Shaken, not Stirred

As the title may suggest, I am a fan of Bond films (an acute understatement). I’ve viewed every single Bond film, numerous times over. Each time I revisit one, I see something I have missed before, even though I am completely engrossed from the opening to the closing credits.

I will suggest applying this well-known Bond phrase as a photography tip.

I like visiting places repeatedly for the same reason. I always notice something that I completely missed before.

This rinse-and-repeat mindset helped me considerably during the pandemic as my ever-present wanderlust was effectively planted in limbo. Photographing a familiar place has several benefits. It pushes you to work harder to frame an image differently. It forces you out of your comfort zone. It makes you look closer and with intent.

How many times have you visited a location but didn’t bother bringing a camera because you had the mindset, “I’ve been there so many times, there is nothing new worth photographing.”?

I’ve done it. I’ve also kicked myself for it. Mind you, there are days that nothing strikes the eye. There are also other times when it is magical, now a profusion of captivations emerges. Nothing is worse than the latter and your camera is not with you.

Consider the shoot as a treasure hunt, which technically it is. A place never looks the same no matter the number of times you are there. We never perceive something identically either. Your eye will focus on a different element although it may begin its journey on the very familiar components. Think about the times you photographed the place before. What has changed? Are you there in a different season? Perhaps at an earlier or later time of day? What are the weather conditions now?

Massachusetts Audubon – Spring

📷 – Nikon D850

🔘 – Nikon 20mm

🎞 – ISO 64

🔘 – f/16

🕒 – 205 second⁠s

Chillax A Bit

One of the photography tips for photographers is to never start clicking the moment you arrive at a location. You require time to absorb and assess what is in front of you before you raise the camera to your eye. This is why visiting a familiar place is advantageous. You have a memory to draw from and compare with what is in front of you now.

Now Shake It Up

Try shooting the location using different lenses. Light is always changing so your methodology may be different. Use ND filters or a polarizer. Use a tripod. Zoom in. Focus on detail instead of a wide view. Change your approach, angle, and technique. Using intentional camera movement (ICM) will create an impressionistic expression. Photographing it in infrared renders a completely different perspective.

How does it look in black & white? Stripping color from an image focuses the eye on the form and not on the emotional impact of color. Set your camera to monochrome and see what your eye is drawn to.

Perhaps go to the other extreme and take the same shot each time you visit. You can make it very precise by using the first image to frame the successive images. Over time you will have a series of photographs that chronicles the differences.

Massachusetts Audubon – Winter Constellations

📷 – Nikon D850

🔘 – Nikon 24-120 mm

🎞 – ISO 3200

🔘 – f/4

🕒 – 10 second⁠s

A Method to the Madness

Repeatedly photographing a familiar place is an exercise in sharpening your vision, a principal component of your art. It’s a method by which your photography stops being just a snapshot and becomes much more. It becomes a reflection of you.

Those of you who belong to a camera club or art association know what I mean. How often do you see a member’s photograph or painting and immediately know who the maker is? It goes beyond the pretty. There is a signature of vision in the piece that is conveyed. This is seen in the masters as well. You have an instinct as to who made the artwork. Think Henri Cartier-Bresson, Ansel Adams, Dorothea Lange, and many others. You recognize the piece as possibly theirs, even if you have never seen it before.

It’s a signature. You have it too. You just need to develop it and then constantly polish it.

Massachusetts Audubon – An Infrared View

📷 – Nikon D80, 590 nm infrared conversion

🔘 – Nikon 18-200 mm

🎞 – ISO 100

🔘 – f/11

🕒 – 1/60 second⁠

Is there a place you love to visit? What have you seen in your photography evolve from the revisits? What was the most surprising thing you discovered that was missed in the prior visits?

Let’s hear them in the comments below.

All images and text © Silvana Della Camera

To learn about upcoming workshops and tips on photography, consider subscribing to my website.

Taking photos and want to make them more compelling?

Art isn’t just for walls. Art is also to hold in one’s hands.

Want to explore New England through a camera lens?

4 replies
  1. Bill Brown
    Bill Brown says:

    I have visited the Nubble lighthouse several times in different conditions and with different perspectives. I look to see what can I do differently or what is different about it this time.

    I was there when a rainbow appeared. I took my 600mm lens and found that I had to back up to get an image worth taking at sunrise. It ended up being one of my favorite images because all you can see is the lighthouse with a section of the house that is next to it. I’ve been there when the holiday lights were on with snow on the ground. I’ve gone onto the rocks and took a movie of the water rushing in between them.

    There is always something that you can learn from this experience and there is aways new to see.


    • Silvana Della Camera
      Silvana Della Camera says:

      Wow, that moment with the rainbow must have been amazing! I agree, a familiar place is never boring (especially a lighthouse!). It always elicits a magic moment that you never expected. Places are always worth revisiting.


Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *