To explore this more deeply during the travel workshops I use a little activity to drive this concept home. Handing out for postcards of the State Capitol building in Sacramento, I ask the photographers what each of these images have in common, other than the obvious building as the primary subject. The cards are passed around, some good guesses are made but I have yet to have anyone figure out the answer. Then I tell them to turn the cards over and look for the photo credit (it’s not me by the way). All the photos were taken by the same photographer.
The images are from different times of the year, from various angles and under a variety of lighting conditions. The photographer clearly “worked” the subject and, in doing so, was able get the most out of the subject. When we are traveling this is difficult at best, and often impossible. After all, you can’t be in New England for fall color, in spring!
This is not to say that you can’t capture a good or even great photograph when you are just visiting an area. It is just more difficult. If you really want to return with better images I find it helpful to do some Internet research ahead of time. Often times you can determine if a location is going to be a better morning or afternoon shot. Sunrise/sunset times are also available for determining early and last light. As you would expect, there is no shortage of helpful material online.
This image, I had to use Sacramento of course, was taken during a break in a dinner meeting. I noticed the light was nice (often is at twilight) and I stepped out on the veranda for a quick image. I have photographed the California Capitol several times but I had never spied it from this perspective. As good as the postcards? No, but after all, I was just a visitor.