One thing that I frequently discuss on workshops is developing creativity. While some photographers may feel like they have a good understanding of their camera functions, creativity is more elusive and harder to quantify. And when we travel to national parks or international destinations, there are those famous overlooks (you know the one, with the camera sign by the parking area) that we stop at to photograph. But isn’t this a bad thing; after all, hundreds of thousands of images have been taken in this exact spot.
Cliche photos are not a bad thing. It was probably that cliche photo that actually attracted you to that famous park or country in the first place. They inspire us to visit new locations, and give us a baseline of what has been done. So while cliche images may get a bad reputation, I see them as a starting point to creating my own images in the same area.
I tell my students to start with the cliche shot at the famous overlook, get that image and move on. ‘Snapshots’ are fine to show friends at home, but probably won’t be your favorite image from the trip. Your next step is to seek out original images, and avoid the tourist snapshot. Create images, don’t take snapshots.
How to get an original image in a heavily photographed spots?
-light; wait for interesting light or passing storms to transform the scene.
-perspective; don’t stand with your camera on a tripod like everyone else; find a fresh perspective. Look high, get low, shoot through trees, fences or other objects.
-try a different aperture; images take on a new meaning and mood when you change your aperture. How about shooting the landscape at F1.4 and focus on something in the foreground so the iconic background is slightly out of focus? Engage the viewer to look harder at your image.
-photograph in the off-season at the famous overlook.
-zoom your feet. Don’t zoom your lens, go for hike to get a new perspective.
-include people. Create an editorial image that tells more about the scene than just the stunning view.
-add flash. Create your own light for a new creative look.
To sum it up, think outside the box. Get the iconic shot that brought you to the area in the first place, and then create your own original image…and don’t take ‘snapshots.’