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Exploring

It's not enough to be able to take great pictures. You first have to be able to find them.

That stands to reason. You may own the best of cameras and as many lenses as your back can bear to carry around. You may know every control on that camera inside and out and be so proficient in using them all that your camera feels like an extension of your arm. If really pressed to do so, you could probably work your camera in your sleep. But a significant matter remains to be addressed: just what are you going to take pictures of? Not every great shot has a "scenic overlook" sign in front of it.

You might assume that my point here is that you need to get out and find those shots. It's been said that there are great photos to be made everywhere, and I believe that's more or less true. Some years ago, I shot an entire roll of film while sitting in the middle of a roadside gravel pit. At first, the challenge seemed more than a little intimidating. All around me was, well, gravel. Eventually I noticed a few small plants poking out here and there, and a few were even flowering with tiny little buds. There were variations in lighting and shadows from the mounded-up gravel. There were clouds passing over head. Latter on, I found some ants and followed them around for a while. In the end, I ended up easily finishing off that roll of film and I could have kept on going if it wasn't getting so late and I needed to find some dinner.

But let's face it, there's no need making your task here too much harder than necessary. There are plenty of places where finding great shots would likely be easier than in a gravel pit. You hopefully already know a few of your own. Here in the Pacific Northwest, I'm lucky to be situated in between multiple national parks and other great places. I like it that way. But whatever your favorite places are, its best to get to know them well. Some people look on the idea of exploring as meaning they should go to as many new and interesting places as possible. There are all kinds of places you might explore. But it can be much more rewarding exploring familiar places ever more deeply.

Through experience, you come to know what time of your and what time of day work best for particular subjects and locations. Once you know your way around, you can explore with confidence without the distractions of unfamiliarity. You will be much more at ease when working in an area you know. By exploring various ways of looking at familiar subjects, even more ideas to explore can come up.

My recommendation would be to begin your explorations without your camera. Your aim should be to get to know the area well. There will be time to photograph it later. Unencumbered, you can freely wander about, looking at possible subjects from every possible vantage point. Get down low, look at it from the highest vantage point you can find. Look at it up close and from further away. Keep in mind that you are exploring. Be thorough.

Eventually, you will find what you are looking for. When you do, get your camera and mount the lens set to the appropriate focal length. Continue your explorations, but now with your camera in hand. Fine tune your composition and make sure it will work. Then make note of the spot as well as the height so that you can set your tripod up where it needs to be to steady your camera for that vantage point. To the extent that circumstances allow, take your time will all this and be methodical.

You should be comfortable in your surroundings. Include your own feelings in your explorations. In the end, the most important thing is the exploration. The camera merely serves to record the result of that exploration.

Remember, it's not enough to be able to take great pictures. You first have to be able to find them.


Date posted: March 4, 2018

 

Copyright © 2018 Bob Johnson, Earthbound Light - all rights reserved.
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