Don't Disregard the Familiar

By Roger (3 Oct 2013)

This weekend is the Worldwide Photowalk.  I hope you are participating in one of the over 1,200 photowalks in cities around the world.  For Mark and I, that means a third time leading the Colonial Williamsburg walk, with 24 of the almost 27,000 photographers participating.  Someone asked why we were going back to Williamsburg, instead of some place new.

That's a fair enough question and got me considering the attitude of many photographers.  We all love new photo locations and photographic opportunities, but, usually, don't want to go back for repeat visits.  Why is that?  Did you take the best photos ever taken of that location; photos that can't be done any better?  I doubt that.  Aren't new things happening, every day, at these locations? On your next visit, the weather will be different; arrive at an earlier or later time, and the lighting will be different.

The storekeeper takes a break in Colonial Williamsburg. 

The storekeeper takes a break in Colonial Williamsburg. 

The best landscape and nature photographers consistently revisit locations.  That is their “secret” for getting those dramatic photos – they know they have to be there when the conditions are just right.  Some visit a location so often they won't even pull out the camera if the scene isn't dramatic enough for them. You can't expect to go, just once, to Half Dome, in Yosemite and photograph it as well as Ansel Adams did. 

Your next visit to an old, familiar location may be your best ever.  As always, your decision on where to spend your photographic time doesn't have to be a binary, either/or decision. I've had a great year of new travel: Poland; Australia; and many of our States.  I also returned to some old favorites: Gettysburg (3 times); Boston (4 times); Annapolis (3 times); and, once again, Williamsburg.  Each time, I found plenty of opportunities for new photographs.

The same is true about revisiting and reprocessing old photographs.  Brooks Jensen, of Lenswork, just had an interesting editorial about this very topic.  He states that, although collectors value the early editions of collectable photographs more highly than later editions, they should do the exact opposite.  As a photographer matures and reworks an image, it becomes closer to his ideal (which should mean the reworked photograph is more valuable than his earlier work).  I agree and encourage you to spend some time on your older photographs. 

Besides your own growth as a photographer, the capabilities of your processing software has improved every year since you took it.  The capabilities to bring out detail in shadows and highlights; reduce noise; and correct perspective have been vastly improved.  It may be as simple as a minor cropping change that can change the viewers' perception of the photograph. 

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Look at the difference a simple re-cropping can make.  These are two different versions of the same photo in Arlington National Cemetery.  Look at your old images and rework them - you're a better photographer than you were in 2011. 

Look at the difference a simple re-cropping can make.  These are two different versions of the same photo in Arlington National Cemetery.  Look at your old images and rework them - you're a better photographer than you were in 2011. 

Nobody loves to travel to new places more than me, but don't miss the chance to revisit locations you've seen many times. How many times has the sports photographer returned to the same stadium?  Some days when you can't get out, go through some old photographs that could use another chance at better processing. Ansel Adams reworked his prints innumerable times, and his photography continues to be highly regarded. 

Have fun with it. 

The Virginia Safari Preserve - from my fourth visit with the grandkids. 

The Virginia Safari Preserve - from my fourth visit with the grandkids.