Off The Beaten Track

Making images of iconic locations is fine, but, making images of locations you have discovered is even more rewarding. Do you walk off the beaten track?

I am an advocate of making images of iconic locations, when others refuse to do so as 'they have been done' by others. To be honest, I could never understand this way of thinking. Does this mean that we can never have images of iconic locations just because others have photograph them before us? What about young new photographers? Are they supposed to stay clear of iconic locations? It sounds crazy but, at the end of the day, who am I to judge?

Continuing from my previous article ‘Beyond the obvious’, I’d like to take this subject slightly further and express my personal view. Even iconic locations can never offer the same image twice and the reason is very simple and obvious; different light every time and, as we all know, light is a vital element in landscape photography. So, don’t be a follower of that way of thinking, create your own versions.

Now, once you have created your masterpiece, why feel the need for immediate departure from the chosen iconic location? Don’t you ever wonder what could be around the corner? Are you not curious to find out?

Take this image for example. It was made extremely close to an iconic location on the Isle of Skye in Scotland, Loch Cill Criosd. This is a highly inspiring location, a loch with golden reeds under the right light and mesmerising views of the Cuillin hills. Everyone stops here as driving by it is not an option. The loch is like a mythological siren’s allure where sweet sounds in the air take you away into a different world. Does this sound like a landscape photographer’s dream? I think it does.

However, one only has to wander further along the road and around the corner to see something quite different. Having made my dream image of this location, I walked all the way to the south west of the Loch. There is a little hill (more like a camel’s hump) next to the road, which I walked behind and was faced with rock formations that seemed completely out of place. It took me some time to catch up with what I had been missing all this time, I hadn’t seen any pictures of the area taken from this spot before. There was one erratic boulder that was sitting perfectly on top of rock covered in lichen and this, coupled with the view of the Cuillin hills, was my inspiration.

I made an image that day but I wasn’t completely happy with it. I promised myself to go back again under better light conditions. A quick search made me realise that the sun sets behind the hills during the months of March and April. March 2012 I was back there again and this time I was lucky to experience a stunning sunset.

The only problem I had that evening was with exposure. The dynamic range was huge and even with ND grad filters in place I couldn’t balance the exposure. I decided to opt for a variety of exposures that were later blended together in Lightroom.

This location (like many others) is not visible from the road; one has to walk off the beaten track to discover new and exciting places. Making images of iconic locations is fine, but, making images of locations you have discovered is even more rewarding.

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