Sunday, 9 November 2014

Location, Location, Location

Sutton Park Exmoor Pony - seemingly unaffected by the rain and oblivious to visitors(dogs or human) 

It is easy to get hung up about where you take your photographs.

When you see photos taken in Italy, China and other exotic locations, it is easy to fall into the trap of saying that your own photographs would be so much better if you too had access to such places.

For example John Wesson, a local photography club member and TV star , frequently commutes to to Kerry in Ireland, which is about as far West as you can go in Europe without standing in the Atlantic. There is no doubt that the area is stunning, as are his photos, and some part of me says if only I had the same opportunities, I too could reach the same standard 

But another part of me knows that this is just an excuse. If you look around your local area, there are plenty of places close by where you can take great photos if you show a bit of imagination. 

Also the location itself is only one part of the equation. If you go for a week to say, Venice, the first 3 days will consist of just trying to find the best photo shots. This is why so many photos get taken from the same location. We see photo's of the location on sites such as 500px and instantly gravitate to them because it is easier and quicker that trying to find new and different viewpoints. This results in photos that are best derivative, but not extraordinary.  

This is where local knowledge and and appreciation of your surroundings become important. John takes great photos not because he is in a beautiful location, but he know the area intimately and for any given weather and time of year knows where to go to get the best shots(Admittedly John's skill plays a fair part). 

This is why taking photos in your local area can work to your advantage. 

The problem is that as they say familiarity can breed contempt. For example I used to live in the North of the country close to the Peak District where from my kitchen window you could see the low hills of Kinder Scout. Despite the views and vista's on offer just 10 minutes away, it was amazing how many of the locals would spend hours going to places like the Lake District to walk and ignore their local area.

I realised recently that I was guilty of the same when I was trying to work out where to go to take photos of trees for a project I have in mind. I wanted an area with a wide diversity of tree types.  I looked on Google maps to try and work out where such a location might be. There were a number of possible areas. The problem was how long would I have to spend wandering around finding the right shot.

Then I had a epiphany. I grew up just outside Birmingham. One of may happy hunting grounds was Sutton Park  where I would often spend the whole day cycling and walking(Remember this was in the days when parents were happy to let their children disappear for the whole day, with no hope of contacting them). 

Sutton park is the last remaining remnant of King Henry VIII deer hunting grounds and as such is one of the few remaining areas of untouched wood and heathland in the Midland area. Not only that, but I knew the area intimately, meaning that I had a good idea of the locations I wanted to go to. However because of my familiarity with it, up to that point I had not realised how unique and special the area was.

Unfortunately, as so often happens, the weather gods did their best to spoil my day, by providing persistent rain, interspersed with brief periods of torrential rain. This meant that I did not really get the photos I wanted(and the ones I did like were often spoiled by rain smears on the lens). 

However I did have a fun time putting my new tripod through it's paces. Using it in anger, so to speak, for the first time outdoors has convinced me I made the right choice and it will be a great addition to my equipment. I was especially impressed by it's versatility, allowing me to take landscapes and macro shots with great ease. 

Couple of puffballs, say the macro capabilities of the new tripod

So although I did not get any great shots, I can be content with knowing that the locations are out there, it is only my technique I need to improve and that is under my control.

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