What Else Do You See?
One great way to improve your photography is to dig a little deeper when you're out shooting. Spend a little time. What else do you see?
In my estimation, most photographers are too quick to move on in search of more things to photograph. After they've shot the major attractions from one location, they head out in search of the next opportunity. It's almost as if they have a checklist and are marking off each item one by one. Bragging rights go to the photographer who's been to the most cool places. Perhaps they're not working on a bucket list in any ultimate sense, but there does often seem to be a degree of score keeping lurking below the surface. It's as if they can't score a perfect one hundred until they've been to all the "important" places, however such things are assessed.
Or perhaps it's just me that appears overly slow from their vantage point. I'll accept that. There's more than one way to look at it, I guess. I often find I can eat up a morning shooting away in some area while others come, do their thing and move on. So there's that.
In a way, that's my very point here though. By changing your vantage point, the lens on your camera or how you adjust the settings on that camera, there is indeed more than one way to look at most things, and in this case, I mean the things you find to photograph. It's all too easy to settle for the obvious view, the one marked on the sign and made famous by the postcard rack and tour guidebook, and assume that once you get that shot, you've got the best shot available. But all those postcard shots only serve to prove that view to be a reliable, persistent and predictable one. In order for it to gain enough notoriety to warrant a roadside attraction sign, there had better be something worth seeing their at least reasonably often. That view is probably a good one, but it may not be the best.
Trying to nail that postcard shot may mean you are missing the more ephemeral, special shots don't ever appear quite that way again. In addition to those checklist postcard shots you planned to mark off your list, look around. What else do you see?
That special something no one else takes the time to notice may be what is directly behind you as you look at the famous vista everyone else came for. It might have been there all along if only they had stopped to look. But more likely, you'll need to be paying attention to notice it at all. Or it might be a hundred yards down the road where the view is actually better than where everyone else stops. Things may have changed since the sign went up. But there's really no way to know where else to look until you do so. I'll freely admit to stopping at all the popular sites to see what they look like, but I also like to just stop places along the way, just for the fun of it. It can be time well spent simply to sit and rest a while, allowing an overall impression of place to fill you. And then allow it to lead you in your quest for a personal vision.
Or it may just be a different perspective on some well photographed subject. If we think of photography as an artform somewhat akin to painting, there must be many different styles of photography as determined by the outlook and preferences of the photographer. There's more than one way to paint a scene, and there's more than one way to photograph it. It may be a little harder for us given that we're limited to what actually exists whereas painters can express whatever they imagine. But we have plenty of tools available to creatively render a scene if we use them.
Indeed, part of the fun is figuring out just what can be done and working to make it happen. So, when you're out photographing, don't stop after the easy, obvious shots. Dig a little deeper.
What else do you see?