The “home field advantage” is a term usually reserved for sports. When a team practices and plays on the same field they get to know every inch of the play surface, the nuances of how the field changes in different weather conditions, the angle of the sun during different times of the day, and so on. I believe this same thinking can translate well to landscape and nature photography. After all, don’t we also need a place to practice and refine our skills? With practice comes the readiness for the big moments when we are photographing on unfamiliar turf.
So why pick one specific home field?
I think it is important to find a place you enjoy photographing that is no more than 15 minutes from where you live. This time frame is important so you can jump at the opportunity when the light is good, or the sky has that intensity at the bookends of the day. By repeatedly shooting and exploring the options in one place you will get to know the key spots for sunrise vs. sunset. You will know where the sun rises in the summer vs. the fall and winter. You may even find yourself able to predict where wild life will be, after all, animals are very habitual creatures.
So for me home field is Core Creek Park in Langhorne, PA. It takes me about 10-12 minutes to grab my gear, drive to the park and start setting up shots. I know where the deer will be in the late hours of the day. I know if I am at the boat launch in summer the sun will rise at the far end of Lake Luxembourg, but in the late fall it will rise just to the left of the boat docks in front of me. This information has allowed me jump at the opportunity for foggy morning shoots or challenge myself to shoot better sunsets when the clouds and light are good. Without these practice sessions and going over the results in front of the computer I may have made some crucial mistakes in locations I may not get to visit again. So aside from getting more time doing what I love, I am also finding my weak points and putting steps in place to improve them. I remember kicking myself after shooting in Mount Rainier National Park for not getting the focus just right, the depth of field set properly, or having a straight horizon. I still have much to learn, but these are things I have since improved and practice is the reason I was able to capture some of my best images to date when in Grand Tetons National Park last year (spring of 2013).
Some Home Field Photos
The pictures below were all taken at Core Creek within 100 yards or so at different times of the day and seasons of the year.
What are your thoughts on the home field advantage? What is your practice location? Let me know in the comments below, or reach out to me via email. Until next time, keep Watching the Light for those magic moments worth capturing!