'Think Global But Shoot Local' - That's How You Avoid Copying Everyone Else

'Think Global But Shoot Local' - That's How You Avoid Copying Everyone Else - Avoiding the tripod prints of others and aiming to make pictures that are a bit more individual can be a challenge but not impossible, as John Duder explains.

 Add Comment

Landscape and Travel


 

 

Photographic Tourism

There’s enormous growth in photographic tourism: either with organised parties, led by experienced professionals who know the territory, or as individuals, we are travelling further and shooting more exotic places than ever before.

 

One of the views you do want – Symi harbour at dusk. As you can see, the sky was rather grey – but at that precise time, the blue skylight mixes with the golden glow of the lights in the town.

One of the views you do want – Symi harbour at dusk. As you can see, the sky was rather grey – but at that precise time, the blue skylight mixes with the golden glow of the lights in the town.

 

In a recent edition of Amateur Photographer, David Clapp, a landscape photographer, was bemoaning the fact that his minibus party of photographers was one of four, all turning up at the same spot in Norway, along with four carloads and ten photographers who’d got there on foot. And if two or three dozen people are all shooting from the same small area, aiming their cameras in the same direction, who’s going to be able to get a really individual image?

And, of course, jetting off to Iceland, Antarctica or Yosemite increases mankind’s carbon footprint. So, my aim in writing this is to convince you that you can take good pictures near where you live, and where you go for your holidays – and WHEN you’re there on holiday, not on the one ideal day.

 

Let Me Tell You A Story 

A decade ago, I went on a 3-day workshop in Sussex, with John Blakemore. He described the time that he’d been asked to undertake a project for a publisher: they wanted him to photograph India and were delighted that their budget was sufficient to allow a six-week shoot.

 

Walsall at dusk – even the drabbest architecture comes alive with the right light.

Walsall at dusk – even the drabbest architecture comes alive with the right light.

 

He declined, politely, and pointed out that he had been working on a project involving half-a-mile of a stream in Derbyshire for six and a half years. So maybe there are great pictures to be had close to home...

 

A gatepost in the Lake District – but it could have been shot anywhere…

A gatepost in the Lake District – but it could have been shot anywhere…

 

The Ashness Bridge Problem

One summer, we took a family holiday in the Lake District and my wife and I visited Ashness Bridge – an iconic British landscape. You will have seen the shot: a stream bickering down a hillside on the right of the picture, with orange bracken behind it. Below, is the stone humpback bridge and a distant, crystal clear view of lakes and fells beyond. Please note; I don’t have a 'classic view' of Ashness Bridge in my files, so illustrations in this section are from other outings!

 

A completely different view of the Lake District – but the conditions that are precisely wrong for the classic view of Ashness Bridge!

A completely different view of the Lake District – but the conditions that are precisely wrong for the classic view of Ashness Bridge!

 

It Wasn’t Quite Like That When I Went There

It was an overcast day. There was a poor chap with a Nikon going up and down the stream, trying desperately hard to find the perfect shot. However, the distant view was hazy, and there was a massive Kensington Tractor stuck on the bridge, as the driver battled to get it through a gap with only nine inches to spare on each side! The bracken was resolutely green - the dull, earthy green of English summer. And all over the place, like a swarm of colourful and very annoying ants, where the other tourists.

In fact, the classic view requires that you shoot on a sunny evening in Autumn, preferably just after heavy rain has cleared the air (and, with luck, the tourists). That way, the bracken is golden, the sun is shining on it and the distant view is clear.

The rest of the year, there are pictures to be had, but not THAT picture and, sadly, it’s THAT image that most people want to shoot. I settled for a view of the other side of the bridge – though, quite frankly, it was nothing special: but it was deserted…

 

Crossing the Cromwell Road in London. Nothing iconic in view, and grey skies.  But pedestrians and passing cars made my shot. Plenty of Kensington Tractors hiding in the side streets!

Crossing the Cromwell Road in London. Nothing iconic in view, and grey skies.  But pedestrians and passing cars made my shot. Plenty of Kensington Tractors hiding in the side streets!

 

An alternative view of Symi – the restaurant that we ate in, showing the scale and style of the place.

An alternative view of Symi – the restaurant that we ate in, showing the scale and style of the place.

 

The Road Less Travelled

Of course, you will want to take a few routine snaps of the places you went to on holiday: but if you’re honest, they are very unlikely to be the best – or anywhere near the best – images of an iconic location. If your holiday is dedicated to THAT shot, and you are prepared to set up camp in the right place and wait as long as you need to, that’s fine, of course. Of such dedication are great pictures made!

