Shooting epic locations is on every nature photographer’s list of things to do. Whether it is Patagonia, the old barn in the Tetons or the wide expanse of the Grand Canyon, many of these epic locations have been photographed since camera’s were first invented. When visiting these popular locations, it can be easy to feel like the image has been “done before”. While there is certainly nothing wrong with photographing the epic composition, often the most satisfaction is gained by creating your own.
When scouting out a new location, I start on the internet looking for images that inspire my curiosity. This does not necessarily mean, good photographs; often the images I see are just snap shots to lead me to the conclusion that the terrain is a place I want to go. I don’t study the image compositions, I study the location itself.
Once I have arrived on sight, I like to spend some time during non-peak shooting hours scouting out the location to find compositions that I believe will work out well during the golden hours. Often I sit and just take in the environment and really focus on what it is that makes the location special and then I attempt to incorporate that facet into the photograph so others experience what I felt.
Knowing I would be visiting the Columbia River Gorge, I located a number of waterfalls I really wanted to see in person. I searched the internet, which was full of fantastic shots, and wondered if I could really add anything new to the mix. Once approaching Weisendanger Falls, I shot the obvious compositions which were closer to the falls, but something kept pulling me toward the old stump with a sapling growing out of it. Realizing the water flowing around the old tree seemed to incorporate the sapling into the frame, the final shot became obvious.
When you are at an epic destination that has been shot thousands of times, get the image you came for, but then spend a little bit of time finding a composition that speaks to you and make it your own.