Something I’ve found helpful in my photography is returning to the same places over and over again.
When I photograph while traveling, I’m energized by new landscapes and subjects. At the same time, though, I’m mildly frustrated by what feels like the superficial nature of my pictures. I shoot whatever catches my eye and then move on, lacking the time to return to the same spots repeatedly to get to know them better. It’s like snorkeling along the surface without ever taking a dive, or like trying to take a portrait of a stranger. I can make a pretty image, but I don’t know if I’ve captured the true character of my subject, while I do know that with more time, I could find a real connection.
In Central Park, on the other hand, I can take my time. Bow Bridge, probably the most famous bridge in the park, is a favorite spot. I’ve spent years photographing it, in all its seasons and moods.
By coming back to Bow Bridge over and over again, I lose the pressure of trying to take one perfect picture and gain the luxury of time. I know when it will be crowded and when it will be empty, how its reflection will change, how far away I need to be to get the entire span of the bridge into the shot, when the morning sun will light up its eastern side and when the setting sun will leave it in shadow.
Revisiting a spot is like developing a friendship. I’ll start off a bit reserved, observing from a distance, but then a short while later I’m scrambling over rocks while hanging onto tree branches to get a closer look at a different angle.
Sometimes it feels like I’ve shot in Central Park so much that there’s nothing left to shoot, but of course that isn’t true.
If I think of Bow Bridge as a living thing, bright and cheerful one day, somber and dark another, crowded with boisterous tourists on a Sunday afternoon, empty and still at dawn, I realize that I could shoot it forever because it is ever changing.