Avoca, Kilmacanogue, Co. Wicklow, Ireland
I love to take photographs wherever I go.
When driving I often stop along my route at a place that I think might offer a photography opportunity.
When I visit a new place, photography is on my list of things to do.
Yet, like most people, I spend most time at home, so I have tried to make the most of my own area as a photography location.
One thing I acknowledge is that home locations vary, so what I can do in my area may not apply to everyone.
There are also those who have amazing locations on their doorstep that offer photographic opportunities that I don’t have.
The point is that wherever we live there are advantages to keeping our photography practice close to home and if we spend some time discovering what our local area has to offer, we might just find that it offers us much of what we need as photographers.
What is local?
Image taken in my local park (filter applied)
Marlay Park, Rathfarnham, Co. Dublin
It might be worthwhile defining what we mean by local.
I live on the outskirts of Dublin, a coastal city overlooked by mountains.
Being a small city, it is easy to travel to neighbouring counties, which again offer mountains and stunning coastline.
Within walking distance, or at least easy driving distance, there are numerous parks, woodland areas and river walks.
Public transport would leave me in the city in 20 minutes, a place which is a magnet for local street photographers.
I consider my local area to be anywhere within a radius of a 30–40-minute drive; somewhere that I can easily reach, spend time taking photographs and return home in a few hours.
It also offers locations that I can return to easily.
Even though most of us would love to be able to travel to iconic locations for our photography, it’s not possible most of the time, so being able to find photo opportunities locally is a great advantage.
Ticknock, Dublin Mountains
Here are 7 reasons why making the most of your local area could turn it into your dream photography location.
You’ll get to know your own area intimately as a photography location.
When you spend time regularly walking, hiking, or strolling around your local area you begin to connect with your environment in a special way. It becomes very familiar to you, you get to know all the special places, all the nooks and crannies, the hills and riverbanks, the seashores and woodlands.
As you come to know your location more intimately you have a sense of ownership of the place; a sense that this is your place, special to you.
When you travel around your area with your camera and photography in mind, it becomes even more special as it opens up a world of amazing photo opportunities.
Kilmacanogue, Co. Wicklow, Ireland
You’ll make unique images
Most of us are tempted to say that our local area doesn’t offer much in terms of photography opportunities.
In fact, when we were all forced to stay local many photographers bemoaned the fact that there was nothing interesting to shoot.
When we compare our area to some of the iconic locations that photographers dream about, it may be true that our local area has less to offer, but if we think in terms of unique images, our own location may in fact have more to offer because it gives us the opportunity to make images that other photographers won’t make.
If we change our mindset and begin to see our local area as a place of abundance in photography terms, we will soon begin to see opportunities everywhere and find ourselves making images that have our own personal stamp on them, rather than images shot by many photographers before us.
And the more we connect in a personal way with our environment, the more unique our images will be.
Vartry Reservoir, Co. Wicklow, Ireland
You’ll be able to take advantage of all times and seasons
Photography can be different things in different seasons. Shooting in a woodland in spring is very different from shooting in a woodland in autumn; a coastal area will yield totally different images in winter than it would in summer.
I have often been in a location in one season and imagined what it would be like in another but travelling back was not always possible.
In my own location I have photographed trees in all seasons, visited the coast when summer vegetation made a nice foreground for a sea image and again when the winter sea was rough and wild.
I have been able to make a spontaneous decision to go out on a misty autumn morning or to catch a late summer evening sunset.
I have been able to avoid the harsh mid-day sun, knowing that I could take a later walk or drive to a chosen location to do some evening photography.
Being able to take advantage of all times and seasons is one of the great benefits of photography in your local area.
Marlay Park, Rathfarnham, Co. Dublin
You’ll feel less pressure to get that image first time
I often feel under pressure when I am in a location that is far away from home, especially when I know that I won’t be back anytime soon.
I know it’s not the end of the world, but if I have my heart set on getting a certain image in a particular place then I feel disappointed if I can’t manage to get it.
I have often passed an area, seen something that I thought would make a great image, and had to pass on by as I either didn’t have time to stop, didn’t have my camera with me, or was with travelling companions who were tired of having to wait while I took photographs!
In my own local area, this is not a problem.
If I don’t have my camera with me and I need a better lens than my phone camera can give me, I can easily go back again another time.
If I am out with walking companions and don’t want to keep them waiting, I can go back again another time.
If I want to spend more time observing, making decisions, composing my image, I can go back again another time.
To go back again another time is an option when I am doing photography in my own location, in a way that doesn’t apply when I am in an ‘away’ location.
Bray, Co. Wicklow, Ireland
You get to improve your skills
Getting out on a regular basis means that I get to practise my skills regularly.
Camera settings, technical skills, composition, finding subjects, working with light are all aspects of photography that need practice and where better to get this practice than in a place you know well, can come back to often and can have the opportunity to work on different skills?
Being close to a waterfall means you can work on perfecting shutter speed; flower photography gives you an opportunity to try out different apertures; constantly being out and about means you can think about composition and look for different elements of composition such as leading lines or natural frames.
Marlay Park, Co. Dublin
Because you will have regular opportunities to do different types of photography, for example, street, close-up, landscape, nature and flower photography, or do a project, e.g., park through the seasons or a tree project, you have a perfect chance to broaden your photography horizons.
You have a chance to wander aimlessly and explore – regularly!
Observing and exploring are two very important skills in photography. In fact, I would almost say that if you don’t have time to spend exploring the location you are in, your final images will suffer.
A good photograph needs good knowledge of an area and time for proper composition.
A rushed photograph may look good in the end, but it might have been so much better if you had known more about what was in the area, what you could have included that you didn’t know about.
In our local area we get to know our surroundings, we get to make decisions based on good local knowledge and we can get the best possible compositions each time we go out.
Marlay Park, Rathfarnham, Co. Dublin
You’ll discover things you didn’t know about your area – all part of the fun!
This might not be entirely photography related, yet if we enjoy being in our own local area, seeing the potential and the opportunities it has to offer, then our photography can only gain from that.
If our mindset about our local area is one of positivity, of seeing opportunities, of embracing abundance, then our photography will be richer and more productive.
And the opposite will be true too.
So go on, get out and about in your local area.
Bring your camera,
Or bring your phone.
Wander, observe, experiment, make mistakes, learn, and above all, enjoy making your own unique images.
Dun Laoghaire, Co. Dublin
Sunrise, Ballinteer, Co. Dublin
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