On being a “place detective”…

Did you ever notice that some photographers seem to find those unique, less known but remarkable landscapes?  Here’s a confession:  I didn’t “discover” the idyllic little scene you see below.  A few other people had made photos here and left sufficient information for me to track it down.DSC_0917

I think that there are two steps to getting your camera in front of those rarely photographed places.  The first is to search and identify them.  Let’s say I am planning a visit to Charleston, SC, USA.  I bring up Google and enter the city name and then, when the results come up, I hit the “Images” button at the top of the page.  Wow!  Up pop hundreds of images that Google associates with Charleston.  Most of these are from promotional literature or commercial web sites but you will also see some nice photos made by individuals.

For more in-depth digging, however, my favorite photo search tool is Flickriver.  I enter Charleston, SC, and am presented with eighty-nine thousand (no exaggeration) photos made in Charleston — many are really nice.  After a few minutes I find a handful of beautiful building interiors that interests me.

Next comes the location process.  In the case of the interiors in Charleston it’s simple:  I hit the “i” (for information) button and find out that the shots were made at the old Charleston post office.  Next I click the map button and see it precisely located on Broad Street, address and all.

But it isn’t always that easy.

I spotted a version of the above photo while scouting a trip to Portugal.  It was actually one slide in a YouTube video in which the name of the stream was mentioned.  From there I got the name of a nearby village and finally found it mentioned in a blog posting which gave more clues.  Google maps and Earth helped.  All that was done while translating most pages from Portuguese to English.

So…with all those clues and with the unending tolerance of The Bride when I consumed a full day of our Portugal vacation, we finally found it.  I didn’t travel to Europe just to make this image but it was certainly high on my hit list.

DSC_0941What I didn’t count on, however, was the pure magic of the place.  I expected a rustic building beside a pretty little stream.  What I got was a whole lot more.  Right behind me as I made this exposure the little stream flows under a stone bridge.  And on the other side of the bridge are traces of a roadway (with pavers) that follows the stream through deep forest and passes more water falls and little vine covered buildings built with stones as large as refrigerators.  That the bridge and roadway may be Roman structures is, at the very least, thrilling to me.

Places like this can be found but you have to want to do the detective work.  By-the-way, I’ll give the location of this spot to any photographer who writes and asks for it — and promises to treat the place gently.

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Colin price - Well worth waiting for John.

skeeter - Thanks, Colin. It’s good to be back on the job.

Nicole Palmer - A fantastic discovery. The atmosphere you captured and detective story to go with it make me want to travel there at once.

skeeter - It’s a long haul from South Africa, Nicole, but I appreciate the sentiment. I really like the chase as well as the capture. By-the-way, I enjoyed your last blog posting at http://nicole-palmer.blogspot.com — particularly that last photo.

neville duffield - John, I love the lengths you went to to get the picture in Portugal. It was worth it. I think that I might be a bit more persistent now in tracking down something.
I used to be a purist using kodachrome film and never taking a picture without a tripod. I found in my travel photography I was missing so many shots. With digital I can crank the iso up to 3200 and get great shots. I trained myself to take photos very quickly. Did all of them come off? No, but 70% did. I now get far better results in total than in the old days.

skeeter - There is something to be said, Nev, for the good old days but…well…sometimes the good new days just do the job better. I still use the tripod for HDRs and for long exposures (like moving water, etc.) but, like you, I find the ISO wheel very handy.

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