Location, location, location
For me the summer months have become the time to photograph the landscapes close to home, after all, it's a struggle just getting up early enough to catch the best light around sunrise at all... let alone earlier enough to hve time to drive far as well. I know there's always sunset but living on the east coast I'm more of a sunrise kinda guy. As you can imagine, by now I'm starting to get bored of the local spots and itching for something new... or for winter to arrive.
Luckily thanks to the wonders of the interweb finding new locations is easier than ever, the photo above was taken locally at a place I only found by scouring Google maps for somewhere of interest, in fact I'm pretty sure I spend more time looking at satellite images, tide tables and weather charts online than I do actually taking photos.
The search begins on Google where a quick broad search for something like 'windmill, Suffolk' for example gives you a good starting point, then on to Google maps (above) to have a look at the locations you've just found in a bit more detail, you can even pin locations and add notes and pictures (as you can tell from the screen grab above, I'm the kind of geek that does exactly that!) and don't forget to zoom in to 'street view' and get a better look at the area. When you're done with that you can spend some time browsing on Flickr to see what other people have captured for inspiration or as a starting point to try and find a new interpretation on the subject. If you're really lucky you don't find many pictures at all and you've found somewhere relatively untouched.
Once you've found your location it's time to pay a visit to the suncalc website (above) where you can pop a pin into the map and find out where and when the sun will rise and set at any time of the year or you can even do it from your smartphone on location with the awesome Photographers ephemeris app. So without leaving your desk you can find the perfect view, work out the best time to visit, find out how long it'll take you to get there and get directions. You still need to set your alarm and struggle out of bed to get there but thanks to online resources the guesswork is taken out of it... or is it?
Last weekend I made the 45 minute drive to a new location I'd spotted using Google maps... a wooden jetty sticking out through the reeds into a picturesque stretch of river - perfect. Tides and weather had been checked on the BBC website and so after navigating the narrow country lanes with the help of GPS, finding the place to park I'd spotted courtesy of Google street view and then walking across a large field and through the cluster of trees that the satellite picture had showed me was the only way to the jetty, I finally arrived at... a large fence and a sign saying private property!
Luckily on the way home by taking an interesting looking turning just to see where it went I stumbled upon an alternative place to shoot that afternoon and a couple more worth coming back to at sunrise. So at the end of the day, however much information you can arm with from the comfort of your armchair, you still can't beat getting out there and having a look for yourself.