New Views of Honeypot Locations

New Views of Honeypot Locations

In this post I’m going to discuss how to find new views of honeypot locations, and how a byproduct of doing this will enhance your photography and even attract more views.

Honeypot Locations

Honeypot locations draw photographers, tourists and day-trippers like flies to the proverbial honeypot.

There are reasons to try that much harder in honeypot locations. Take the shot you had planned to get and then stretch your creative muscles by finding new ones. Copying other photographers is useful, but only from the technical perspective. We all need to exercise our creative muscles and finding new angles, locations and perspectives is a great way of doing that.

Queuing for the Shot

One of the most frustrating things that photographers experience is somebody setting up in front of your tripod to take their own photograph. This doesn’t often happen to be fair, but when it does, it makes my blood boil! Take a step back and what we’re experiencing is a queue, people lining up to take the same photograph. Iceland, the Dolomites, Scotland all suffer horribly, which is one reason why I’m promoting Spain as a photography location.

Honeypots in Spain

Spain does have its honeypot locations though. The Alhambra, Picos de Europa, Cabo de Gata to name but three. Look carefully at this image, taken at sunset on a peak five miles at least from any town, road or track. That’s not a rock the sun is shining through, it’s a photographer and next to him on the left is another photographer’s head.

The photographs I took in the Picos in the main, show no people at all and that’s generally how I prefer it. you can check out the rest of the images in my article Photographing the Picos de Europa (Part One). For the rest of this article though I’m going to talk about the biggest honeypot location in Granada, the Alhambra.

The story goes that when Napoleon retreated from Granada, he left behind a single soldier and an epic amount of dynamite in the cellars, rigged to blow up the Alhambra. The soldier had one job, to set off the explosion, turning one of Europe’s most beautiful examples of Moorish architecture to rubble. The soldier gave himself up to the Spanish forces, declaring that he couldn’t bring himself to destroy such a beautiful building. With a pedigree like that, it’s no wonder the Alhambra attracts over 3 million visitors a year, every one of them armed with a camera!

So when I decided to photograph the Alhambra, I didn’t want to reproduce the endless shots we see online. I wanted to find a new view. The way to do this is to go back to basics and treat the location as you would any other shoot.

Back to Basics

Recreating fantastic images we see online is a blessing and a curse. A blessing because we can see whether we have the capability to capture a scene as well as the next photographer, a curse because it encourages a “nail the shot” mentality that bypasses our own creative muscles!

To jolt ourselves out of the mindset of capturing our own version of a picture we saw online, we need to go back to basics.

What is the Story the Photograph will tell?

The majority of the shots we see online are of the Alhambra, rather than about the Alhambra. They tell stories about the architecture, the gardens and the interiors. I decided to try to find a different perspective. The Alhambra sits on the edge of Granada, towering over the town and the plain beyond, offering a clear view of the Sierra Nevada to the North and East.

Every time I go to Granada I find myself wondering how it was in the days when there was no traffic. Back in the middle ages, the Alhambra must have seemed even more immense than it does now. I needed the Alhambra, the city and the distant Mountains. Autumn colours would be a bonus.

Autumn Colours at the Alhambra


So I decided to search for a view from the opposite side to the one usually shot. (St Nicholas plaza looking south east). I wanted to shoot North East.

Out with the map and Viv, my partner and a very experienced video producer, discovered a park, Carmen de los Mártires, to the south of the Alhambra, high up, that looked as though we might be able to get above the level of the Alhambra and Generalife and shoot across to the mountains. That would be the shot, if we could get it, showing the context in a way I haven’t seen before.

If you’re interested in the level of research and tools that are useful in this phase, check out Location Scouting for Landscape Photography

Carmen de los Mártires

Reality is always a little bit different, and to my surprise we found we could park, for free, within 100 metres of the entrance to the park. Unheard of luxury! Once in the park we climbed to the north east corner up several layers of terraces and looked for a good composition.

The park is closed and locked between 2pm and 4pm at this time of year, and I’m sure you can guess what is coming next – we were so intent on finding a good position to shoot from that we didn’t register the time and were locked in. Perhaps this was key in getting rid of the hordes of tourists because when we eventually left around 4:30pm the lower parts of the park were packed.

I shot at several locations, starting high up and working my way down the hill to find other angles and details.

This was a position at the high north east corner of the park, offering an unobstructed view across the Alhambra and the Albayzin to the mountains beyond.

The Autumn colours were a real bonus, lending these images some extra impact.

We spent a lot of time finding unobstructed views, either the high areas of the park have been neglected or the designer was on a mission against photographers, because it was hard to find accessible areas to plant the tripod and get decent shots.

Working the Location

More and more, I find myself really working the locations when I get there. It’s amazing what you find when you upload the images onto a computer. So this next image, a panorama made up of three shots taken in portrait orientation shows much more clearly the suburbs beyond Granada, leading into the hills beyond than was obvious on the back of my camera at the time.

I came away from the location with 85 images, including a couple of panoramas, and I think there were possibly four portfolio shots in that selection.

Lessons Learned

  • If there are gates, try to get locked in!
  • When using a long lens to compress a large distance, focus stacking is essential if there is anything in the foreground.
  • Work the location – by all means grab the obvious shot, but try for at least a dozen other positions, including wide, normal and close up shots.
  • Work the location – Also get detail and context shots. Especially if you have a blog, they may not be masterpieces, but they fill out the story.
  • Do the Research – Planning saves hours and almost guarantees success.
  • Differentiate between portfolio pieces and journalism. Every shot in your portfolio needs to be perfect. But other pictures have a part to play too.

New Views of Honeypot Locations

It is always worth going the extra mile. Because of my background as a commercial photographer I have always been very focused on “the shot”. With landscape photography this has brought me the focus to nail great shots of many locations, but I also miss opportunities through a “job done” mentality. This needs to change, I have to find a way of balancing these points of view because in landscape photography we are telling a story about locations.

By all means nail the perfect shot, but that’s just the beginning, there is more work to be done!


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