 

A very standard view of St Paul’s bay in Lindos. We were there – but nothing was happening that day…

A very standard view of St Paul's bay in Lindos. We were there – but nothing was happening that day…

 

But if that isn’t you, and you have family waiting for you to take the shot, consider the other possibilities. The views that others may not see in the scramble to see and do it all. The personal view of a less-viewed area, and the people who made your holiday wonderful.

 

A few yards away, I found this ancient Heraldic Device (aka Triumph Herald, from around 1970) – a different and more personal memory of Lindos.

A few yards away, I found this ancient Heraldic Device (aka Triumph Herald, from around 1970) – a different and more personal memory of Lindos.

 

Location, Location, Location - Locally!

But you don’t have to go far to make pictures, providing that you are prepared to take the picture that is there. If visibility is poor, look at closeups of trees and buildings, or make the mistiness itself the subject. If you live in a large town, photograph the transport, the decaying and disused factories, the events that brighten up the centre from time to time...

 

‘Shadow Central’ in Walsall – I’ve had several different lovely shadow shots within a 30-foot radius.

'Shadow Central' in Walsall – I’ve had several different lovely shadow shots within a 30-foot radius.

 

For inspiration in these genres, I suggest looking at the portfolios of a couple of my EPZ friends. One is the official photographer for the small town she lives in – unpaid, but making good use of the access that the job gives her to all sorts of unusual events (see MrsWollyBill's portfolio).

Another lives in Moscow and his images are notable for being so like the pictures that I could take in my local park. We think of Moscow as being Red Square and the GUM store but it is also a city like any other and the people are exactly the same as you and me. (See Leo Nid's portfolio).

A third produces wonderful jewelled miniatures from the landscape. Often, it’s hard to identify the location from the picture – what his images show, very clearly, is his own view of the land and what’s on it. The results are usually far more engaging and beautiful than another standard landscape. (See whatriveristhis' portfolio)

And a fourth lives in India: his ‘everyday scenes’ show us the exotic and the different, if we are Westerners.

 

A mundane view of ‘Shadow Central’ – light makes pictures…

A mundane view of ‘Shadow Central’ – light makes pictures…

 

I’ve found that there’s a particular street corner in Walsall that consistently produces lovely shadow pictures on a sunny morning.  It’s not special in itself, with a closed branch of the TSB, and a constant stream of buses going in to and out of town. And remember, the things that are boringly every day where you live will be novel for someone else.

 

Walsall Art Gallery –light and timing make the shot, and it would have worked perfectly well without the Lensbaby Velvet that I shot with.

Walsall Art Gallery – light and timing make the shot, and it would have worked perfectly well without the Lensbaby Velvet that I shot with.

 

If there’s an outdoor museum or arboretum near you, you may well find that the apparently-costly entry ticket allows unlimited visits for twelve months. If so, milk it, and visit in all seasons. Summer will see the place overrun, but there are lovely views to be shot of gardens in winter, and places like the Black Country Living Museum (my local) remain worthwhile on a rainy winter’s day.

 

A wet day at the Black Country Museum – but there are still pictures to be taken!

A wet day at the Black Country Museum – but there are still pictures to be taken!

 

Courses, Of Course

I don’t want to suggest that all courses are bad. Most, I think, are very good – not so much because you learn a vast amount of new stuff, but because working with an expert behind you embeds things you’ve read but don’t practice. It also provides great inspiration when you see precisely what can be done.

 

A wet day in Barcelona, and it’s hard to get a good viewpoint for a shot of the iconic Gaudi cathedral…

A wet day in Barcelona, and it's hard to get a good viewpoint for a shot of the iconic Gaudi cathedral…

 

And if you can afford ten days in Tuscany with Charlie Waite, you will have a great time, and come back having seen a lovely place, with your own excellent images.

 

But inside, the dull light is an advantage, reducing contrast.

But inside, the dull light is an advantage, reducing contrast.

 

Equally, though, a wet and grey day in the Lake District can be fantastically rewarding, as I found out several years ago with Dave Butcher (who also runs darkroom courses!) And I won’t rule out the possibility – the likelihood – that walking around your own town with someone who is dedicated to street photography will be good for your portfolio…

 

Grey light is lovely for bringing out detail, hopeless for most distant views. I excluded the sky in my crop of this Lake District scene. Shots like this are a matter of spotting the line, and then finding a way to isolate the subject.

Grey light is lovely for bringing out detail, hopeless for most distant views. I excluded the sky in my crop of this Lake District scene. Shots like this are a matter of spotting the line and then finding a way to isolate the subject.

 

So, decide what you want from your course - is it insight into working methods and your own vision? Or, do you want to combine this with sightseeing and exotic places? And as well as looking at the glamorous and distant, consider the local and accessible.

