Stay close to home
To boost your chances of putting yourself in the right place at the right time, it pays to work a location that’s right on your doorstep
There’s no doubt that visiting a new location can bring freshness to your photography, but there’s a lot to be said for sticking with somewhere you know like the back of your hand. Here’s a great example of what can happen if you do just that. While it wouldn’t be unthinkable for a visiting photographer to get lucky and have timed a trip to the Lake District that coincided with the spectacular blend of seasonal colour, light and shade shown in Mark Littlejohn’s ‘Belle of the Ball’ shot (left), his ‘home advantage’ allowed him to make the most of the short-lived shifts in light and colour.
“When it comes to landscape photography I’m a huge believer in knowing your local area,” says Mark. “Too many times I see friends zipping off all over the country, going from honeypot location to honeypot location. In some respects, it reminds me of stamp collecting. I prefer seeing how certain views change with the seasons, the direction of the sun and all the other factors that can elevate a photograph from one that’s just a ‘nice’ image to a truly memorable one. This requires a great deal of time and effort and constant visits to the same location. It helps that I only live five miles from Ullswater in the Lake District…
“By mid-October the rising sun fails to rise above Place Fell at the side of Ullswater, but by a certain time of day it has managed to sneak around the side, lighting up the front of the fell bit by bit. The shoreline by Purse Point has a variety of wee nooks and crannies, which are lit up by the sun in stages. This can make for a wonderful blend of light and dark that can highlight parts of your scene in a really dynamic way.
“I had noticed a particular tree to the side of Purse Point that stands on its own. It stands in enough space that, at some point during the morning, it is lit up completely independently of the woodlands behind it. Another factor in its favour is that, in the autumn, it changes colour earlier than most of its neighbours. A downside is that once it has changed its colour it only lasts a few days before it sheds its leaves and becomes a pale skeleton. I’d tried to get a shot when it was in prime condition for three or four years in a row, but every year I tried it was the same. It would change colour, but the weather conditions would be awful and there would be no option to take the shot prior to it shedding all of its leaves.
“Autumn 2015 was different. The dawn of 16 October 2015 was beautiful. The only question was, which lens? I wanted to exclude most of the landscape bar the tree. It was already in my mind to take the shot in a vertical format to take advantage of the tree’s reflection shimmering gently in the remnants of the early morning mist, and also to ensure the tree shone brightly against the dark backdrop.”
In the end, Mark plumped for a Nikon 180mm f/2.8 telephoto prime, fitted to his Nikon Df – a combination that he’s particularly fond of.
If you work in a town or city, why not make use of lunchtimes and the journey to and from work to shoot cityscapes?