One of the biggest mistakes I’ve made as a photographer is being too hesitant. I enjoy taking landscape photos while traveling, but I’d often brace myself for the reality that my photos may not be comparable to those that I’ve seen online from other professional photographers. Either that, or they may be too similar and I wouldn’t be able to find a unique angle. This was exactly the case when I visited Horseshoe Bend in Page, Arizona.
Horseshoe Bend is an iconic landscape in the desert. It’s a U-shaped canyon that is only a brief hike from the highway, and it’s a truly breathtaking sight. Before planning my trip, I spent hours researching it — figuring out the best angles to photograph it from, the best time of day to visit and what equipment I should bring. While I wrote down all this information and practically planned my trip around it, I became a bit discouraged looking at the photos from other photographers on their blogs. The colors were beautifully contrasted, the flowing river always had just the right amount of motion blur thanks to well-executed long exposures and the sky always exhibited a perfectly balanced amount of sunrise/sunset hues and clouds. And they all looked the same.
Seeing this, I went in with the goal to make my photos different. Of course, I still wanted to attempt to capture the landscape in all it’s glory, but I wanted to make my photo unique and true to the memory I created from visiting. I wanted a tangible reflection of my experience there.
I arrived at the lookout over Horseshoe Bend just before sunrise and set up my gear. I find it helpful to envision the kind of photo you want to achieve in your head before actually going on location, so I positioned my gear for the angle that would best create the photo I wanted. But the photographer next to me had the exact same angle if not just a few inches closer to the center, so after I shot the typical photo everyone else’s memory cards already had, I opted for something more personal.
One way I like to differentiate my landscape photos is by featuring a person in the scene. Not only does it help to make a memory tangible if your photo features a person you’re traveling with, but it really helps to add dimension to the image as the person can create somewhat of a scale to the landscape surrounding them. I did this in a few ways at Horseshoe Bend, and I think it really added a unique depth and more of an emotional appeal to the photo for me.
When I say feature a person, I don’t necessarily mean a person smiling and posing for the camera — I mean the natural, candid moments such as where the featured person is looking out in awe at the landscape in front of them. I did this at the Grand Canyon a few days later when I saw a complete stranger standing at the edge of an overlook, and it’s my favorite photo of any that I took that day.
Never be afraid to experiment with different angles, either. After I got the typical shot everyone gets at Horseshoe Bend, I walked around the bend for a while to find different angles on higher or lower rocks before eventually leaving to beat the mid-morning crowd. When I decided to just sit at the edge of the cliff and admire the view with my eyes rather than my viewfinder for a minute, I quickly snapped another photo that featured a different foreground that more accurately represented my visit.
I ended up being right about the worry that my Horseshoe Bend photo wouldn’t look like the others I had seen while doing research before my trip. And that’s OK.
It’s OK because I shouldn’t want my photo to look like that. Ultimately, I’m capturing a memory — a memory that’s mine. I’m proud of the photos I took at Horseshoe Bend and throughout my entire trip throughout the canyons. They may be different, but they’re mine, and I encourage you to take the photo that’s already been taken and make it yours, too!
In the comments below, share a time when you attempted to capture an original view of a place or thing that’s been photographed thousands of times before. Did you succeed?
About the Author
Kristi Camara is a photographer and social media freelancer with a passion for rescue dogs, ice cream and all things creative. Follow her on Instagram. She was also an awesome photo intern at Fracture.