 

Tweaking: Cheating?

Occasionally, a scene that is boring as a straight shot has elements that are beautiful or striking. Don’t be afraid to crop, to convert to monochrome, or to use slightly more elaborate processing.

 

A grey day at Barmouth beach. But getting the right relationship between sign and walkers and a Nik Efex mono conversion provide a picture.

A grey day at Barmouth beach. But getting the right relationship between sign and walkers and a Nik Efex mono conversion to provide a picture.

 

An overcast day in the Lake District – converted into all kinds of a nightmare with bi-colour filter, detail extraction, and two varieties of vignette in Nik Efex.

An overcast day in the Lake District – converted into all kinds of a nightmare with bi-colour filter, detail extraction, and two varieties of vignette in Nik Efex.

 

However, processing on its own is not enough for a good picture, and if the process is shouting ‘look at me!’ too loudly, the subject will disappear.

 

Easter Day celebrations in the village square in Lindos – the Orthodox Easter is the perfect time to visit Greece, especially the smaller communities.

Easter Day celebrations in the village square in Lindos – the Orthodox Easter is the perfect time to visit Greece, especially the smaller communities.

 

About Author: John Duder 

John Duder is quite shocked to have been taking pictures as a hobby for fifty years, as he still feels like a lad of 17 when faced with a camera or a good subject.

John still has and uses a darkroom, and specialises in black-and-white images, portraits, and nudes. He’s been a member of ePHOTOzine since 2003 and joined the Critique Team a few years ago.

Now retired from his day job, he is keen to share his cumulatively acquired knowledge and experience (CAKE) with others: and who can resist CAKE? He runs lighting workshops at a couple of local studios in the West Midlands and offers one-to-one coaching.

Join ePHOTOzine and remove these ads.

Explore More


Comments


andart 16 512 United Kingdom
5 Oct 2018 10:37AM
Great article John, thanks for sharing your ideas.

Join ePHOTOzine for free and remove these adverts.

mrswoolybill Plus
11 1.3k 1968 United Kingdom
5 Oct 2018 12:07PM
Good article John, and thanks for the plug...

I do think there's a herd mentality in photography. A desire to follow the well trodden path. I have seen occasional, sad forum posts here over the years on the lines of 'How can I possibly take good photographs? I live miles from anywhere scenic...'

I have never really felt any desire to take a photograph that has already been done to death by scores of others. Go for your own personal angle. That's the whole point of being you.

Something I've been aware of for a long time - people take very different pictures of places that they know and love intimately, compared to what they do as 'outsiders', first time visitors to a famous site. When you know a location well, the urge to show off, take the grand statement image, that seems to recede. Photographers go in closer, embrace the subject rather than venerating it.

The herd mentality also follows cultural delineations. I know of nowhere outside the anglophone world that is obsessed with small birds, other cultures do seem to be more interested photographically in our own species. (Why do so many British photographers see the presence of people in a shot as somehow spoiling it?)

For another inspiring portfolio, have a look at helenlinda. She finds beautiful images in her kitchen, at the charity shop where she volunteers, and in the empty playground at the nursery where she used to work.
dudler Plus
15 733 1399 England
5 Oct 2018 10:06PM
Thanks, both!

I made a positive decision, some years ago, not to chase iconic places: I used to want to visit Yosemite, and plant my feet on Ansel Adams' tripod prints. Then I realised that I could never better his images of a place he knew and loved. America has epic landscapes: we British need to have a different voice nad tone in our landscapes.

That doesn't stop me taking occaisonal holidays in different places - but I no longer chase the classic views. Maybe a two-week holiday in Porlock (during which it did not rain, but was perpetually grey) convinced me, too. (I'd stocked up on 120 colour slide film for my Pentax 67, and brought it all home unexposed...)
A fascinating article and one I will return to. I am also struck by mrswoolybillr's observation that 'British photographers see the presence of people in a shot as somehow spoiling it': that would be me then - or at least until very recently when the penny has finally started the process of dropping. At last my instinct is to start to look for people as a way of animating a shot or a sequence of pictures.

Thanks for taking the time and trouble to write your article - it is much appreciated.

All the best John, Graham. Smile
dudler Plus
15 733 1399 England
10 Oct 2018 3:34PM
My pleasure, Graham.

Some shots are better for not having anyone in them: for others, they're essential.

I remember when the accepted wisdom was that a bright red anorak was essential to a landscape image: hard to credit now, but it was the era of mullets and other dubious fashions...

Sign In

You must be a member to leave a comment.

ePHOTOzine, the web's friendliest photography community.

Join For Free

Upload photos, chat with photographers, win prizes and much more.