As an avid landscape photographer, I often hear the call of faraway places of natural beauty- Yosemite, Denali, the Canadian Rockies- you get the idea. But like most people, I don’t have unlimited funds allowing me to travel, so when the itch to make some photos strikes, I must try to find an inspiring vista nearby. It can be easy to get bored at the same old locations, but these familiar locations offer opportunities that the more exotic and sought-after locations don’t.
First of all, because these locations are local, they are not a “once in a lifetime” experience. This removes a lot of pressure to be sure you get “the shot”, and instead, allow for experimenting without the fear of coming away with nothing to show for your efforts. You can always go back, since it’s nearby, giving you the opportunity to perfect new techniques so that when are on that once in a lifetime trip, you are ready to just make images without fear of messing it up. In addition to experimenting, local shooting locations present the opportunity to document the location at different times throughout the year. I’ve found that even my most visited places will present new looks as the seasons change, and even from day to day.
For me, it’s about how far I’m willing to drive in the time I have. Generally, it’s an hour or two if I have the whole day free. If the whole day isn’t free, it could be somewhere close by, maybe 15 or 20 minutes away. Once I’ve decided how far I’m willing to drive, I have my choices- local parks, state parks, New York City (an hour drive for me), or many other locations. No matter where you live, there are places local to you that you can go back to over and over again.
For me, my favorite location is Fire Island National Seashore, here on Long Island, NY. It’s a 20 minute drive, a great place for both sunrise and sunset, and offers a variety of photo opportunities each time I’m there. There’s a lighthouse, jetties, the beach, the ocean, a bay, and plenty of wildlife. It’s also a place that changes depending on the time of year, making it a place I can go back to over and over and never see it look the same way twice. In many ways, it’s become my muse.
These local places are not glamorous, but they present a perfect opportunity to hone your craft, and still come away with great images.