I have this hopelessly romantic notion that ‘spirit of place’ is a metaphysical reality; that as humans we can be in a place and somehow communicate with our surroundings, allow ourselves to feel the emotion that’s wrapped up in the ‘spiritual energy’ of any given location.
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Iconic Locations


‘Marker’, Crosby, Liverpool, Merseyside
Fujifilm X-Pro1, Fujinon XF14mm f/2.8 R, 15 seconds @ f/18, ISO 200
LEE Seven5 Big-Stopper and 2-stop Neutral Density Graduated filters.
Manfrotto 055CXPRO3 tripod, Manfrotto 405 Pro Geared Head.
Adobe Lightroom: Adobe Profile.

“When photographing iconic locations, it can be rewarding to allow ourselves an occasional respite; breaking the transfixion with an occasional look over our shoulder to survey other unrelated viewpoints.”

Iconic Locations

Crosby Beach is the permanent home of Anthony Gormley’s ‘Another Place’: 100 life-size cast iron sculptures of men placed at intervals on the two mile stretch of beach, standing and facing out to sea. Photographing the barnacle encrusted statues along their sensational shoreline is a ‘right of passage’ for creative coastal photographers; there are a myriad of compositional possibilities to excite our attention in the quest for breathtaking imagery.

Iconic locations like Crosby are a test of self-discipline for a photographer, there are so many visual distractions that a state of compositional commotion can sometimes ensue. Realising our unease, we may immerse ourselves in the capture of our chosen scene, consciously ignoring the destructive distractions surrounding us. However, there is a danger in becoming so absorbed with the job in hand; our preoccupation can result in us missing other potential shots in the vicinity, like this mile-marker. When photographing iconic locations, it can be rewarding to allow ourselves an occasional respite; breaking the transfixion with an occasional look over our shoulder to survey other unrelated viewpoints. There are trade-offs involved in achieving the optimum workflow when choosing a composition; effectively balancing our creative focus on a chosen scene while maintaining a subliminal awareness of surrounding possibilities is one of them.

Another aspect that I have always found difficult to gauge is how much time to concentrate on a single composition. I could happily spend hours on one image, ‘bracketing’ all the possible alternatives in an attempt to capture the perfect photograph as the conditions change. Practically, to maximise productivity, I limit the time spent photographing any given image to allow time for surveying the location to find other compositions, but I can never be sure that I am not missing the perfect capture from my original position as the light changes. This is another trade-off, with an unknown optimum balance that will differ for each photographer and for each location.

I had been making some long-exposures of the Gormley sculptures in the pre-dawn light, when I became aware of the incoming tide starting to gently lap around the base of this mile-marker. As the western sky borrowed pastel twilight hues from the sunrise behind me, I made my 15 second exposure; enough to dynamise the water without losing structure in the clouds.

This article first appeared in Outdoor Photography Magazine. Reproduced with kind permission.