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There’s truly nothing like visiting a location for the first time – I absolutely love it and I strive to always photograph at least one new location a month.
When I started on my photography journey this wasn’t a hard challenge to meet as even my own backyard was new to me and my camera, but as time went on things got a bit more difficult. New locations became ‘go-to’ spots and there came a point where I was only photographing at places that I had previously visited.
While I’d love to travel the world on a whim I just don’t have the means or time to do so which severely limits the range of my ‘new locations’ to places within driving distance from my house. As a result I’ve developed this list of useful techniques for getting the most out of my local area and I hope that it will help you do the same!
#1 – Stuck on Earth
While Google Maps, Google Earth and Google’s Street View tools are great for getting location data, one of the best tools that I’ve used to find locations to photograph is the amazing app created by the people at Stuck in Customs called Stuck on Earth.
It works by fusing Flickr location data with a beautiful map to give you an amazing resource of not only useful locations, but the photographs other photographers have taken at those locations.
On top of searching random locations for photographs that have been tagged in various locations around the world, they have top location lists that have been curated by actual photographers to showcase the best photographs in cities around the world. There’s a bunch of other cool features as well and I highly recommend it as a resource (after all it is free).
#2 – Join a Photo Club
I’d have to say that one of the best ways to get out and find new locations is by meeting new people local to your area. Even if you’ve lived there your entire life odds are someone else has found interesting locations you haven’t – or better yet – has been able to find a new perspective on a location you thought you’ve picked clean.
Photography clubs often will also hold photo walks which will help you get out to different locations many of which might become your new ‘go-to’ spot when you’re in a pinch to get on location before sunset. It’s a great experience and I highly recommend trying it if you haven’t done so yet.
Have you ever gone on a photowalk? Tell us about the experience in the comments!
#3 – Make an Old Place New By Going At Night
One trick that I’ve done is not necessarily to find a new location, but instead to photograph the same location in the middle of the night.
Night changes the way we perceive the world and will more than likely change the way you see a familiar location. It opens up a whole new set of challenges and pushes your camera to its limits of low light image capture, but in my opinion it’s one of the most fun types of photography there is.
#4 – Buy a Guide Book to Your Local State
Guide books might seem dated these days with instant access to so many great tools online, but there’s something to be said about a good guide book that has a friendly voice guiding you to the spots, telling you what to expect, where to park and when the best time to visit is.
I never would have found out about Trap Falls (pictured above) if I hadn’t gotten a guide book detailing the hundreds of waterfalls and cascades that New England has to offer. It’s amazing the detail that the book goes into about not only where the waterfalls are, but how difficult the hikes are, and how picturesque the fall is.
There are tons of great guide books on Amazon and other bookstores and many of them can be downloaded as eBooks right to your phone or eReader so you can take it with you on your trip!
#5 – Fill up your tank and just drive
Finally, if all else fails, just fill up you tank and drive. One of my favorite things to do is pick a highway and a direction and tell myself, “I’m driving for 50 miles and taking the first exit I see after that”. What I end up doing is putting myself into an unknown town with all sorts of new things to see. I like to bring a friend along for the ride to keep me company as well as a second pair of eyes so that I can be sure to see potential photography opportunities.
Of course it’s not a fool proof plan and driving around aimlessly can be a bit tricky. While it’s certainly possible that you’ll find a location you might otherwise have overlooked – it’s nearly just as likely that you’ll spend your day driving around with nothing to show for the effort, time and gas you burned.
Okay now it’s your turn to help build upon this list – I’d love to hear what techniques you use to continue to discover new locations – leave a comment below and let us know!