Finding and working in cool locations for great photography


Finding and working in cool locations for great photography

I get asked all the time, how do you find cool spots to shoot? First, you have to change your mindset. You have to have your eyes peeled at all times looking for cool new spots. It doesn’t matter where we are traveling or what we are doing, I am always seeing things through the eyes of a photographer. Drives my wife nuts, but its what I do.

Even better, I use an app called Pocket Scout, its a $1.99 app that allows you to GPS your favorite spots and store pictures of the location for easy access when you are looking for that perfect spot to shoot and can’t remember what it looks like or where exactly it is.

As many of you know, I am just returning from a trip to China. There was no scenario I was going over to China and not working on my portfolio. That was a given. The question was where were we going? Well, to Google we went. Pick a city and start Googling and looking at images on there. Use key terms like “city name cool architecture” and go from there. Some places you might need a permit for, others plan to run and gun. Regardless, this will serve as the starting point for cool locations.

This year is a year of reinvention for me. I want to try different things – different posing, different lighting, different editing. I am going into my 8th year as a professional photographer and I want to be better. Every year I push myself to be a little bit better and this year is no exception.

Back to my story. We were in Hong Kong and found an island called Sai Kung about an hour outside of the city. It was a gorgeous location and hard to imagine that just an hour outside of the city such gorgeous and secluded views could possibly exist. After the hour drive, we had to hike 2 hours with all our gear to an abandoned fishing village on the MacLehose trail. Now, what made this hike to interesting was the fact that we really didn’t plan properly – we had no map, no water, no towels, and about 50-60 lbs of gear. Good times. 🙂 And oh yeah, Laurin and Taylor got sick on the way in. So, it was on me and Alissa to make sure we got what we needed.

Check out the video of how happy we were when the trip started – Instagram video.


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Once we arrived, there was this abandoned fishing village that we just fell in love with. Breathtaking view and perfect for the kind of shot we were looking to pull off. The outfit Alissa had purchased before we left and the chiffon is something you can pick up at any fabric shop in your area. We used the Phase One IQ250 and the Schneider 55mm lens for the shot along with 2 Profoto B1s. The image was made at f6.3 @ 1/100s ISO 200.


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After this, the team was completely dehydrated and exhausted and the sun was setting fast. The thought of walking for another two hours to get out was just too much. All of a sudden, a nice lady from England came walking by and asked if we were heading to the ferry. Everyone’s eyes lit up with this amazing new information. Turns out there was a ferry that ran twice a day and if we could get to the stop in the next 15min we would cut two hours off! We packed up and hustled to the stop making it there just as the ferry was pulling up.

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However, Alissa and I were just not done yet. We wanted one more shot, something with water and mood really showing off the location. We sent Taylor and Laurin home in a cab and Alissa and I hiked another 1.5 miles until we came upon this no trespassing sign – which I read as, “Please climb over – we would love for you to take pictures here.”

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We had about 10min of light left. Alissa and I scurried down to the beach, the tide was rolling in, we were trying to get set up, trying to figure out the right lens, lighting, etc all in a mad dash. When we set up, we were standing on sand, within minutes, water was up to our ankles. I had to kick off my shoes and run out to her as I was still changing lenses. Cursing every step of the way as I was stepping on what seemed like freaking glass for shells. And I am not even going to tell you what happened when I looked down and saw a crab crawling up my foot and leg.

“Ok”, I yelled out to Alissa, “we can do this – we have to focus!” we got 4 frames off and this is what we got. I absolutely love the tone and mood of the image. The fog was rolling in and the boats in the background just really set the tone – this is one of my favorite shots in recent months. Very different than what I would normally see and do. Maybe I need a crab crawling up my… never mind, I digress.

This image was made with the Phase One IQ250 and the 28mm Schneider lens. It was shot at ISO 800, f6.3 @ 1/125s.

As you continue on your journey of growing your business the one thing you must continue to do is grow your portfolio and master your craft. You have to get out there and do things you are not comfortable with. Find new locations. Grab people you know. Shoot, shoot, shoot.

Hope you enjoyed this post.

This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. Tony Woods

    Lovely images and a great story. On a slightly different angle, my wife and I were in Santorini. I was wondering around with a 70-200mm lens on my Canon 5dmk2 when I saw the beautiful woman with a dress on that looked as though it had been painted on to her incredible figure. She was being photographed by her boyfriend with a very simple “point and shoot” camera. I pointed my camera at her from about 20m away and her boyfriend and her beckoned me over. Within 5 minutes I had obtained some of the best fashion shots I had taken for years and she was not a model but a fitness instructor from Toronto. They both loved the images I sent over to them.

  2. Rick

    Great stuff. One of the fun things to do is have a respected, out of town photographer shoot at your local venues. Gives new perspective and insight into local opportunities previously undiscovered. I wonder if you had any local photographers following you around? For some, a new venue spawns fear. Clearly, for you it puts gasoline on your creative fire..

  3. Kristian

    Great post and adventure! Looks like this situation in the last shot would of suited the I250 perfectly 🙂

  4. Nathan

    Definitely enjoyed the post Sal!…we traveled to Asia about 2 years ago now…Makes me want to go back! Gonna have to rent that camera for a few days this year….

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