When you go out to photograph a location it is a good idea to have an image pre-visualized. Knowing what you are getting into with your camera is a good way of establishing some level of success before you arrive on location. While there is never a guarantee of a good image there are ways of increasing your odds of success.
I could go into great detail on many of the options and tools for getting to this level of success that would be extensive and not the point I am working towards. Listing a couple out that I have used there are PhotoPills, 500px, and smaller hiking forums. This only takes you so far, though.
Let’s look at the philosophy of a beginner at landscape photographer. When you are starting out in landscape photography you are starting out trying to properly expose, edit properly, and be on location at the right times of day. This takes you all the way up to when you are shooting to compose unique images of your own.
Many that have started out in landscape photography begin with a camera in hand going to places they are familiar with at some level. As a photographer, you start with what you know and are certain to find success with. The ‘spoon feeding’ of light, composition, and settings. This level of photography can take you fairly far at the most basic of levels.
The majority of landscape photographers find a large plateau at this point. You find yourself shooting in a similar way to many others and uninspired by the beginner ‘trophies’ you take home. It is common to objectify shooting just better light than most of a location many before you have photographed. This is also the point at which many become discouraged and put away the camera permanently…
I hit this point. I very nearly put the camera away. However, I found out something truly inspiring recently! Photographing common spots and great light is what we do to practice. We all start out as a beginner that can barely put an image together. It is all this practice and experience shooting various compositions that gives us the skills to capture something that elevates us to the next level at some point.
The most experienced of landscape photographers still take home ‘trophies’ for their work. Almost every single famous Ansel Adams photograph now has a parking lot next to it. Look at Marc Adamus, Mark Metternich, Alex Noriega, and Michael Shianblum who all have legendary images landscape photographers drool over. These are the next level of trophies that do more than show a location that is beautiful in great light.
When an experienced photographer takes an image that is profoundly defining the location they were at this is a ‘trophy’. Something that shows off the beauty of a location in a single frame that documents the charm in a way that has never been seen before. An image that others may look up to and see as the pinnacle of photographing an area. That is what an experienced landscape photographer calls a ‘trophy’.
So, to cap it all off it is ok to shoot locations that have been captured before. Everyone starts out at a level where it is impossible to truly capture something of legendary status, We practice at these icons of composition to learn, develop, and push our own boundaries photographically, and eventually if you are persistent, skilled, and a bit lucky there is the opportunity to go to somewhere unique defining the location or even style entirely in the art form. Go get a trophy for yourself!