The hardest thing about being a nature photographer has been having to live in what Jeffery and I have affectionately (though sarcastically) dubbed the “Cultural Mecca of the IE”. At first glance, there is not a lot of nature to be found around here. There are plenty of strip malls, concrete buildings, and cookie-cutter houses piled one on top of the other, but most of the green you see is artificially landscaped. Lawns are perfectly manicured and trees are trimmed, but you have to look pretty close to see anything natural.
Recently, there was a comment made on one of our posts which read something along the lines of “it would be easy to take beautiful photos if I lived in a place like that.” The comment really bothered me. It felt like an excuse because, honestly, there can be beauty everywhere if you just open your eyes. Stuart Sipahigil wrote an excellent eBook for Craft & Vision several months ago called Close to Home where he addresses this very issue. He says that it doesn’t matter if you live in a place you might consider “ordinary”. Everyplace is ordinary to someone. You need to find out what is extraordinary about where you live and shoot that (or what is ugly about it, as in the case of William Eggleston). One of his exercises is called the One Mile Project. Simply put, it is limiting your shooting radius to one mile around your house. See what you come up with. Many of my shots are taken within a mile of my house and probably 90% are within five (The photos here are examples of what and where I shoot). You may have to search a little harder to get what you’re after, but that makes the result so much sweeter when you actually do.
This advice isn’t just for nature photographers. No matter what type of photography you are passionate about, there are ways to practice. Start thinking out of the box. If you are doing portraits, enlist your neighbors. If you are into sports photography, volunteer at some of the youth sports programs in your community. If you are using where you live as an excuse to stay on your couch, then maybe you weren’t meant to shoot to begin with, maybe it really isn’t your passion. No, I don’t really like where I live. Yes, I would much prefer to live somewhere like Tuscany or Wales. I don’t though. For now, I live in the suburbs of Southern California. But, I am not going to use that as an excuse to not shoot what I love. I have and will continue to find a way. I not only get better prepared for the times when I am actually in someplace beautiful, but it also helps me to be just a bit more content. I no longer just see the drabness, I see the wildflower peeking through the cracks in the pavement or the butterfly flitting through the bushes. I am able to escape the grayness just for a little while and see that there is beauty everywhere.
[via Nicole Rae]