Shooting at Home as Though it Were Away

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In writing about getting ready to photograph on the road I realized that I don’t bring that level of rigor to shooting close to home and I should. Home for me is Boston’s South Shore, a region that many people, perhaps most people, zip through on their way to Cape Cod, or Martha’s Vineyard and yet there are lots of great places Hingham, Cohasset, and Scituate among them.

In looking for local photographers that fueled the fire for me I realized that the south shore is underserved by the kind of photographers and photography that I like. The Focus Gallery does a great job of highlighting Boston area photographers with perhaps Cindy Vallino and Mike Sleeper being the most local of the locals.

I do have one book on my shelves that has been good for getting ideas about potential locations – Boston’s South Shore and a quick search on amazon shows another couple of books that I ought to have on my shelves. My major tool for researching potential locations has been a combination of the satellite view tool in google maps, the photographers ephemeris and of course doing the leg work of driving to check places out. I’ve written about this kind of virtual scouting before and you can see the process that I use by clicking here.

If you do live in a location like I do, where there is relatively little in the way of resources to draw on you’re in a great position to explore the area both virtually and in person and find unique locations that few others are photographing. Go for it!

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Resources for Photographing in Iceland

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Many of us experience new places to photograph in the context of workshops or tours. In those cases there’s often little forethought or planning needed. You book the trip, bring your gear and photograph. Making the most of a trip that you organize for yourself can take a little more work. Here’s the process that I typically use applied to a trip to Iceland.

What have other photographers made of Iceland?

Looking at what photographs others have made can be a touchy subject for some. I know some people who don’t want to be contaminated by the work and ideas of others and prefer to go into a location ‘cold’, which they believe positions them better to make original images. I want to know what the cliche images are for a particular location, what the postcard shot looks like. I know that I’m going to be drawn into making the obvious photograph and accept that, take the photograph and then try to push beyond it to make something that is my own.

For Iceland I looked at the work of Hans Strand, Bruce Percy and Josef Hoflehner. This is obviously a very short list. Who else would you recommend?

Finally spending some time on Flickr could also be instructive. You could also connect with local photographers and ask for advice regarding locations, weather conditions etc. this kind of local knowledge can be invaluable.

What are a selection of potentially interesting locations?

From looking at the work of others I’m looking for locations that look like they have potential for the kinds of images that I like to make and then looking for where these places are on a map. I’m a big fan of large scale paper maps that I can lay out on the living room floor, but you might prefer google maps. For Iceland there’s a great paper map for photographers and an accompanying eBook (eRoadbook). I’m not sure what the map is made from but paper doesn’t do it justice, perhaps a tyvek like paper? In any case it’s very resilient, and waterproof ideal for taking with you on a trip to Iceland.

How to connect these into a workable itinerary?

With a list of places to visit how best to connect them? For me this is the most attractive part of making up my own schedule. I’m not going to be jollied along from one place to the next to the next without having an opportunity to explore each location. Again I don’t think that there’s a right answer here and my bias is obviously showing through. I like to visit and revist locations to learn about a place and how best I might photograph it. Being rushed from one spot to another doesn’t work for me. How do you prefer to work?

General travel logistics?

For general travel planning I use all the resources that the internet has to offer. I will also spend a lot of time with the Lonely Planet and, if they cover where I’m going, the appropriate Moon travel guides to where ever I’m going.

A Travel Photographer or A Photographer Who Travels

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I’ve been watching David (the Strobist) Hobby‘s video series ‘The Traveling Photographer‘ on lynda.com over the last few weeks. I’d resisted lynda.com for a very long time for no reason that I can put my finger but given the number of courses available (check out David Hobby’s other courses here) that I wanted to check out I finally took the plunge.

Watching David Hobby’s series I had a couple of thoughts. First I hadn’t put him in the travel photography camp, perhaps I should have?, and second I had a visceral reaction to the thought of ‘travel photography’ as a genre. It was an odd reaction and perhaps I was thinking largely of the cheesy postcard photos that are used to advertise high-end vacation spots, photographs that do little for me.

I’ve been traveling a good bit this year and while I wouldn’t put myself in the travel photography camp, it’s clear to me that I’m a photographer that travels. This was brought home to me when I mentioned to a friend that I was heading out to iceland and they commented on the potential for great photography. While this is true, some might argue that Iceland as a photo tour destination is now somewhat a cliche, what I’ve increasingly found is that regardless of where I go I end up taking photographs that in essence I could have taken anywhere. I’m drawn to particular things, water in the landscape, rocks, intimate landscapes and abstract details. I’m compelled to take photographs of these things, to the exclusion of perhaps more obvious grand vistas. I find that I even like particular colors or combinations of colors and will be more attuned to potential photographs with those colors than others.

Travel for me broadens the range of opportunities to find combinations of the things that I’m interested in that I haven’t seen before. What are the reasons you travel?

Land Bound Mossy Rocks

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I was in Iceland recently, even though my principal reason for being there was not there to take photographs I did have my camera gear with me and managed to get one photograph that I liked.

In thinking about why this worked image worked for me and so many of the others that I’ve taken in recent months have failed, I realized that I brought exactly the same way of thinking to taking the photograph above that I do when I’m shooting at the beach.  I set up in the same way, used all the same gear and essentially had the same experience.  Minus that is, the panic that my camera is going to get washed away with the next wave. In many ways I’ve been trying too hard. Forcing something that wasn’t working, where as this photograph was taken without thought and was essentially intuitive.

I need to get to that state more often!

Friday Inspiration: Hans Strand

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I’ve been taking a look at how people have photographed Iceland in the last few weeks. One of the photographers that came up time and time again in my searching was Hans Strand. Strand is a landscape photographer based in Sweden who has a solid body of work from more than 15 visits to Iceland over the course of 20 years. His landscapes are striking. While there is a mix of the grand landscape with more intimate landscapes, I suspect that the intimate landscapes are aerial shots that abstract the landscape. His aerial work was one of the key factors that separates his work from that of others in Iceland. For those interested in workshops, Strand’s Iceland workshops often include an aerial session, something worth consideration if you want a unique perspective.

Check out the Hasselbald promo video below that gives a behind the scenes look at Hans Strand at work in Iceland, photographing an active Eyjafjallajökull, the volcano that brought air traffic in Europe to a halt for weeks.

Friday Inspiration: The Year in Review

I’ve been enjoying looking at other photographers ‘best of 2013’ selections and thought that I’d share a few of my favorite collections here. What are your favorites?

John Paul Caponigro: My Top 12 Images Of 2013

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Michael Frye: 2013: My Top Ten Images

Waves in the Merced River near Happy Isles, Yosemite NP, CA, USA

William Neil: My Favorite Photographs of 2013

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Harold Davis: My best of 2013

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