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Hidden in Plain Sight: Exploring Overlooked Subjects Closer to Home

Updated: Oct 26, 2018

A misty Korean pine forest
A lesser shot pine grove park only 30 minutes from home.

It's impossible to spend any amount of time on social media without noticing that photographers have a particular love of traveling. Many photographers hop from one world-class location to the next, spending a few weeks shooting fall colors in Patagonia before flying up to shoot the aurora in Iceland, only to dash over to Italy just in time to catch wildflowers in the Dolomites.

These places are famous for a reason and there are plenty of photographers creating amazing and creative work in these very popular locations. Nonetheless, working on creating images closer to home is a wonderful way to challenge one's creative vision and perhaps create images with a unique homegrown twist.

Overlooked and Under Appreciated

Sometimes as nature and landscape photographers it is easy to fall into the trap of becoming destination focused, where it feels like the only way to add more photos to our portfolio is to buy a ticket to an exciting destination. Sometimes, though, in our focus to get to the next destination, we ignore plenty of wonderful image opportunities all around us every day. Despite living in a large city in South Korea, plenty of my shots have been taken within 30 minutes of my home and sometimes even right in the middle of the city.

Take this ice abstract as an example. For all anyone knows it could have been taken in Iceland or any other exotic destination, but was instead taken next to a very bland river that runs right behind my apartment. After walking by this spot every morning on my way to work and simply noticing the ice that gathered between the stepping stones that cross the river, I finally decided that I needed to bring my camera and capture it before it was all melted. In all honesty, I might have completely ignored a shot like this if I was indeed at a beautiful location because I would be too busy focused on the more obvious shots. This is one of the biggest benefits of shooting close to home: looking for the diamonds in the rough can be a wonderful spark to creativity.

Another example of abstract work shot close to home

In the Right Light...

Landscape photographers know better than most that sometimes all it takes is the right conditions to come away with a beautiful shot. Living in Korea where ideal conditions can at times feel nearly impossible to catch, it is tempting to take the safe bet and go to one of the more popular spots where it feels like the tripod holes are almost already worn in for you. Even closer to home, however, the right conditions can turn many locations into gorgeous spots for photography. These shots are a perfect example of this. These were taken along a river right on the other side of a large dam. Every day the water fluctuates here and at times it can look like a muddy pit, but on humid summer mornings when cold water releases from the dam, a beautiful mist forms over the water and creates plenty of opportunity for dreamy photos that would be unimaginable under different conditions.

While my current home may be South Korea, when I visit my family back in western Washington, I try to apply this same mindset whenever I can. Sure, it is always tempting to drive 2 hours or so up to Mount Rainier and catch another sunrise at reflection lake, but even 30 minutes from home there are plenty of hidden gems waiting to be photographed. The Nisqually Delta may be a popular spot to take a nice nature walk and do a little bird watching, but it is also a beautiful spot for nature photography given the right conditions.

Some nice autumn mist and a flock of geese gave this local spot a wonderful mood

Let's face it, the draw of epic locations is hard to resist. However, adding a variety a under photographed local gems to your portfolio is a fantastic way to keep things fresh and expand your personal vision. Given the right conditions and a little creativity, your next image might literally be just around the corner.

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