There’s always some shiny object to tempt photographers. The latest accessory. The state-of-the-art body, just released. The sharper, faster lens.
The “latest and greatest” is often far from trivial. It could involve a significant change. A learning curve. A price tag that’ll take your breath away. It could be something like making the switch from DSLR to mirrorless or dropping $11,000 on a fixed long lens.
You might spend months agonizing over whether or not to take the plunge. Decisions, decisions.
There’s nothing wrong with “the newest thing” or a consequential upgrade, but (fortunately) the latest and/or most expensive gear is not a prerequisite to making good photographs. That said, there is something you can’t do without which - happily - won't set you back a single extra dime.
It's your eyes.
Photography requires an ability to notice things; a unique perspective; an aptitude for finding something interesting – perhaps extraordinary – in what might otherwise be considered ordinary.
Photographers don't just look. They see.
Of course you need to know how to organize whatever it is that captured your attention into a compelling composition. As Ansel Adams said, “a good photograph is knowing where to stand.” But how you decide to arrange the scene in the viewfinder is driven as much by your eyes as it is by your knowledge of compositional technique.
Anyone can develop and improve their observational and compositional skills; it just takes practice. Get that camera out and use it! The more you shoot, the more you'll see. The more you see, the more you'll want to shoot.
Far-flung locations aren't necessary. Actually, focusing your attention close to home is probably more beneficial. It's handy; you can shoot any time. And the fact that these are landscapes with which you're very familiar means you'll be forced to observe them with fresh eyes.
Slow down and take your time. Be mindful and aware. Look at details. Look for patterns. Textures. Look at how the light interacts with your surroundings. Avoid tunnel vision; turn around and see what's behind you. When something catches your eye, think about why you're drawn to it.
Don't be in a rush to start shooting. Once you do pull your camera out of the bag, experiment. Photograph things you otherwise wouldn't. Use every lens you have with you. Shoot the same subject in multiple ways.
Pictures are everywhere when we learn to see them.
About the Photographs
These are all examples of the kinds of interesting things you might see not far from your door. All but one of the photos depict something that was located in my yard, or that I could see from my house. The exception is the derelict buck and rail fence which is less than four miles away.
FireworksAbstract of Western Salsify plant gone to seed - its lines and shapes reminiscent of exploding fireworks on the Fourth of July.
Nature's JewelsScores of droplets cling to a day lily leaf after persistent drizzle and light rain. (Newfields, New Hampshire)
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