Research Lesser Known Locations

Every area has those iconic photography locations that everybody knows.

They can be great fun to shoot and I fully understand why people flock to them time and time again. Shooting it for themselves, trying to better what others have done before them, trying to find that unique perspective no-one else has ever seen before, or even just for the social element of the hobby to talk gear and experiences with other like-minded people.

I recently heard two well-known photographers refer to photographers who only visit these locations as simply picture collectors. The photographer has a bucket list of popular locations they want to visit and just tick them off the list one by one. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this.

If you know you are going to visit an area, there is nothing easier than doing a google search to find the best locations to shoot. You can see what others have done before you and make a decision if the location will yield good images at the time of year you will visit. 500px is a great tool for this research – you will even get a map showing you where and when an image was taken. It can be a little bit misleading but will give you the general area an image was taken in. Location research for seascapes can be a little tricky. The tides move constantly and they may not suit sunset/sunrise at the time you plan to visit. This is where the next research method pays off big time…….

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A Different Research Method

This research method which has never been easier to utilise than now – contacting local landscape photographers and asking their opinion on a location you intend visiting. I have contacted other local photographers on Facebook in the past and this really works. I have built some great friendships via this method and we swap location details regularly and even meet up to shoot. My last two shoots where no different.

I had identified a very specific location in Co. Clare that I wanted to shoot. I could not really research it online because it is not a well-known spot. I have seen very little imagery coming from it yet I know it has huge potential. When I first discovered it, the weather and tides could not have been worse so I knew another visit was needed. I contacted a local photographer (Ann O’Connell) who I know through Facebook groups. I explained when I would next be in the area and asked her opinion of the location at that time. She was able to advise against it due to various factors but offered to accompany me to a lesser known location of hers which would be more suitable to the time I was visiting. The weather and tides played nicely and I managed a few nice shots. Ann was even able to suggest when I should re-visit my original location. I did manage to re-visit my original location a few weeks later as per Ann’s instruction but alas came home without anything I’d be happy to show despite the tides being perfect.

Last week, I was bound for Mayo (Ireland). I don’t know Mayo well and I have no experience of locations there. I contacted local photographer John Mee by e-mail completely out of the blue and asked for his help. I explained that I wanted to do a coastal shoot, what day I was visiting and that the tide would be full two hours after sunset. John came straight back with 3 location suggestions and advice as to which spot he would pick. I took his advice on a location I had never heard of. I wasn’t expecting much as the weather on the day was rotten but I still managed to come away with images I was happy with. Again, not a well-known location but very suitable to the time I intended visiting.

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I would probably never have found these locations without help unless I had been visiting the area for a while (which is unusual for me). Even had I stumbled on them, I may have needed to revisit several times to figure out the best shooting/tide times. Contacting the local experts cut down my learning curve significantly.

It can be a little daunting contacting someone you don’t know and asking for their advice but “You don’t ask you don’t get”. What harm are you doing? I’ve only ever reached out to another photographer who didn’t bother to respond on one occasion and I think most people are only too glad to help other photographers when they can.


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