There’s no place like home

(All of the following photos were taken in my hometown of Walnut Grove)

“Then close your eyes and tap your heels together three times. And think to yourself: ‘There’s no place like home. There’s no place like home.’” – Glinda the good witch from The Wizard of Oz

Recently the web site Light Stalking had an article titled “What makes a photograph interesting: 5 ideas in choosing a photographic subject.” I agreed with some of them such as finding interesting light, for light is one of the most important things in a photo.

However, one thing I took issue with was when the writer posed the question “is it (your subject) common or unusual?” He goes on asks the reader to compare travel photos of their own hometown to those of a foreign land. He posits that the picture of another country will be more interesting.

I suppose from the standpoint of a travel article that may be true but what should matter from a purely photographic standpoint is how the picture was taken not where it was done or even what the picture is of.

When I was a photo student one of my class assignments was called “in your backyard.” The task was meant to look for something interesting close to home. All to often, especially when we’re first starting out, we think that just because a picture was shot in an exotic locale that makes it a great photo. But it’s not the subject or place that necessarily make a picture great, but rather the photographer’s approach to them.

It’s often said that great actors can make even reading a phone book sound dramatic and interesting. Finding new ways at photographing the familiar is much the same.

It’s the much harder path, of course. When you travel to a foreign and exotic land everything you see is new and exciting to you. Finding good photos from your own hometown, someplace that you see day-in and day-out, takes more thought and creativity. You need to look for something to elevate your subject.

Try to find good light. Things look differently at different time of the day due to the light. Go out for a walk with your camera in the early morning or late evening. Things will look a lot different than the middle of the day.

Think compositionally. Try to look at your subjects from different viewpoints. Walk around your subject and look at it from various angles, you may see it in a way that you’ve never seen it before.

Change your route. We all take the same streets to and from work, the grocery store, the bank, etc. From the buildings, streetlights, trees, sometimes the people, we see the same landmarks day every day If you take a different path, perhaps a close as just one street over, you may see things that you’ve never noticed before.

Most importantly, you have think photographically. You need to view anything you come across as if you can make an interesting picture of it. Even if you can’t stop to take a photo of something that piques your curiosity, you need to think of ways of how to best take the shot.

If you can find beauty in the mundane then you can find it anywhere. If not then all you may have are mediocre pictures from a faraway land. It’s like learning how to drive with a manual or an automatic transmission. If you learn how to operate a stick-shift, then you can drive either but not the other way around.

Learning how to take great pictures of everyday places and things will not only improve your photography in general but when you do travel your pictures will be even better.
To paraphrase a line from the song “New York, New York,” if you can make it (a picture) here (your hometown), you can make it anywhere.

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