Luck favors the prepared–While driving in Garner Valley, California, I came across this trio. If you drive a lot, it’s always a good idea to have your camera with you. Keep a notebook handy as you’re driving or walking around to make notes of promising situations. With digital cameras available on your cellphone, you don’t even need to write. A shot of the scene and the street signs should jog your memory when you need to recall where it was. You may not even have to shoot the street signs if you have those smartphones which are GPS enabled and can geo-tag.
Ever since I left the newspaper, I haven’t been driving very much except for picking up the kids, dropping them off and running the usual errands around the city.
I used to be a road warrior, meaning my car was my office. There were days I would drive 2 hours (one-way), hop out of the car to make a quick portrait, hop back in the car and then drive back to the newspaper.
Even after switching to digital, I still had to drive quite a bit during an eight-hour shift.
In fact, the higher-ups at the papers actually packed more assignments into my day when they realized I only needed a phone line or an internet connection and my laptop to send pictures back.
That often left me wondering if I was a photographer or a courier.
How far you have to go depends solely on what kinds of subjects you enjoy photographing.
Let’s face it, if you’re trying to follow in the footsteps of Ansel Adams, and you live on the island of Hong Kong, just forget it.
Make the most of where you are–In a place with so much humanity, I found the people Â intriguing. I had a lot of fun picking outÂ faces in the crowds whether it was someone sleeping at a public park, or the old rickshaw puller waiting at the Star Ferry Terminal in Kowloon.
When I was there, I don’t recall an instance when I could be alone in public for longer than 5 minutes no matter what time of the day.
It was just so crowded on that little rock in the South China Sea.
Most beginners start out with landscapes Â because it is easiest.
Let’s face it.
Mount Rushmore, Ayers Rock, the Sphinx, the Taj Mahal, the Eiffel Tower or the Great Wall of China are all very cooperative subjects and they are outdoors.
Toughest part is waiting for either the light or the other tourists to get out of your picture.
Photography, like most skills, has a natural progression.
As your camera handling skills improve, you need to be challenged if you want to improve.
I’ve tried telling Â my studentsÂ that.
They still whine when I make them photograph people, especially when I specify those people they photograph need to be strangers.
For most folks, there’s nothing more intimidating than going up to a stranger and asking their permission to take their picture. Actually, I take that back.
Approaching a â€œhotâ€ woman at a bar and striking up a conversation with her, without my camera, still scares the bejesus out of me.
Now, now don’t be speed dialing my wife. It’s a hypothetical, okay?
See if this makes sense.
At first, I didn’t want anyone in my pictures. Then, I thought all my pictures looked so lonely without a person.
Later, having a person wasn’t enough. I wanted to see more. I wanted to see their faces.
Even later still, I wasn’t happy with just being able to see their faces, I wanted to capture some candid moments when I interacted with them.
Finally, I would seek out people who had interesting stories to see if I could show that. But I’m getting ahead of myself here. I’m a story-teller at heart, that’s why.
So if you’re not a hardcore landscape photographer, but a generalist, I hope you realize that you are only limited in your choices by your imagination and powers of observation.
Most of us are creatures of habit. If you never venture outside just before sunset, then you’re missing out a lot on what your world looks like.
Likewise, if you are a late-riser, or if you take the same route to work daily, you’re probably not seeing some possibilities for good pictures.
When I worked at the newspaper and had a company car, I used to leave earlier than I needed to get to an assignment because I wanted to take a different route just to explore.
Of course, I didn’t have to pay for the expense of the gas, so why not take a circuitous route since I was on the clock anyway?
I used to make mental notes to myself. Oddities like which highway I was traveling on, the time of the year and time of the day I saw something promising.
I would file that away in a little notebook for those times when the bossman would inevitable call to say, â€We don’t have anything for the cover, come back with something.â€
Tricks of the trade? I think it was more my way of maximizing my chances to find a good picture.
Now that you’ve read this rather roundabout post about how far you have to go to find a picture, please go outside with your camera.
After all, not everyone can have their very own pet spider living in his kitchen like I do.