Making Unique Photographs

Serenity in silhouette on Barkers Creek Reservoir near Harcourt, in Central Victoria, Australia.

If I was to define this image I’d say it was an abstract photograph that explores mystery, shape and movement.

Photographing Beauty In The Landscape

I was running a photography workshop in Central Victoria and escorted the group to the Harcourt Creek Reservoir for the final location of the day. The location itself is not particularly remarkable, though it does lend itself to interesting photographic opportunities at the edges of the day.

After sunset the warm light lingered and reflected from beneath the horizon up into the clouds from where it reflected down onto the water. The low light level required a slow Shutter Speed which produced the lovely misty glow in the water.

Despite the low light the distribution of light and dark tones throughout the image enhanced image contrast and the sense of 3-dimensional space. I feel that the dark shapes provided by the tree branches and reflections adds to the prevailing sense of melancholy.

I hope you enjoy the quiet beauty within this image. While not a spectacular location the transforming nature of the light produced a quite special opportunity for workshop participants. All agreed it was a great way to end a fun and informative day.

Beauty IS In The Eye Of The Beholder

Perhaps it’s time to consider where we’re likely to find beauty in the landscape. I love photographing exotic locations as much as the next person. But, like most folks, I haven’t always had the means to get to such places. The solution is simple: seek the exotic in the everyday.

Beauty Is All Around Us

We simply need to learn to be able to see it and ensure we make a point of photographing it, even if we find it in an otherwise mundane part of the world. Practice makes perfect and, by making beautiful photographs in less than exotic locals, we’ll be so much more likely to be able to meet the challenge of making great photographs in more exotic parts of the world.

Photography Is Light

To make great pictures of relatively mundane locations requires technical skill, a good eye for composition and, above all else, the right light. Rolling up to the Harcourt Reservoir in the middle of a sunny day may not provide you with a great photo. What’s more, as that’s when most other folk would photograph that location, it’s unlikely your photographs will be particularly unique.

Naturally it’s important to try to ensure that your arrival coincides with good lighting.

Either side of sunrise and sunset often provide wonderful opportunities. But be aware that, due to the low light, the use of a quality tripod or, at the very least, shooting on a very high ISO will often be required. A torch or headlamp is also a good idea to help you see what you’re doing and find you way to and from the car.

Often the best images are made well before sunrise (pre-glow) or well after sunset (after glow).

Bad Weather Can Be Your Best Friend

The best light often appears at the edges of, so-called, bad weather. Come to think of it, a warm top and/or a fleece hat or beanie is also a good idea. I often use mine to keep my camera and lens dry when photographing on a rainy day.

Inclement weather can always be an issue for photographers. But being properly prepared and properly attired can be enough to turn the process of photographing under less than ideal conditions into a pretty enjoyable experience. You’ll find photographing those well known locations less crowded at such times. It’s often this attitude and level of preparedness that separates the images made by a good photographer from the rest of the pack.

The same is true for less exotic locations. Good photographers understand how to utilize light, composition and story telling to make high quality, compelling images under all manner of situations. That’s why, on tour, it’s not unusual for the best photos to be made at unscheduled stops along the way.

The lesson is to forget your guide book and trust in the knowledge of your local tour guide and the experience of your photography tour leader and their ability to read the landscape and the weather conditions, while keeping an eye on the clock, to prevent you with those special moments that are unadvertised and unscheduled. It’s one of the things that makes a boutique tour unique.

If you're looking to participate in a photography tour to one of the worlds great photography locations check out my Iceland Photography Tour August 2016. It's hard to define the sublime beauty of this amazing island. You really have to experience it, first hand. And what better way to do so than on a specially organized photography tour. 

Glenn Guy, Travel Photography Guru