Adventures in Photography: Studying the Icons

by Greg Lessard

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Photographing classic, iconic scenes is an important step in photographic development. Standing in the same spot as the masters stood and seeing what they saw can be exhilarating and insightful. Making the shot as a master did is akin to having a private workshop with that famous photographer. This past summer I had the good fortune to stand in the footsteps of two of my photographic heroes, Ansel Adams and Galen Rowell. Seeing the same landscapes from the same perspective and later comparing my work to theirs was an amazing opportunity to try to understand their genius.
Visiting classic locations is also a great way to add beautiful images to your portfolio. It is important to find new and creative interpretations of these scenes. Searching for new interpretations of a classic scene will guide you towards seeing and thinking independently as an artist. You may also create your own masterpiece of a beautiful landscape.
In New England, we are fortunate to have many iconic scenes to photograph. Cadillac Mountain, Portland Head Light and Mount Washington are but a few of these outstanding locations. Images of these places are cliché, but there is a reason for that. They are irresistible to the viewing public.
Pursuing cliché images will not only lead you to great locations, it can help stir your excitement for photography. This in turn will help you to be ready to create outstanding images of lesser known locations.

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For me, simply thinking about iconic images helps me to make great images. Recently, I was not inspired to photograph and consequently my images were lackluster. To help me break out of this funk, I planned a trip to Waits River, VT. Waits River is a tiny village in eastern VT. Its claim to fame is a classic view of a road leading over a narrow bridge to a white church with two old barns in the foreground. It evokes thoughts of the classic New England village.
While traveling to Waits River, I had hours to plan for how I would create the shot. This envisioning got me excited to photograph and helped me to be ready to make great images. On a side trip, I stopped at the White River Junction Train Station. I have been to this station before and knew the layout. With snow on the ground and the sun breaking through the clouds, I had an opportunity to make a stunning image.

Later in the day, I made it to Waits River. The scene was not what I had hoped for, but I was still able to make some successful images and learn about the photographic process. Taking advantage of the puddles from melted snow, I made some interesting images of the classic scene reflected in the water. While the Waits River images were excellent, the image of the day was of the train station. Had I not set out to make a cliché image, I would not have broken out of my funk and I certainly would not have traveled to Vermont.
This Month’s Tip: Study iconic images. Learn what makes them so great. Is it the composition? The light? The subject? The answer to those questions is “Yes!”