Photography Locations: Revisit and Reshoot

photolocations_smAs a devoted wanderer, the joy of visiting a new photography location is like food for my soul.

Fresh sights, sounds, smells, and experiences await with every unknown place I go, and the whirlwind of excitement is all-encompassing as I make images of all the things I’m seeing for the first time.

Because I know this experience so well, I can attest to one fact: the pictures almost always turn out better the second time around.

I know, I know – how can this be? Isn’t art a product of passion? How can anything improve after the initial enthusiasm wears off?

Photographing in a state of elation is fantastic, and no less important – it can be both inspirational and meditative, but it doesn’t always produce the most well-crafted images. This may seem counter-intuitive, but there are many reasons why subsequent shoots tend to be much more successful than the first.

For example, I spent this past summer in Sidney, British Columbia, only a short drive away from the world famous Butchart Gardens, which is the most popular tourist attraction on Vancouver Island. It’s beautiful, manicured, crowded, and perhaps not somewhere a person who likes to be alone in nature would go. But I bought a season’s pass so I could visit multiple times from early spring to late fall and I used the opportunity to exercise my creativity.

Here is what Butchart Gardens looks like when you see it the first time – the standard postcard shots.

Sunken garden at Butchart Gardens, Victoria, British Columbia
Please click the images to view larger versions.

Fountain at Butchart Gardens, Victoria, British Columbia

As I returned to the same location again and again, I started seeing new compositions and noticing more intricate details in the landscape. With each visit, the photos kept getting better.

Japanese garden at Butchart Gardens in Victoria, British Columbia

Rational Thinking

Photography is a different kind of art from any other. No matter who is behind the viewfinder, the camera sees things exactly as they are. On its own, the camera won’t pick out the important parts of a scene and filter the rest from view, the way our brains do. They render just as much detail in the mundane background elements as they do in the main subject.

That’s why it’s up to the photographer to make considered decisions about composition, focus, depth of field, and perspective to turn an everyday scene into a striking still image. Those decisions are usually better made once you have had a chance to get over the awe of being in a new location.

Japanese Garden at Butchart Gardens, Victoria, British Columbia

Japanese Garden at Butchart Gardens, Victoria, British Columbia

The Portrait of a Landscape

Places are like people; they have unique personalities and histories just like we do. And, just like people, you get to know a place better the more often you meet it. With every visit you notice something new, and become more in tune with the landscape – its geological makeup, its natural lighting, the way the sun moves across the sky – and this deepening perspective will be made apparent in your photographs.

Japanese Garden at Butchart Gardens, Victoria, British Columbia

Notice the Details

When we first experience a new location, we’re likely to react in the same way as most other people. Our eyes are drawn to the largest, most prominent features of the area, and we instinctively want to try to fit it all in the frame at once. This is not necessarily bad, but it will probably leave you with the exact same photos that have been made by every photographer who walked in your footsteps before you.

Once we get those obligatory shots, though – that is, once we’ve had a chance to shoot freely and get ourselves acquainted with the space – we can begin to examine it more closely. On a second shoot, we are ready take an entirely different approach by focusing in on the more overlooked details that make up the larger picture.

Fall leaves at Butchart Gardens in Victoria, British Columbia

Self Improvement

After your first shooting session, it can be very helpful to look over your images and ask yourself, “Could I have done this any better? How?”. Once you identify ways in which the shots could be refined, you can use those notes to go back and re-create the pictures the way you really want them to be.

This type of self-critical exercise will help you in all situations; by identifying aspects of your work that need improvement, you can begin to understand the way you shoot and what you can do differently to become an even better photographer.

Giant Dahlia

Come Prepared

No matter how much research we do, it’s impossible to know exactly what to expect when we visit a new place for the first time. As we’re packing our camera bags, we often have to make tough decisions about what equipment to bring and what to leave at home.

