Revisiting the Familiar

So many photographers dream about traveling the world and taking amazing photographs of distant far away places. Then, when they present these images to the people back home, they are amazed at the skill of the photographer.

Part of the allure lies in the fact that the audience is not used to seeing the subject matter. Take those images and show them to the people who live where they were captured and they may not be as impressed. It’s all relative.

Some of my images that I am most proud of are the ones I took of very familiar things or scenes, but they presented the biggest challenge for me. And some of those images were captured using the simplest of gear, perhaps even a pocket camera. So why then, is it these images that I think of the most? And why are these images often overlooked?

I know as a photographer that it is easy to create a good image of a grand vista, or a beautiful wilderness expanse. I also know that it’s not the camera that creates the images. It’s the person behind the camera who creates them. And, sometimes when I’ve had a very busy week at work, or I find myself with very little free time for taking photographs, I will start looking at things differently. In fact, that really is the essence of photography – how we look at the world and see things. So I will start to take a new look at the familiar. I’ll look at perspective, shapes, highlights, shadows, structure etc.

Guy Tal in his ebook “Creative Landscape Photography” talks extensively about what to consider when creating a composition. Visualization is so important in fine art photography – this ability to select a scene that has some kind of potential, and then find a way to create what you see in the finished image. It involves finding an interesting composition, waiting for the right light, using your gear to give you the raw image that works, and processing the image to produce a result that reflects what you saw.

My colleague from Alberta Dan Jurak has often said if you learn to photograph the things closer to home well, you’ll be a better photographer for it. These things are not the “low hanging fruit” as he calls them, but rather, the things that may present a bigger challenge to image. Learn to make the ordinary interesting, and it can only help your photography.

When you find yourself with little time, or the weather is not cooperating, or you’re unable to travel, try seeing the world around you differently. Use the lack of opportunity and turn it into a great opportunity to improve your skills.

All of these images were taken with a small pocket camera 🙂




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