I like reading photo magazines and seeing photos from all over the world, I realize that I may never get to some of these places in my lifetime, but you never know. One of the things that I like to tell my students is that anyone can go out in their local community and take some great photos. Granted, if one has the time, resources and most important, health to travel, I say go for it. However, if you visit a place that is near by many times, this can be a real challenge to come up with some new photos. I think it sharpens a photographer’s skill if they can start making new work out of a place that they have been to maybe hundreds of times. I find that there are “easy” photos, ones that immediately present themselves. Think about if you just moved to Paris, France. Once of the easy photos would be the Eiffel Tower, or the Statue of Liberty in New York City. These are some landmarks that these perspective areas are known for. Then, if you visit a place time and time again, it becomes harder to find the photos that are lurking in the shadows. I find these photos are more special and stronger than the easy photos as not everyone will have these. There has been times when I was freelancing for a magazine and I needed to come up with something interesting out of what appeared to be nothing.
Recently, I was doing a photography class at Florida Gulf Coast University (FGCU) in Punta Gorda, Florida and part of the class was field trips. Since the university was in downtown we decided to walk around and see what we could come up with. Punta Gorda is on the Peace River and Gulf of Mexico so there are many wonderful places to shoot on the water. However, since most of the folks have lived here for many years, we were all looking for something different. In 2004, hurricane Charlie came to visit and basically flattened most of the city. Over the years, Punta Gorda was rebuilt and really has taken on a new fresh look. Hence, why we decided to take a walk and see what we could find.
One of the remaining buildings that has lasted the test of time is the historic courthouse. I like to shoot architecture, and when I see photos from Washington DC, I always look for photos with columns. At first we were standing right in front of the building. It was a nice building, don’t get me wrong, but I knew there had to be something different. My eye immediately went to the top of the columns, I was really taken in with the scroll work at the top. I started to walk around to the side of the building and watched as the distance between the columns started to close and the pillars were on top of each other. Using the rule of thirds, I put the scroll work at the top and made sure that the shadows didn’t get cut off.
As we walked around, we came up to the parking garage. I stopped as I was taken up by the shape of the lights against the brick. Some of the students asked, “What in the world are you shooting?” I showed them the back of the camera and they were surprised. I said that sometimes we just have to slow down and look. I have been by this location hundreds of times in a car, but not of foot. This allowed me to see things at a slower pace and I had time to actually “see” what was there and come up with a composition.
As we finished our 90 minute walk about the city, I saw this stairwell that had a light on. I was thinking about this in black and white and thought the texture on the wall might be interesting, Also, all of the intersecting lines would move the eye around the photo.
Something that I like to do when I go out and shoot, is that I’ll set the camera to RAW + JPG. The reason for this is that I ALWAYS process the RAW file. However, I can turn on the monochrome photo style in the camera and what will show up on the LCD is a black and white photo. But, the RAW file is untouched and still in color. When I download the photos from the camera on to the computer, I can look at the JPG files and quickly determine which ones are worth processing. So, I’m using the JPGs for reference only. Then I open the RAW file and go from there. How cool is that? At the end of the processing session, I pitch the ones that didn’t make it and the JPG files as I will never care about seeing them again. This helps keep the hard drive uncluttered and only has your keepers.
That’s all for now, I hope this inspires you to go out and take some photos that is close to where you live and see what you come home with. It’s not going to cost you anything except a few hours of your time. Stop and take a minute to see what photos will present themselves when you start “seeing”.
Until next time…
Keep Your Glass Clean