As a photographer on the Outer Banks, I have to realize that all of the iconic locations of the area have been photographed a million times by a million people a million different ways. This is a daunting thought, and the Outer Banks is not the only place that suffers this fate. All of the iconic locations around the country – The Grand Tetons, Maroon Bells, The Golden Gate bridge, Bass Harbor Lighthouse, etc – have come under the same bombardment. It seems like every photographer who makes it out to Jackson Hole has a photograph of the Tetons towering above the snake river. You know, that image that Ansel Adams made so famous.
This does not mean that we should shy away from these locations however. This simply means that we need to be creative in our attempts to portray such icons. The easiest solution to this is to explore. Move around, wade through the water a bit, get low, get high (vertically speaking of course), simply do something different. What can you do to make your photograph stand out from the other 20,000 that were made by photographers of that lighthouse this summer?
Google is a great way to research ideas on this. Take the Bodie Island lighthouse for instance. If you do a Google search for “Bodie Island lighthouse photo” you will come up with thousands of images of this structure. Page after pager after page you will begin to realize that 90% of the images are made in the same location or at least are a similar concept. Therefore, these are the images you DO NOT want to make.
In wildlife photography, we do a lot of scouting out of an area ahead of time. Landscapes or architectural photographs are no different. Research the site and find out what the different features of the landscape around the area are. Then with camera in hand go check it out. Go get your boots muddy, go explore.
For these photographs of Bodie Island lighthouse that I took this morning, I did just that the day before. I knew that there were ponds and marsh on the backside of the island as I freqent that are in order to photograph waterfowl. I also knew that nearly all of the reflection shots of this lighthouse are taken in front of the place when, after a big rain, the grassy area in front of the parking lot develops a large puddle. I knew I wanted a reflection of this lighthouse and I knew that the ponds behind it are an area that very few people ever tread. Thus, with a thick pair of 5mm neoprene waders on, I set off from Hwy 12 through the bushes, cattails, reeds, and walked out into the pond. I had to break through ice for about 70 yards before I reached my destination right out smack dab in the middle of the pond. The result? A frigid cold morning filled with numb fingers and unique images of a lighthouse that has been photographed to death in every possible situation – except for this one! Oh yeah, and the swans dotting the middle ground were pretty cool too.