Depending on how much mental fortitude you have, thinking about how to photograph something that has already been photographed a thousand times in a unique way could prove to be…daunting. And, to a degree, that’s rightfully an appropriate reaction. In these instances, I find that it helps to think about this endeavor the same way many adventurers think about their next excursion. For adventurers, it’s commonly agreed that it isn’t about the destination so much as it is about the journey. If you apply that to photographing the Empire State Building, parallels could easily be drawn.
No matter how many times I visit my hometown of New York City, I can’t help myself from pointing the business end of my camera up towards this magnificent architectural specimen. However, much like the adventurer, the actual subject of my photo isn’t the main object of my curiosity. Rather, it almost becomes penultimate to the grander endeavor, which is to figure out how to include it in a way that creates a more unique composition.
It’s vis-à-vis this endeavor that one can really never be done with photographing a particular place. As time passes by, different variables lend themselves, and it’s the responsibility of the photographer to predict these changes and to capitalize on them by figuring out how to best incorporate them into the photo. It’s why you return to the same location as each season comes and goes, bringing rain or snow or piles of leaves on the ground. It’s why you return at 6 a.m. and 7 a.m. and 1 a.m.
The bottom line is that there are so many derivations. Changes in light. Changes in time. Changes in environment. Learning to embrace these changes and let them play the leading role in the ensemble cast of your photo is how you’ll help yourself create a more unique photo. It’s there for the taking, but it isn’t easy and it isn’t guaranteed. Remember, it’s not just about the photo. It’s about what you had to do to get it.