Why do you keep going back?


Do you think it’s all been done before? Here’s why I don’t believe that.

This is a shot from Jökulsárlón in Iceland. I took the shot in the middle of the night, in the short space between a midnight sunset and a 3am sunrise. The world seemed completely blue. This large chunk of ice broke off an iceberg, floated from a beautiful lagoon to the sea, and washed up on the beach. As I watched, waves crashed against it, smoothing its surface and constantly changing the patterns of shadow and light that danced through it. It was mesmerizing.

This is a location that we returned to again and again. Each time we visited, it was completely different. Sometimes, the beach was free of ice… and then, moments later, an ice-jam would break up, and huge chunks of ice would sail down the river and out to sea as if on an urgent mission. They smashed into one another with such force that they broke into pieces… some as big as cars. And then they washed up onto the beach, where they rocked gently in the waves. At night, the colors were muted and blue. At sunrise and sunset, the ice glowed with color. When the sun was high in the sky, the light scattered through the ice with such intensity that it seemed it should melt.

Some places seem to gain an entirely new personality from one moment to the next – and others show much more subtle changes. But it’s always worth coming back. If you can, return to a location repeatedly. Explore it in different conditions and get to know it’s moods. There are so many variables. Changing seasons… changing light… different angles… rain and snow and mist. And of course, your options for cameras and lenses and filters and camera settings give you such a huge variety of creative control.

Lots of photographers I talk to feel that it’s all been done before. They think that a location has been photographed so many times that there’s absolutely no way to get a unique photograph. I don’t believe that. I believe in getting to know the soul of a place. When you take the time to do that, you’ll find that it is as changeable as the shifting patterns of light in this beautiful block of ice.

Now – of course, you can argue that you can’t always visit a location over and over again. That’s absolutely true. But if that’s the case, go beyond the usual. Don’t just stand at the overlook. Explore the place. Try different lenses. Look past the obvious. Inspiration is there. You just have to find it.


About Author Varina Patel

There is nothing more remarkable to me than the power of nature. It is both cataclysmic and subtle. Slow and continuous erosion by water and wind can create landscapes every bit as astonishing as those shaped by catastrophic events – and minuscule details can be as breathtaking as grand vistas that stretch from one horizon to the other. Nature is incredibly diverse. Burning desert sands and mossy riverbanks… Brilliant sunbeams and fading alpenglow… Silent snowfall and raging summer storms… Each offers a unique opportunity. I am irresistibly drawn to the challenge of finding my next photograph, and mastering the skills required to capture it effectively.


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