We have long been used to the idea that our images improve as we gain greater familiarity with the locations that we photograph.
I am so familiar with places such as Delicate Arch, Badwater and Old Faithful that walking up to each of them almost seems like coming home. It’s familiar; it’s comfortable.
Having learned from earlier mistakes and had more time and more visits to study these special places, my most recent – actually my next – images of these and other places should be my best. Sometimes they are, but often they are not. When going back over some of my earlier photographs, I am often surprised to see that in so many cases, the best ones are those made on my very first visit to a location. Not the ones that I made after having become more familiar with a scene and having had a chance to study it over and over during several shooting sessions, but those made at first blush.
Why does this happen? I don’t really know for sure, but I can take an educated guess. It often seems that when arriving at a location for the first time, I feel so imbued with the spirit of discovery and newness that I get a big rush of adrenaline and creativity. It is likely a part of the ability to react not only visually, but also perhaps emotionally to a scene that I find compelling.
After I have photographed a spot once (or perhaps twice), even though I then have the experience of what to include and what to avoid, I feel so accustomed to the scene that it has become almost the same-old, same-old and has already lost most of its novelty as a subject.
Somehow, nothing can quite compare with the very first sight of a special place of which I have been thinking for a long time or, better yet, one upon which I just happen to stumble.