Making Unique Pictures

Serenity in silhouette on Barkers Creek Reservoir near Harcourt, Central Victoria, Australia.

Making unique pictures requires vision, creativity and a willingness to experiment. Where necessary you may have to endure inclement weather and win over uncooperative subject matter in your quest for truly unique photography.

If I was to define this image I’d say it was an abstract photograph that explores the following:

  • Mystery

  • Shape

  • Movement

Unique Photography In The Landscape

I was running a photography workshop in Central Victoria and escorted the group to the Barkers Creek Reservoir near Harcourt for the final location of the day.

The location itself is not particularly remarkable, though it does lend itself to interesting and, potentially, unique photography opportunities at the edges of the day.

After sunset the warm light lingered and reflected, from beneath the horizon, up into the clouds from where it reflected back down onto the water.

The low light level required a slow shutter speed. I had my tripod with me, so that wasn’t a problem.

In fact it was an advantage as the slow shutter speed enabled me to produce the lovely misty glow in the water, which I find to be quite ephemeral.

Despite the low levels of light under which I was photographing the distribution of light and dark tones throughout the image enhanced image contrast and the sense of three dimensional space.

I also feel that the dark shapes provided by the tree branches and reflections adds to the prevailing sense of melancholy.

I do hope you enjoy the quiet beauty within this image. While not a spectacular location the transforming nature of the light produced a quite special opportunity for workshop participants.

All agreed it was a great way to end a fun and informative day.

Beauty Is In The Eye Of The Beholder

Perhaps it’s time to consider where we’re likely to find beauty in the landscape.

I love photographing exotic locations as much as the next person. But, like most folks, I haven’t always had the means to get to such places.

The solution is simple:

  • Seek the exotic in the everyday

Beauty Is All Around You

If you’ll look to make unique photos I believe it’s critical to cultivate the ability to be able to see beauty, wherever you are, and ensure you make a point of recognizing it, especially when you find it in an otherwise mundane part of the world.

Practice makes perfect and, by making beautiful photographs in less than exotic locales, you’ll be so much more likely to be able to meet the challenge of making great photographs in more exotic parts of the world.

Photography Is Light

To make unique pictures of relatively mundane locations requires technical skill, a good eye for composition and, above all else, the right light.

Rolling up to the Barkers Creek Reservoir near Harcourt in the middle of a sunny day may not provide you with a great photo.

What’s more, as that’s when most other folk would photograph that location, it’s unlikely your photographs will be particularly unique.

Naturally it’s important to try to ensure that your arrival coincides with good lighting.

Either side of sunrise and sunset often provides wonderful opportunities. But be aware that, due to the low light, the use of a quality tripod or, at the very least, shooting on a high ISO will often be required.

A torch or headlamp is also a good idea to help you see what you’re doing and find your way to and from the car.

Often the best images are made well before sunrise during what’s called the pre-glow or, alternatively, during the afterglow which, if it occurs, takes place well after sunset.

Inclement Weather Can Be Your Best Friend

The reality is that the very best light often appears at the edges of, so-called, inclement weather.

Come to think of it, a warm top and/or a fleece hat or beanie is also a good idea. I often use mine to keep my camera and lens dry when photographing on a rainy day.

There’s no doubt about it, inclement weather can be challenging for outdoor photography.

But being prepared and properly attired can be enough to turn the process of photographing under less than ideal conditions into a pretty enjoyable experience.

Of course bad weather should mean you’ll be photographing these well known locations with less people than you’d normally expect. That’s a definite advantage.

It’s often the willingness to embrace difficult conditions and the level of preparedness that separates the images made by a good photographer from the rest of the pack.

Good photographers understand how to utilize light, composition and story telling to make high quality, compelling images under all manner of situations.

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Concentrate on the Journey, Not the Destination

That’s why it’s not unusual for the best and most unique photos from a particular trip to me made at unscheduled stops along the way to your destination.

While it’s great to have researched a location I think it’s also important to stay flexible and respond intuitively to interesting photo opportunities that arise on route.

It’s said that life is a journey, not a destination. I completely agree with that statement and I think it’s very apt when discussing the nature and process of travel photography.

My advice is to stay alert, be active and embrace the experience in which you find yourself.

When it comes to making truly unique pictures I believe that approach will help set you up for creative success.

Glenn Guy, Travel Photography Guru