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Don't wait for long-haul escapes to make great photos

Don't wait for long-haul escapes to make great photos

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And definitely don't go calling it a staycation! (Unless you really want to...)

By Jack Howard

August 13, 2009

"Staycation" has been a hot buzzword once again this summer, but we're not quite sure what it means. Is there a time limit? A maximum driving distance? Or is this just some silly mediaspeak that'll search well? Methinks it be the last. Whatever the case, don't go thinking you need a week away on the other side of the planet to make great photos. All too often, we forget that there are great photos to be made within just a few hours of our homes. Go on, be a local tourist for a day or weekend!

 

Earlier this April, my cousin and his new bride were in New York from County Kildare in Ireland for their honeymoon. It was great to see them and play tour guide, but it was also a lot of fun to be a tourist along with them.  I've grown up in the shadow of this city for most of my life, and it is all too easy to forget to pay attention to great photo locations right in your own backyard. We went on board the Intrepid, checked out Rockefeller Center, and hit Bobby Flay's Bar Americain for dinner. A pretty "touristy" day any way you slice it.

 

Last summer, my wife and I invited a number of friends to join us for an evening out seeing the NYC Waterfalls via Circle Line tour boat. We, alongside some other locals and a greater number of out of towners enjoyed a great sunset out on the water, seeing the Statue of Liberty and the art installation waterfalls beneath the Brooklyn Bridge and other points along the journey. It was the first time we'd been out on the water around Manhattan together, and yes, it is "touristy" as all get-out to do a Circle Line tour, but that's the whole point! We made some fun images for our photo albums, and were back home later that night.

 

The Delaware Water Gap is one of the most well-known and most visited National Recreation areas in the New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania Tri-state region, and the reason why it is popular is because it is so beautiful and enjoyable. But going early in the day on a weekday beats the crowds, even on the well-worn paths. We've had some amazing times up there with our dog Bailey, including these cool over-under shots of her swimming captured with an Olympus SP560UZ in a PT037 housing. This is just over an hour from our home, and it's a great day trip–or dare I say a "staycation" outing?


Go ahead, check out the local county park system website or state tourism board to see what interesting sites and landmarks might be nearby and hiding in plain sight! For example, I recently accidentally discovered that there is a 60-foot semi-natural waterfall just minutes from my house, while I was researching frisbee golf course locations. So I hiked up to Buttermilk Falls to check it out, and these shots are featured in my recent field test of Canon's new ultrawide tilt-shift lens.

 

The Red Mill in Clinton, NJ is oftentimes called the most photographed building in NJ (one could argue for lovely Miss Liberty being more photographed, but that's a whole different kettle of fish!) and whether or not that claim can be substantiated, it is ridiculously photogenic. So I took a day trip up to make photos for my book, Practical HDRI. Some of the shots in this book are from far flung flights, but many of the images in this book were shot within just a few hours of my home base.


While there's nothing quite like a totally new exotic environment to get the photographic vision going, don't overlook your surrounding area for making great photos. Whether you call it a day trip, a weekend escape or a "staycation" is up to you. (And considering my habit of hauling too much gear to not use on beach vacations, it's probably a good thing that I find cool shoots close to home!)

How about you? Do you have any great favorite photo locations right in your own backyard? Or do you find yourself shooting more the further afield you go? Do you often daytrip to "staycation" photo locations? Let us know!

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