I have lived in Oregon for a little over two years now and while I enjoy going to new spots I have also found revisiting old ones enjoyable as well! There are plenty of reasons to constantly chase new locations and images, but when I have gone on trips for this purpose many of the images I came home with lacked something in them…
I believe that in order to get really compelling images of a location that tells a complete story you have to go back again and again. This is to get the right combination of conditions, composition, and having a real connection to the subject itself!
The weather is the one thing in our images that we have the least control over. There is planning that can be done to give yourself the best odds of capturing those ‘ideal’ conditions but no guarantees. Whether that means snow, fog, or an epic sunset it is unlikely that you get the right look to a scene on the first visit. I have been to many locations on a trip where I could only be there for one day and I couldn’t get the shot I wanted because the weather wasn’t cooperating.
The best thing we can do when the conditions aren’t in our favor for a specific image we are looking for is to move on and find something else to photograph in the area that is more favorable. Hopefully, you can return to that composition you had scouted out at a future date to try it again. Control what you can control and that is what your camera is pointed at!
Composing images is a skill in and of itself. Getting the elements of a scene to align correctly during the right light is near impossible in the excitement of the moment. Most photographers get themselves caught up in the moment and mistakes are made especially on the first visit. Perhaps the foreground isn’t ideal but you settled for it because there wasn’t enough time before sunrise/sunset. There could also be distracting elements you missed or overlooked on the back of the camera at the time. After reviewing images you took of a location you can keep the tweaks to the composition in the back of your mind on a return trip to improve upon the composition captured on the last visit.
The most challenging part of being a landscape photographer is telling a compelling story in a complete way. All we have is a single still frame with the expectation of creating a connection with the viewer and a subject. It takes a deep understanding of the location itself to be able to do this. It is why landscape photographers like Ansel Adams made a name for themselves photographing a very narrow range of locations for a large part of their career. It is after many visits to one spot you will start to develop that appreciation of a subject and be able to capture that on the back of a camera through the right composition, conditions, settings, processing, etc…
While landscape photography can be approached in ways like icon hunting, stamp collecting, post-processing images to death, etc… There is a certain high level of quality that can be achieved when we take the time to make return visits to locations we enjoy. We need the right conditions and composition to create really great landscape photography, and those two things together can take a very long time to get together in a single image. Adding in a deep understanding and connection to the subject/location in the image that the story is being told about really caps it all off though. A great goal as a landscape photographer is to try bringing all three together on a select few locations you have a passion for!