This is the tenth in a series of articles discussing some of the photography techniques I’ve learned and employ when I’m out on a shoot.
One of the things photography has done to me is make me look at everything. Until I started taking photographs whenever I’d walk somewhere I’d pretty much be looking at the road / path / bracken in front of me all the way there. I’d take the odd glance around me from time to time to look out for cars / cattle / bracken but that would be about it.
But going out taking photos means looking for something to take pictures of. This is an incredibly obvious statement but bear with me. Instead of looking at what’s in front of me I now look at every little detail. I don’t just see a hill in the distance and a river in front of me, I see the way the light falls on the hill in the background, the shadows, the texture of the grass in the middle ground, the reflected scene in the river, I look for any possible leading lines, anything in the foreground I can use as a point of interest and a host of other things that might make for an interesting picture.
When I started out I’d wander around pointing my camera at random things and really struggle to get anything decent. However after a few trips with my friend Ade I learned the great lengths he goes to to make a great picture out of what he can see. He’ll crawl around on his hands and knees searching for different angles, make inanimate objects you’d usually ignore into the centrepiece of a beautiful shot and even when driving along a road he’s looking in every direction for a picture (I pity anybody stuck behind him as he has a tendency to throw the car off the road and go taking snaps with no warning).
This habit has rubbed off on me to the point that when I walk down a street I’m automatically looking at all the buildings, the roof lines, the pattern of the pavement (if there is one) and if any street furniture lines up. If I’m on the hills I’m looking for leading lines from fences, ruts made by tractors, trees, sheep, anything. And I’m always on the lookout for good light – which can turn an OK shot into a great shot. Even if I’m out with my camera feeling uninspired I challenge myself to make a shot out of what I can see – even if it’s just a dry stone dyke and some weathered trees. Especially when it’s a dry stone dyke and some trees!
For example, I went out the other evening just before sunset as I could see the light was really good. With tripod and camera in hand I walked along the canal from my house and tried to get something interesting. The light was indeed great but the large number of pylons sort of spoiled the view so I only got a few OK shots. But as I walked back along the road to my house – eyes everywhere – I noticed the sun line up with the top of a barbed wire fence and snapped this shot, which I rather like:
There’s no particular technique to looking out for something to photograph – it’s just about persistance. I find that if I make a point of keeping my camera out, ready to take a picture of something, it encourages me to keep looking. If it’s packed away in its bag over my shoulder there’s that bit more effort getting it out and setting it up so I tend not to bother.
So go out with your camera, it doesn’t have to be anywhere interesting and could be somewhere you’ve been a hundred times before. But try and take a picture you’ve never taken before. Try and make something interesting out of what’s in front of you instead of just putting the camera to your eye and clicking the shutter. Take your time and look around all the time. It means you have to walk slower but that’s fine, photography isn’t something you should rush.