I have found that I often learn and see more when I have my camera in my hands. Looking through the viewfinder allows me to block out everything else and really see what is before me.

I’ve been a tourist for years and would often visit a place look around but not really ‘see’ it. Since picking up a camera quite a few years ago, I hope I have learned the art of seeing and capturing the essence of a place, not just visiting. Here are a few things to consider.

Murtoa stick shed
Murtoa stick shed

Do your research

A great idea, if possible, before exploring the history of a location is to do some research. I am not referring to spending weeks and weeks researching everything you can find. But sometimes finding a little history about the location, or even if people have shot there before and have found that particular areas had their own unique shooting issues, can be really helpful.

Make every minute count

Being a tourist often means you are in and out. Sad but true. As a photographer, you generally spend more time. Immerse yourself in the history, the stories, the culture if need be. I often find that when I arrive at a location I need to walk around and ‘feel’ the space.

While you may wish to shoot a particular scene or area and there are people in your shot, either embrace them or wait for them to move on. Inevitably, if they are tourists, they won’t stay too long, and then you often have the place to yourself.

Dealing with the selfie fanatic

Occasionally you may have to deal with the ‘selfie fanatic.’ You know — the one who stands right in your prime location and takes shot after shot on their phone or even Instamatic. Even with a selfie stick they just can’t nail it. It’s frustrating when you just want a few minutes alone to capture your shot.

Offer to take their shot for them on their device. You can take the shot and get them out of yours. Of course, this doesn’t always work, but more often than not it does. You then have the option to leave and come back, or simply ask if they can move along. Perhaps even move out of the way so you can capture what you want and then leave them to their phones.

Sometimes people can add a sense of scale

Bring the right gear for the shoot and your camera

This where a little research can come in handy. I knew ahead of time that a wide-angle was the only way I was going to capture the essence of the Murtoa Stick Shed. This place is enormous and while I could have shot with my 28-75mm in a pinch, to capture the best shots I really needed my 14-35mm.

I also knew that it was dark, really dark. Trying to handhold the camera was going to be tricky. I knew to at least throw the tripod in the car, but instantly realized I had to use it once inside. I could have steadied my camera on the floor, a chair or a bin in a pinch, but having my tripod was essential. We don’t always have the right gear, but make sure to bring some options.

Five tips for exploring history with your camera
Look for hidden gems

Be in the moment while exploring the history

Above all, enjoy your time there, where ever ‘there’ is. Immerse yourself in history. Australia is a very young country and we have precious little history, in relation to other countries. So I try not to be biased about my encounters.

Appreciate the awe, in the true sense of the word. Whether it is architectural or in nature, we actually live on an incredible planet. So explore history with your camera, just make sure you leave it the way you found it for others to enjoy.

Five tips for exploring history with your camera

These images were captured at the Murtoa Stick Shed in regional Victoria, Australia. This really is an interesting piece of our local history.