When I started digging into photography I shot just about anything around me...after awhile you run out of interesting stuff within close proximity. So, I started looking around. At the time I was working for a company based in Blacksburg, Virginia and I had to spend about 3-5 days at a time up there every 5-6 weeks. Besides being right on the edge of the Jefferson National Forest, the only other thing of interest in Blacksburg is Virginia Tech University. Actually, VT is very interesting...and very photogenic.
Torgersen Hall at VTTorgersen Hall at Virginia Tech University The company I was working for kept "bankers hours" so I had time in the mornings and time in the late afternoon/evenings to find something to do...I took pictures...lots of 'em.
Virginia Tech is a pretty special campus, most of the buildings are covered in a special stone called "Hokie Stone" which is a kind of limestone that comes from a Virginia quarry and only used for VT projects. There are plenty of signature buildings on campus, one of the first I shot was Torgersen Hall with it's signature "Torgersen Bridge" that spans over a major section of the campus. At the time, I thought I was just taking cool pictures and honing my photography skills.
I was soon to figure out something about the business of photography... I started submitting these photos to iStock.com (the only service I was using at the time) and once they started being accepted something interesting happened...they started to sell! I had tripped on something - there aren't a great deal of stock pictures of college campus buildings. Sure, the iconic buildings at iconic colleges and universities are well covered, especially the ones in or near major cities, but beyond that there's not a lot. We all know that plenty of schools are in places far off the beaten track, like Blacksburg VA or Winston-Salem NC or Oxford MS.
Anyone that knows anything about colleges and universities know that there is always something going on there and that the institutions are sticklers for giving credit for someone else's work.
Wait ChapelWait Chapel at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, NC. I've started a library of college campus photos and I'm always aligning our family trips to accommodate stopping off here or there while traveling to spend an hour or two on a college campus. The campus doesn't even have to be that pretty, but most are beautiful.
I've done enough to have a "working system" to get the most out of a visit to any campus. Basically, I find a map (usually on their website) and print it out, then when I get there I drive around a bit to get the flow of the traffic and find a place on the edge of campus to park. Picking a parking spot on a college campus can be one of the most important decisions you make all day. Campus police are notorious for towing cars that are parked illegally...so my advice is to look for "visitor parking" and make sure you read all the signs - pay for parking if necessary.
Once you find your spot, gather your gear and head out I just have a couple of suggestions. I try to make it clear that I am taking pictures of the buildings, not the people (although, it's often impossible not to shoot both). I don't typically go in any buildings, there's plenty to see outside. I never get impatient with anyone while trying to get a shot...I'm a visitor and on no schedule. Look around, not at just the big, obvious buildings, but the other ones. I always try to snap a shot of the sign to a building so I know which one it is later. The other fun part is learning about the buildings and the campuses...they all have history.
Alamance BuildingAlamance Building at Elon University in Elon, North Carolina. Built in 1925. I've only been questioned a couple of times...considering how long I have walked around campuses that's nothing. I've only been turned away once and that was at (of all places) my Alma Mater (High Point University). I've started a "Bucket List" of college campuses I want to visit and shoot high on the list are (U of M, Duke, University of South Carolina, University of Wisconsin, Notre Dame, Harvard...to name a few)
So...the lesson here is that there is tons of really great stuff out there to shoot, look for something unusual and you just might get a surprise!