Travel Photography: Desert Road Trip
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Why shoot in places you've shot before?


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Travel Photography: Desert Road Trip

with Ben Long

Video: Why shoot in places you've shot before?

I've been to Death Valley a lot and I've shot here a lot. So you might be thinking, then why did choose Death Valley as a location for this course if you've been here so much? That's a good question and it's a question I will often find myself asking myself when I'm wandering around Death Valley not getting any pictures that I like. I'll think, well why did I come here, why didn't I go somewhere new since I'm not seeing anything here, I feel like I've shot it all before. The challenge of returning to a place is to try to get out of your comfort zone. The way that I shot it before was probably the way that it, it was most obvious to me. By coming back to it now, I'm challenging myself to find a new way of shooting, trying to find a less obvious way of shooting, trying to find a different take on the same material.

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Watch the Online Video Course Travel Photography: Desert Road Trip
1h 55m Intermediate Jun 07, 2013

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Every type of location presents its own photographic challenges. For the stark wilderness of Death Valley National Park, these can include harsh desert light, stark landscapes, and a vastness that can be daunting to capture in a single frame. In this course, travel along with author, teacher, and photographer Ben Long to Death Valley to learn about the challenges and techniques behind capturing the exotic beauty and surprising details of the desert.

Topics include:
  • Looking at the light
  • Composing a shot to show rock texture
  • Taking a shot with haze and working it in post
  • Shooting sand dunes in changing light
  • Exploring the vistas for a more dramatic shot
  • Understanding the pace of a place
Subject:
Photography
Author:
Ben Long

Why shoot in places you've shot before?

I've been to Death Valley a lot and I've shot here a lot. So you might be thinking, then why did choose Death Valley as a location for this course if you've been here so much? That's a good question and it's a question I will often find myself asking myself when I'm wandering around Death Valley not getting any pictures that I like. I'll think, well why did I come here, why didn't I go somewhere new since I'm not seeing anything here, I feel like I've shot it all before. The challenge of returning to a place is to try to get out of your comfort zone. The way that I shot it before was probably the way that it, it was most obvious to me. By coming back to it now, I'm challenging myself to find a new way of shooting, trying to find a less obvious way of shooting, trying to find a different take on the same material.

The advantage of coming to a place that I've been to before is I know it well already. I know the places that I want to go. I know the places that I can skip. I might have already shot someplace and feel like that's all I need to do in that location. For example, Zabriskie Point is a very famous photo destination here in Death Valley. Here's a picture of it. We're not going to go there It's a nice enough place, but most of the time if you go there you see this. Just a bunch of photographers. And you're jostling for position and there's a lot of people around. I come to the desert to get away from people.

So I don't really feel a reason to go back there. Honestly, it's pretty and all, but I don't really get why it's such a big destination here in the park given everything else that's around, so I'm going to skip that one. I'm going to skip a couple of other things and really focus on the areas that I know that I like, areas that I feel like, I've shot this before, but I think maybe I could do something different. Of course, you return to a landscape at different times of the year, and you find different things. Seasonal changes, make changes in color and vegitation, and more importnatly, make big changes in light. Winter light's very different from summer light.

So you might come back to a place because you think, wow, if I would come back when the light was more like this, there'd really be a great shot there. A lot of landscape photographers will spend a lot of time with an almanac. Really trying to figure out exactly when the sun is going to be in a very particular place to shoot a very particular location, and they'll plan a trip around that. So, if you really go to a place over and over, you're going to learn its potential with different kinds of light. And be able to come back at different times and get different types of photos. Now, how is that different from going to a place that you've never been to before? When you first walk into a landscape that you've never seen before, typically it's like going anywhere else new. Your eyes are really open, and you might really be noticing things as very fresh things.

You'll tend to shoot a high volume. But you won't necessarily be able to go as deep as you do when you return to a place over and over because everything is new, because there's so much to shoot. So going to a new place you might also find that you're getting into places that aren't so interesting, because you didn't know any better. So there're just different mindsets, different expectations. But just because you've been somewhere doesn't mean you shouldn't go back to it. It doesn't mean you shouldn't try to push yourself. I'm going to push myself in two ways on this trip. One is just psychologically. I'm going to try to make myself shoot the images that I'm less comfortable shooting.

I don't mean physically less comfortable. Shooting the images that I think, well, that's probably a dumb shot. I'm going to try it anyway. I've got good shots already at home. I've got my safety shots. Now I'm going to try and push it. I'm also trying something different. I've never brought macro lenses to Death Valley before, so I might try some macro shooting. I've got a, a fisheye that I've never had here before, so I can make gear changes. But mostly it's in your eyes. It's trying to see things differently. It's trying to have the courage to shoot things differently than you did before.

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