Of, if sniffing the flora isn’t your thing, you can always take pictures instead. I’ve opted for the former, myself. Summer offers a great chance to capture the world in all of it’s warm (and sometimes humid) glory. Here are some landscapes we grabbed over the past two weeks as we explored both DunDee Falls near Beach Town, Oh, and Virginia Kendall Ledges inside of Cuyahoga Valley National Park.
With only a few exceptions, I never like to take the same picture twice. When people come to my portfolio I want them to feel like they are always seeing something for the first time – Indeed, perhaps my personal style is more about being different than it is about any one repeatable technique. Whatever the case, it can feel frustrating at times when you look out of your studio windows and you can’t see any unique photo opportunities waiting for you. In those cases, there’s one obvious solution – exploration.
Keeping it simple, I suggest the following. Go to Mapdevelopers.com and fiddle-around with their map tool that let’s you draw a radius around your starting point. I am setting the radius to be somewhere around 20 or so miles, because that roughly correlates to 30 minutes of driving time in most cases, depending on which roads I plan on traveling. Once your radius is set, zoom in and around the map and just try to find spots where you’ve never been. 30 minutes of travel is no big thing, and I think we can agree that amount of time can usually fit into even the busiest person’s schedule – so no excuses!
Exactly what you are looking to explore is a matter of taste, but this gives you the ability to focus on an idea without getting overwhelmed. Whether looking for water, old cities, country roads, busy streets – just scan your radius for whatever fits the bill. Last week when I did this, I was looking for old-world farms and vistas, and we found em! But I also found some other interesting things that I hadn’t known about previously. Scanning the outer edge of my radius I found a new set of waterfalls I had no idea existed. I’m already planning another 30 minute excursion for that once the seasons change a bit more.
Sometimes it’s a good thing to plan a large trip, especially if you are a landscape photographer, to go out and experience some of the world’s most amazing scenery. However, you shouldn’t feel locked-in and isolated, even in an area that you may feel you’ve previously exploited. Approaching the problem in a new way may help you discover places and things that would have fallen under the radar otherwise!
Below are some of the photos I took on my last 30 minute adventure.
Benjamin Lehman is a professional commercial, advertising, portrait, landscape and wedding photographer in the Akron, Canton, Cleveland and Northeast Areas of Ohio.
Winter Landscape Photography
As of writing this we are still 11 days away from the official start to the winter season. But let’s be honest, once the snow starts to gather on the ground we can call it winter for all express purposes. For me, this is a great thing – I love winter landscapes. I love those big billowy, soft, snow draped trees; those massive, pristine snow drifts – ah, so gorgeous. I also like, by contrast, the more dirty, gritty urban snow-scapes. The muddy, frozen over puddles. The old barns, draped with half melted snow, abandoned for warmer locations. After-all, one of winter’s most evocative moods, for me, is that sense of the forgotten, and left-behind. It’s that amazing feeling of loneliness that captivates me.
Finding locations for these lonesome photos is the easy part. If you live in urban and city areas, just go seek out the quiet alley-ways and evening streets. If you live in a more rural area, find an old farm and barn that’s isolated. Sunset/Sunrise and the blue hours are your best bets. Morning or night just depends on your preference. If it has snowed over the evening, then your morning shots will have a more untouched look to them. In those cases it may be better to wait till evening to get that more worn-in look as the day takes it’s toll. Of course, if it’s going to warm up too much over the day then the morning might offer the best opportunities before the snow melts too much.
What to look for
Like I said, finding the landscape is the easy part. The harder part if finding the mood. Much of that is crafted by the light – that is why I suggest golden and blue hours. Composition is important too. Because of my decades as creative director I can’t help but think and visualize in metaphors and feelings. I don’t look for compositions that read like, “Red-barn on a white field”, or “rule-of-thirds”, or whatever else you normally read about concerning what makes a good photograph. Instead, I look for compositions that speak to me in terms like, isolation, alone, opportunity, hope, strength, leadership, melancholy, etc. I do this because if I can craft a photo that captures the feeling and metaphor in my mind, I know my picture will do a better job conveying that emotion to the viewer.
So, in practice, if you’re out in the field and you see two possible photos: Maybe one is a more classical rule-of-thirds arrangement of your subject against the background. and your second presents a different composition but also conjures memories of a time where you felt cold, and alone, or whatever, then I would strongly suggest exploring that second option first. You can always take the tried and true compositionally correct photo once you’re done, but that second photo which elicits emotion will probably be the photo that resonates with your audience.
I’ll be honest, photos like these have a lot more to do with how you think creatively, and much less to do with all of the “rules” you’ve ever learned about photography. To bring emotion into your photos means you have to learn to recognize your own feelings in that moment and know how to capture them for other’s to see. My best advice is just to be open to what you are feeling when you are on location. If you’re feeling uninspired or nothing at all it just means you need to move around a bit and reorient yourself until you begin to feel that flicker run through your chest and down your arms, spine and legs.
Now, put on some warm clothes, grab your camera and prepare to to brave the cold this winter and express yourself through photography!
Benjamin Lehman is an award winning commercial photographer in the Canton, Akron, Cleveland and Northeast Ohio area.
The best photos happen in the worst weather
Or so famous wildlife and landscape photographer, Moose Peterson, says. And ya know what? I think he’s right. It’s certainly be kind to me. Some of my best photos have been taken under adverse weather conditions.
When the weather got bad this past week, I headed out my front door with camera in hand and took a few pictures and it paid off again. One of the photos I took received Flickr’s Explore (their version of Editor’s Choice) recognition. It’s always an honor to be highlighted on a major photography site, humbling as well.
Here are some more photos taken that day under the stormy skies.