If the pandemic has taught me something, it has to be the power of the local landscape. And by local, I don't mean on a national scale. What I imply is the exact location where you or your closest people live. That could be any distance you can cover within an hour's drive from home or preferably by strolling for half of that time.

A common tree, 10 minutes away from my home

My personal experience

Oftentimes, looking at nearby landscapes several times a day can make you take them for granted and underappreciate their beauty. In my case, there is a narrow forest very close to my parents' home. As a kid, I used to go there almost every weekend. I know the layout like the back of my hand, and I've never even once thought of going there for a shoot. I didn't think I could work something decent out of it. It's just a plain ol' forest after all - nothing you'll ever see on the cover of a landscape photography magazine. That mindset led me to remove the said location from my landscapes-to-shoot list. Then the pandemic hit us, and a couple of months into it, I started noticing that I hadn't shot many landscapes, and there wasn't any indication for a change any time soon. Shooting internationally was completely off the table, and at the peak of the first wave, even going out of my hometown became a mission impossible. I was afraid of losing my photography skill due to the sheer lack of practice.

Feeling miserable about it, I decided to blow the dust off my camera and go there – with zero expectations, just to move my feet and maybe do some quick snapshots. Arriving half an hour before sunset on a fairly cold yet clear evening, my mind snapped. One quick look was enough to make me step on gear. As the most desirable light descended upon a clearing in the forest, I started spotting composition after composition. Then, after taking a few shots, I felt a satisfaction that I did not expect.

Later, when I returned home, and the feeling was starting to sink in, I sorted my thoughts out and decided to start a certain experiment. I committed to shooting primarily locally during the lockdown – at places not too far from home that I knew pretty well but never seriously considered photographing.

Five months after this self-imposed quest, I can proudly say that it's a well worth effort. And here is proof of my words.

I went to see some relatives outside town and found these vistas in their homes' vicinity

The benefits and why I think you should try it

1. Repetition. Hard work can outperform any talent in photography, or so they say. And "they" probably have a fair point. After all, what better way to excel at something other than doing it on a daily basis or at least as frequently as possible. Yes, we all want to shoot at iconic locations such as Iceland, the Faroe Islands, or the Canadian Rockies, but let's be honest. Unless you live at one of those places, how often can you go there to photograph them? That's not the case with your own "backyard".

2. Creativity, problem-solving, experimentation. Another issue with iconic places is that they have received the label for a reason – they have saturated so much attention that all the opportunities to show them in new and artistic ways are spent. Chances are that your local area possesses much more raw potential for development in terms of landscape creativity, merely because no one is actually taping into it (certainly I wasn't). Some of these places might seem too chaotic or too plain for a regular capture. This will force you to find another approach to the scene outside of your everyday workflow. Maybe you have seen some new technique on YouTube, or you're itching to try some other aspect ratio? What better time to experiment when you're not afraid to mess up and waste the perfect light conditions?

3. Sources of inspiration. You might get surprised by the feeling you would experience when you nail your first successful local outdoor shooting. That was exactly what happened to me when I got the initial result from post-processing. It's like you reinvent yourself as a photographer because you were able to come up with something decent out of something (presumably) not worth any attention. And you can bet that all your followers on social media familiar with the same "boring" places will get excited too.

4. No more excuses. Lack of travel money, time deficiency, low energy levels… we've all been there when wanting to go somewhere but for whatever reason didn't. And none of them matters when you have the option to bring out your camera for an hour or two, walking your dog, or strolling with a friend/spouse to the nearest park during the golden light. Even if you live in a concrete jungle and are bound to it, there's always the option for a cityscape from afar.

I drove 30 minutes to get these foggy shots

Getting started – when and how

Conclusion

To summarize, I think every photographer (pro or enthusiast) should start exploring and shooting their local area. I believe I have passed a significant milestone in my work by making this the most essential part of my approach to landscape photography. I shoot more frequently than ever before. I'm way more motivated to go out (even in bad weather), and I find the greatest fulfillment when I come up with a decent photo from a place that I once considered visually unappealing.

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