Location: One of the Most Important Elements in Photography
By Clinton Lofthouse
Location can be one of the most important elements of an image. It can be its own character, connecting together the emotions of the model with the heart of the story. It can be a vast looming landscape that signifies loneliness. A dark foreboding house that instills fear. Or a bleached out city street in the heat of the summer.
Whatever your location is, be sure to pick wisely and align your subject and your story to create something deeper.
I recently moved to York. It was the city I dreamed of moving to when I was young. It is a magical city full of history, English heritage, magic and ghost stories.
It is supposedly the most haunted city in Europe. Now just imagine being a young boy and hearing these stories. It fired up my imagination. Every time I visited, I would spot something new, an old church spire rising in the distance, or the crooked door of a Tudor building, wondering if the carpenter had a faulty tool or one arm shorter than the other.
York is a place of misty snickleways and lamp-lit streets — all coming together through windy narrow streets to the center, the focal point of the city York Minster! York Minster is a behemoth of stone, rising up from the ground, littered with gargoyles and steeped in so much history you can feel the energy pulsating through the decorated walls.
Even before I moved here, I knew I wanted to shoot here. Every time I would see its two front towers, dominating the skyline, stories and images would play on the back of my iris like an old film movie in a dusty old cinema. I wanted a protagonist, searching for something, someone, hoping for a resolution before sundown.
Lit only by the street lamp and his own lantern, the giant and ever-present Minster looming over him like a giant. Who was he looking for, why the panic before sundown!? The camera would need to be low to add to the cinematic effect, but also capture the full height of the minsters towers.
My usual tripod was too high and I didn't want to have to balance the camera on the dirty cobbles of the road. So I grabbed my Platypod and set off into the early hours of the morning, a creative with a mission.
Once at the location, setting up was easy. I attached my tripod head securely to the Platypod and placed it on the wet floor. Bloody typical English weather (haha!) But fear not, I had my Platypod legs extended at their furthest so the camera was safe from puddles.
All I had to do now was coax my protagonist into the scene, and fix my camera upwards to capture the cinematic angle and scene. Easy, and without me having to lie on the floor in the rain it saved my lovely grey coat. Win, Win!
As always though, you can't control the weather, and I don't seem to be able to find my mist spell, so I knew I had some work to do in Photoshop to add to the atmosphere and tone. But its all part of the process of storytelling. Follow your vision, but don't just see it, create it, and make it a reality.
Clinton Lofthouse is an award-winning composite photographer and creative retoucher. Find him on Instagram for more awesome images!