Familiarity

February 10, 2022  •  Leave a Comment

Cats have an uncanny ability to notice - almost immediately - when there's something new in a familiar space. Nothing is too small or seemingly insignificant. There's no pulling the wool over their eyes! They'll head right for whatever that object might be and investigate. 

I don't know how they do it, but they can teach photographers a thing or two. 

Observational skills are crucial, especially when visiting the same location(s) again and again. And unless you're planning on traveling endlessly you're probably going to be working some areas repeatedly. 

How is it possible to continue to make unique photographs in familiar places? 

For starters, be like the cat. Be aware. Notice little details. Subtleties. What's different? There is always uniqueness in scenes with which you're already well acquainted. Nothing ever looks exactly the same from one season to the next, from day to day, from morning to afternoon, even from minute to minute. You're different, too. Your reactions, your mindset and your experiences keep changing - which influences your vision and interpretation. 

Regardless of the location, photographic potential is limitless. You just need to be able to recognize opportunities.

Our observational skills improve when we slow down, so don't be in a rush. Slow and steady wins this race. Give yourself time to get in sync with your surroundings. Make a connection with nature. Wander around. Be curious.

Creativity is enhanced when we let go of expectations. Keep an open mind. If you already have a composition in your head, you may miss a great scene right in front of you. Try not to previsualize.  

Letting go of expectations also means freeing yourself from the presumption that the session absolutely must generate a photograph. If you're able to make a picture, great. If not, it's okay. Enjoy the experience. Appreciate being there. Take the pressure off and photos are more likely to follow.

Finally, give yourself permission to shoot freely. Not every photograph needs to be a keeper. Remove that expectation and you might be surprised how much more imaginative you can be. Experiment. See how many different ways you can shoot a scene. Give yourself assignments. 

Creativity doesn't just happen; neither does a heightened ability to notice things. They both require practice. Once those skills are developed you'll realize potential photographs are everywhere.

I don't think it's possible to "wear out" a location. The better you come to know a place the better you'll be able to represent it.

Familiarity? I'll take it. 


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