You Don’t Need an Exotic Location for Great Photography

I often get jealous when I scroll through facebook or Instagram and see the amazing places that people travel to. For some, I am living in an exotic location. However, I feel that I don’t travel as much as I would like these days.

I have been here in Ulsan so long that it has become my second home. After 15 years here, there are not too many places that I have not shot. So how do I keep things interesting? How do I find places to photograph?


We often look at the big picture of exotic locations. The sprawling cityscapes from Dubai or New York. Yet we often forget about the details of our own areas that make life wonderful and the reason why you life where you do.

During a recent shoot in Gyeongju, I realized I stuck to just one area. I focussed on the details which in this case were the lotus flowers. There were some many things to photograph. From the people enjoying the garden to the flowers themselves.

This all was in a small area and only a short drive from my house. Again, this was not an exotic beach or the Tiger’s Nest or anything like that. This was just a small lotus pond on the side of the road.

Tell a Story

Trying to get a monumental shot in a small town or an unknown location is a tough one. However, telling a story through your images can have an impact. Especially, these days with instagram. Your local cafe could be the perfect backdrop for a great series of images. You just have to get creative and find the story.

Like I said before, think about what attracts you to this location? What beauty do you find in it? The best part about living in these areas is that you can take years to tell your story. You have to time to make sure the details are right.

With Ulsan, the story that I like to show is the grow and development of the city. That is why I started getting into rooftop photography many years ago. I wanted to show city of Ulsan from different vantage points.

Recently, I have been taking a lot more photos of flowers and parks because I want to show people all of the natural green spaces that there are in the city. I want to show that Ulsan is not just an industrial city but a city with a lot more to offer.

Express Yourself

I often talk about “telling a story” but sometimes you have to channel that inner artist and just make an image. This may happen in post-processing or in camera. The point is that sometimes you may just have an idea that you want to make happen. You don’t need to fly to Fiji to make it happen. You just need to be creative and be ready to fail.

Often I go out with an idea. I have an image in my mind and I want to find a place close by to experiment. For example when Flixel introduced their new app Blendeo, I really wanted to test it out. Much of the work that I did was just steps away from my apartment.

I didn’t need to fly to Tokyo to make light trails or blur branches. All of that was all around me. I just had to find the right conditions. That is the key, right there. We often think that the right conditions are in some exotic location. However, once we realize that we may have them right in our backyard, you have the ability to experiment and fail until you get it right.

The bottomline here is that if you are focussed on being in the “wrong location” or that you have to travel to get to the right one, you will never get to the RIGHT location. If you do, what happens if it is not all sunshine and rainbows?

Learning to work with the environment that you have readily available teaches you how to make the ordinary, EXTRAORDINARY!! That was cheesy… sorry. You get the idea, right? Let me know how you make your ordinary places extraordinary in the comments below. If you are struggling, ask me to help.

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Jason Teale 

Photographer, educator, podcaster

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Photographing Korea and the world beyond!