“Today’s greatest labor-saving device is tomorrow.”
– Woodrow T. Wilson
It’s a common problem. Nobody vacations where they live. Some people staycation for financial reasons, but when you live somewhere it’s just too easy to say “I’ll go next week” or “I’ll go when I get a new ____.” The problem is that without a sense of urgency you just never end up doing it, even things like the space shuttle or rocket launches. I hear all the time from people who live around central Florida that they really weren’t that interested because it’s just always been here as long as they have. Of course the place to spend your money in photography is on glass and travel, but that’s never a reason to pass on opportunities you have access to now, and the best camera in the world is the one have on you at the moment when you see an opportunity, even a simple cell phone camera. Living there only means it MIGHT be there later when you do get something better IF you ever get around to doing it.
When you live somewhere you take for granted that the common things you see everyday are common everywhere. I’ve personally lived minutes from colonial Williamsburg, Jamestown, Yorktown and more, and I put off going there for years until I moved away and no longer could go. Eventually I made it back there on trips to shoot historical sites for a book author and a couple other trips to NASA Langley Research Center working on my own book, but it doesn’t have to just be the big things. Little things like palm trees or even common wild flowers that are considered weeds, even snow or the fall leaves changing colors that I always hated growing up because I had to rake them. Moving away and then coming back to put a fresh set of eyes on things has made me more aware that I do this too. It takes effort to break yourself of this.
Homework part 1: On day you are busy, maybe after work or during lunch, go outside in your own yard or walk around the block if you’re in an apartment, and take an artistic picture of something you would never normally look at because you see it all the time. Try to pretend you’ve never been there or seen anything out there before and just look for something interesting to shoot.
I don’t mean a quick snapshot and move on, really take your time and put intent into exposure, lighting direction, composition, how you plan to post process, etc. Stay and keep shooting until it is PERFECT. It is said that the more interesting a subject is, the easier it is to get a great shot, but most don’t realize that truly interesting shots are still amazing without the subject. Recently some of the most iconic photos of all time were manipulated so the main subject of the image was removed, and to many people’s surprise, the photos were still beautiful.
The reason for this exercise is to work on not only the photography but to appreciate the little things around you that you pass by every day. Look in all 3 dimensions, change your perspective to something less common than your every day view. Try a new type of lighting. Pick something intentionally that you would never shoot, a subject that is mundane and imagine there is a photography contest whose theme is the subject of your shot. The macro world is amazingly startling, from tiny bugs going about their own lives that you would normally kill without a second thought to a simple garden weed most people would rip out and throw away. Just remember to look up and down too, not just left and right. Look under and around things. Try to imagine you’ve never seen any of it before and have no idea what it is. Can you take an interesting picture of it? Try some new perspectives or lighting you don’t normally use. With some practice you will start to see shots no one else spots.
Instead of killing that line of ants carrying food back to the colony or that wasp building its nest, take a picture instead. Then, you can thank whatever you took the picture of by leaving it alone and not destroying it’s life. You’ll find yourself much more at peace and in tune with nature, and everyone will wonder why they never did it when I see your pictures.