Contemporary landscape photography is dominated by the same 20-50 locations. We have all seen specific locations being reproduced and reinterpreted repeatedly, and only a few stand out from the crowd. The key to making unique landscape photos is very simple: find something new to photograph.
Let me be the first to say I have absolutely nothing against photographing the icons. There are many benefits to doing so, and I thoroughly enjoy it myself. However, it is hard to argue that no matter how you edit your photos, they will hardly be unique. Someone else has already made that sunrise photo from Mesa Arch, someone else has already made a long exposure black and white fine art photo from Skogafoss, someone else has certainly already photographed the northern lights above Kirkjufell, and a yellow raincoat has already visited all these locations. It is fun to visit and photograph the icons; it hones your skills, gives a sense of achievement, and gives you a fantastic experience. Nevertheless, the photos are not unique. In the end, you have to ask yourself if these photos represent you, what the next step for your photography is, and if you want to photograph something no one has done before.
There is hardly any place or any landscape photo more famous than the sunrise at Mesa Arch.
In my latest video, I share some of the different techniques I use to find new and interesting places to photograph. Due to the current world situation, I use Denmark as an example; however, the techniques apply to any country. Whether you just want to go and explore something random, want to increase your chances of finding something, or if you look for something specific, these techniques should be able to help you. The techniques are even more powerful if you combine them.
If I want to explore a specific mountainous area, Google Earth is a very powerful tool. I can spend hours looking through different valleys and find peaks that stand out. I have used Google Earth to prepare for many different locations. A couple of these examples include both one photo from the Faroe Islands and another from Denmark. Just see the two before and after photos below.
Another technique is to explore your local tourist homepages. In Denmark, we have “Visit Denmark,” and in England, they have “Visit England.” These homepages are treasure chests of information: much information on cityscapes, but you do not have to search for long before you find information about nature and landscapes. Most countries also have specific tourist information about local areas, where you can find outstanding spots close to home.
I also find information through different national nature services. In the US, a great example of this would be the National Park Service, and in Denmark, we have something equal, which provides articles and extensive information on where to go and what to see in nature.
A location I found while exploring a forest I found via the Danish Nature Department.
If you search for something very specific, Google is still your best friend. Let us say you want to find some oak trees close to where you live: you just search for “Oak Trees” and the location you are close to. You may want to do it in your own language, as most of this information is made by locals for the locals.
Again, let me stress this is not an article about not going to the icons; this is an article about not depending on them for amazing photography.
In the video above, I have more suggestions on how to explore and utilize social media for exploration, so be sure to check it out and let me know if you have more tips for finding new and unique places to photograph.