographic locations near to where I live is Durdle Door in Dorset. I don’t think there is a day goes by where I don’t browse Instagram and see a photograph from that location. While many of the shots look similar, it still surprises me when I see someone has managed to capture something new. These shots normally still contain the iconic arch, but somehow they have managed to compose the scene in a new way.
It’s also worth doing a little exploring while at these locations. It’s great to capture your own image from the main viewpoint, but while you are there take a little look about. If you got to a location like Durdle Door you will see a line of photographers on the cliff edge taking the classic shot. Take that shot and then go for a walk. How do things look if you walk 500 m along the cliff, or what if you turn around and shoot in the opposite direction? You might be surprised by what you find and maybe there is something new and unique to be had at that popular location.
Every Visit is Unique
If you photographed the same location every day for a year, it would be unlikely that any two photographs would be the same. There are many factors in landscape photography that can change the look of a photograph. Weather, tides, and time of day can all greatly influence the look and feel of a photograph.
Try visiting a location for dawn, or during the winter months. While photographs of Durdle Door are hardly unique, I recently saw an image of that iconic location covered in snow win an award. By varying the conditions in which you shoot these locations you can still create unique work.
Use Different Gear
It’s great to be inspired by photographs we see online of popular and iconic locations. One thing you will probably notice is that while the conditions for each photograph vary, they will be often shot with a similar camera setup. Some locations are very much wide angle locations or may even require some sort of telephoto lens.
Trying mixing things up though by using a focal length that might not be typical of that location. If a location is typically shot with a wide angle, try to find a composition using a long focal length. Perhaps you can isolate part of that iconic scene?
If you have a drone then you have the possibility of creating something truly unique. There are some angles and positions that simply wouldn’t be possible without the use of a drone. Experiment with height, camera angle, and panoramic imaging with your drone to see how those popular locations look. (If you are looking for some drone photography tips then read these Improve Photography articles here and here).
So if you want to visit your local landscape photography hotspot and have been put off by negative comments or think it's been overshot, just remember there’s almost always something new to get from these locations.