Shooting Like A World Traveler, At Home with Casey Dittmer
Most of us love to travel. The excitement of new locations, new scenery, fresh ideas. It inspires us and feeds our creative soul. If you’re like me, I tend to put a lot of planning and creative energy towards shoots that take place while I’m traveling. I look forward to it, marking these shoots as standout portfolio builders and points of growth. But, have you ever stopped to think about all the missed opportunities for amazing shots right in our own backyards?
Look, I get it. We get used to shooting in certain spots. Seeing locations through the same eyes, same angles, and using them in the same ways. We get comfortable and complacent. The truth is that travel is not always possible. The added costs and time it takes can prevent it from happening. Shit, life happens and before we know it a full year has gone by and because we hung our hopes on “making great shots in new locations” we’re now left with no new portfolio material.
As photographers, we can very easy fall into “the grass is greener” when looking at where others shoot, live, and travel, but what if we made a conscious effort to step out of our routine to find that fresh location feeling in the old “go-to” haunts. I’ve been challenging myself to this over the last couple years and I’m amazed at the places I had been missing. Here are 3 simple rules I have been following that have rejuvenated my love for shooting in my local area.
This will be good for you on many levels. Throw the family in the car and just drive. Better yet, let someone else drive while you look, enjoy, and plan. Take your time and go down roads you have never traveled. City roads, dirt roads, mountain roads, doesn’t matter! There is so much out there that we never see because it’s not on our designated routes. Drive down normal roads in a new direction. (The view could be totally different than you are used to). Make a point to explore the areas around you. It’s always amazing when you stop and think about how few places we visit when they are right there, always available. We take them for granted. I’ve started asking myself, “if I were to plan a tour of our area to someone who has never been here… where would I want them to go? What would I want them to see and experience?” So, THINK like a visitor! These images are taken on a side road towards Moab, UT. It’s about an hour from my studio. Here’s the thing.. the interstate takes to you Moab from my town. It’s quicker and the most common route. One time, my husband decided to show me the “scenic route” which I somewhat protested because I just wanted to get there. HOLY COW. It truly was the scenic route and has added a new shooting loop that we offer to clients. It’s a dirt road that passes by the creepiest abandoned town that looks like it’s straight out of the movie The Hills Have Eyes. No Joke. After dark I lock the doors and don’t stop. But it’s so worth it and now it’s the only route I take to Moab.
I know I get in a hurry and that forces me to stay in my comfort zone. I fall into safe angles, safe locations, safe and well… boring. So, with each client you have going on location, give yourself a little extra shoot time. Enough that you can walk a little further, drive to a new spot, or even more time to make unplanned stops. These images are taken in several little spots that are along the route. You should always be watching, looking and willing to stop. I joke with clients to never follow me too close because I’m notorious for all of a sudden stopping and pulling over. Don’t be so consumed with the destination that you miss all the goodies on the journey. In an effort to push yourself out of your comfort zone, challenge yourself to make MORE of each location. Shoot your normal comfort shots. But then play. Get low, get high, turn around, go at a new time of day… there are so many ways to make a spot look totally different. I had gone on this Moab loop several times before taking Lora and Isaac on it for their session, but I really wanted to make sure they had some images that were unique and special to them. We stopped at several new spots that I had eyeballed but never taken the time to explore or even just try new angles. We also went at a new time of day. How the light played on the mountains and monuments gave us exciting new images and helped me add to the ways I can use this location with future clients. Slowing down and taking the time to rethink a commonly-used location made all the difference.
Weird thought, right? You have lived there your whole life, or a long time at least. You know what’s around… WRONG. When traveling, we wouldn’t dare think of setting up shoots without hours of research to look at buildings, gardens, scenic spots… all the possible places to shoot. Why don’t we put that same effort into places closer to us? It’s silly really. There is always so much out there that we just don’t know about and a little research will go a long way. Don’t overcomplicate this. A simple Google search will lead you to new possibilities, new travel routes and new ideas. Don’t forget to dive into needed permits and fees as those are becoming required nearly everywhere. Lean into Instagram and follow local hashtags, “visit” pages and tourist pages. Let others do the work of finding new spots and then go shoot! You can even go old school and simply ask people their favorite spots to visit. Most love sharing. I’ve created a checklist of “Colorado Hot Spots” for me to visit. It’s like a local travel bucket list. How dare we take the time to travel the world without appreciating and utilizing what we have at our fingertips everyday. As a last step, go and visit your local visitors center. They will have brochures and ideas on places to check out. Treat it like you know nothing, no expectations, no ideas… open your mind and go down the rabbit hole.
So… easy peasy lemon squeezy! These three simple things can really add some depth to your everyday shooting and give you more defining images for your brand. Traveling should be looked at as the cherry on top, not a replacement or an excuse to slack on our everyday shooting. Push yourself to find the diamonds in your area. To see things differently than everyone else who shoots there. Remember that not all great shots need sweeping wide scenes. Find those little nooks of amazeballs and create epic shit. All this will help you when you do get the opportunity to travel. It’s like a practice round helping you to prepare and to make the most of each spot. You will also find that there’s less pressure while traveling since this isn’t your only chance to create gold. Locations are what you make of them. So make them great.