No matter how well we decide, at some point during a first shoot at a new location we’re going to kick ourselves for not bringing a tripod, a neutral density filter, a different lens, or some other piece of equipment that would have been perfect for the situation we find ourselves in. It’s no big deal, though – if you make note of what gear you wish you had and why you wanted it, you can remember to bring it along on your second shooting session.

Fall leaves at Butchart Gardens in Victoria, British Columbia

Refine Your Personal Vision

Due to the nature of photography, your personal vision as an artist doesn’t always come about right away. It is usually developed as you are shooting by making small adjustments to shape the way the camera captures the scene through careful composition and exposure control.

Once you’re familiar with a location, you can start to formulate your own unique ideas about the way you want to present it, and how you can accomplish that.

Fallen leaf at Butchart Gardens, Victoria, British Columbia

Time and Season

As long as your location is natural, or gets any natural light from the sun, it will change quite a bit depending on the time of day and the time of the year. Of course the sun moves through the sky between day and night, but what we notice less is the way it moves from summer to winter, sinking lower in the sky throughout autumn and rising up again in the spring. In the northern hemisphere, the sun always sits toward the south, and in the southern hemisphere, it’s in the north. How noticeable this change is depends on how close you are to the equator.

Every location changes throughout the day and year, as the weather, lighting, and plant life go through their many seasonal stages. All these elements work together to create the atmosphere of your final image; therefore, every visit will be a little bit different, and every shoot will show you the place in an entirely new way.

Fall leaves at Butchart Gardens in Victoria, British Columbia

The natural world never stays the same, even when it is a manicured garden like the stunning Butchart Gardens where all the photos in this post were made. It is in constant change and, like a river, is never the same twice. While new places are an important source of inspiration and vision, greater images can be created by building a relationship to a location that you love, and returning again and again to photograph it in its many different forms.

Do you have a favourite location you like to revisit and reshoot? Has it helped your photography? I would love to hear about it, so please let me know in the comments!


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31 Responses to “Photography Locations: Revisit and Reshoot”

  1. Somesh says:

    Anne

    The pictures that you put on your posts are exceptional.

    It would be nice if you put a “pin it” button on each photo. I have seen these on other blogs. Since it is such a visual environment, Pinterest users will find your blog very useful.

    Somesh
    Somesh recently posted..Seven simple rules to pair food and wineMy Profile

    • Hi Somesh, thank you very much for the compliment :) I used to have a plugin that put the “pin-it” button on every image, but it kept breaking so I removed it. I’ll check into it again though, maybe they fixed it or there is a different one.

  2. Good post Anne and I especially like that photo of the tree trunk surrounded by fallen leaves – gorgeous! I do most of my photo shooting on our own property and agree, it’s always changing and even when you set up the same composition in the same location as you shot before, it’s never the same image that you get the second (or third, or fourth) time around….definitely worth going back to do it again.
    Laurie MacBride recently posted..Moving Forward in the FogMy Profile

  3. Grace W says:

    There are some really stunning images there! I agree with Laurie, the photo of the tree trunk with the leaves on the ground is gorgeous. Thank you so much for this post, I could certainly benefit from revisiting some of my favorite photography haunts.
    Grace W recently posted..Day 158My Profile

  4. Maria says:

    Very true Anne, the natural world never stays the same and I love that you see it during each transformation and capture that process for us to enjoy.
    Maria recently posted..Anton’s WhimMy Profile

  5. @denise_mclaurin says:

    Beautiful pictures as always Anne! My husband and I were just discussing the idea of the changing quality of light through the seasons last night. I have a couple places I intend to begin shooting on a regular basis as part of a light study (a beautiful botanical park here in VA and a particular section of rolling hills in the Piedmont).

    The suggestion of finding the shots you just don’t see the first time really resonates. Thanks and wishing you well.

    • Hi Denise, I’m so glad the post is helpful for you and came at the right time. Doing a light study is one of the most beneficial things you can do with your photography. I’m sure you will learn a lot. Thanks for your visit and comments.

