Location constraints in landscape photography


I'm back from Portland. I had a blast visiting some of my favorite places once again: I drove over 800 miles in 3 days! But while doing so, I couldn't stop thinking about how bad that was for my photography and how different it is back here in the Midwest, where my choice of location is much more limited.

I must admit, I'd gotten used to have a million beautiful landscapes to photograph within a couple hour drive. I took it for granted.

I'm experiencing the opposite situation here in our temporary residence in the Midwest: the hundreds of miles of wilderness have been replaced with a few small city parks, and the (very limited) shoreline of one of the big lakes has taken the place of the vast ocean.

It might seem unintuitive at first, but I think this change has been really good for my photography.

This past week in Portland reminded me of most of my time there: jumping from one location to another, always struggling to choose just one. This might sound like a good problem to have, and it really is, but I've come to the realization that having some constraints can be really good.

Here in the Midwest, having limited locations has had a positive impact on me in a few ways:

  • Images are much harder to find. But the good news is, there are images to be made here. Since they are not in plain sight in front of thousands of tourists and hikers, they'll probably be very unique as well.
  • I don't jump from one location to another. Because there aren't many locations to jump to, I can focus on one and try to get the most out of it.
  • You have some very needed "time off". Back in the West, there were so many places to go to that I never stopped and thought about what I wanted to do with my photography. All I wanted was to take more and more photos, make more images all the time. Now, and while this is going to be a work in progress for a long time, I know what I'm doing and where I want to go. I also have more time to reflect on my images.
  • The world is my canvas. I used to think that I could only make beautiful images at beautiful places. Therefore, I was somewhat limited about where to go. But now that I've made some of my favorite images in a very harsh place for photography, the whole world has potential.

Amazing places are awesome for any photographer. But living in more limited places shouldn't have to mean fewer opportunities to make images, and most importantly, it doesn't mean lower quality images.