  6. Russ Bishop says:

    Great advice Anne and beautiful images! It’s true – the more you visit a location the more opportunity you have to discover its various moods and layers, which ultimately flows into your photography.
    Russ Bishop recently posted..Boulder Mountain SolitudeMy Profile

  7. Absolutely love this post and the fabulous pictures. A treat to the eyes. What is stated is very true. The first visit is over-whelming and exciting but doesn’t let you see things differently. Once you have seen and absorbed the usual scenery, your creativity looks for other compositions and angles…which is fun :)
    On that note, I would definitely love to visit again some of the amazing places that I have seen just once.
    Anupama Puneeth recently posted..Autumn Rain …My Profile

  8. Richard Wong says:

    Very nice Anne. Butchart Gardens is by far the most amazing garden I’ve ever visited.

    • I know, right? Butchart Gardens is amazing! The Butcharts did an incredible job of reclaiming this quarry pit. I bet no one has done it better. Thanks for your comments Richard, always appreciated.

  9. Gare Morrell says:

    I so agree with your enlightenment! I too have revisited and have fav spots that I shoot again and again.Open one self to creativity.Cheers love your vision.

  10. Bill Bean says:

    Great post Anne, and I couldn’t agree more. When visiting a location for the first time it’s easy to be overwhelmed by excitement and ultimately coming away with snapshots instead of creative images. And if it’s an “iconic” location you add the pressure of coming up with something different from the previous 8 or 10 million photographers who were there before you. Second time around is usually much more productive for me.

    • Hi Bill, thank you very much for your visit and comments. It’s impossible not to photograph the icons. I like icons :) But yes, you have to get it out of your system to move on to create more original images.

  11. LensScaper says:

    That’s an excellent article, Anne. And so very true. I think on first visits, the emotional part of our brain takes over and we shoot impulsively, without much thought, so caught up in the ‘new’. And of course, because we are not paying attention as well as we should do, to the selection of the best settings, and are just shooting from the hip’, we make mistakes. On the second visit, that excitement is abated, and we take more care. I know this is exactly what happens to me!
    LensScaper recently posted..Variety StreetMy Profile

  12. Janis says:

    Anne, thank you for bringing back memories for me. I visited the Gardens several years, and it was breathtaking. Your pictures make it even more beautiful.

  13. James Farquhar says:

    Wonderful garden – we saw it in 2000. I had a K1000 so have a few phoos from there but would love to see it again. So much to see….
    But Anne, you make the photos we all want to emulate! Thanks for your stunning photos and down-to-earth advice. I think often of you at this tough time.

    • Hi James, thank you very much! The gardens are huge and it is quite a bit to take in in one day, let alone photograph. I like having the season’s pass because then I can go and just visit one of the gardens and photograph it, and not feel like I have to see everything in one day. I appreciate your thoughts right now, the waiting is the hardest part.

  14. This looks like an amazing garden, but I am sure your great photography made it look so much better.
    Cipri @Travelocafe recently posted..German Christmas Traditions: Baking Stollen + #GiveawayMy Profile

  15. Hannu Pohjannoro says:

    Hi Anne, – beautiful images! And you are writing about a very essential topic.

    I think that revisiting the locations is not only the best method to learn to see a location properly, but even more: it’s the method to learn to SEE properly. For me photography (as a hobby, not a profession) is not only about trying to capture things I see, but also an attempt to capture HOW I see things. Or: photographing is a process of learning how to see things.

    All the technical and aesthetical stuff are tools for that process. And learning is not always easy and comfortable: it requires work and patience, and constant search of new possibilities; I mean mentally, in the first hand: a new lens doesn’t help too much if there’s nothing happening behind it.

    • Hi Hannu, you are so right! It takes time and patience to learn how to see, and how to convey emotion in an image. Those are things the camera cannot do for you. Thanks for your visit and comments.

  16. Ann T. Reed says:

    Hello Anne….so many beautiful images…hard to choose just one.
    Sounds like a fun way to visit places, meet others and bring back treasures to enjoy over and over.
    So glad I spent more time on Pinterest and found your site.
    Thanks for the images…I’m inspired.

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