There's Always Something Great To Shoot
Recently, I had an online conversation with a young photographer that said he needed my help on what to photograph. He said he was looking for a good spot for pictures. So I asked where he lived, and he gave me the name of his town in Washington state and followed that with, “and things out here seem so dull.”
He lived 17 miles from Snoqualmie Falls, one of the most breathtaking scenes I have ever photographed.
He lived 35 miles from the fantastic Mt. Ranier, which on a clear day, can be seen from 50 miles away.
He lived on the eastern edge of a series of National Parks and Forests that spans 50,000 square miles in northwest Washington State.
And he needed to know a good spot for pictures.
Unfortunately, I know just what he means. I think we are all like that a little bit. We will travel across the globe to photograph some majestic landscape or famous site, but never visit the locations near home.
I live in a suburb of Atlanta, about 25 miles to the north. Unlike almost everyone, I am a native Atlantan and have lived in various parts of the metro area my entire 65 years. I have visited and photographed quite a few local attractions, especially since I began doing photography professionally.
But like my new, young friend in the Pacific Northwest, there are nearby sites, I have never seen or shot, including:
- Atlanta Botanical Gardens
- World of Coca-Cola
- Atlanta History Center
- Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historical Park (although I have shot Ebenezer Baptist Church)
- Gold Mines of Dahlonega
- Cloudland Canyon
Image by Author
And that just touches the surface. Many places that I have been and photographed, such as Stone Mountain and Amicalola Falls, I haven’t visited in years.
But I have heard this complaint from many photographers around the country, and I call BS. There is always something to shoot, you just need to learn to see it.
Here are three tips to follow the next time you “have nothing to shoot.”
Be a tourist
Google your city or state and look at it like you were going to visit for the first time. Look up and bookmark all the destinations that are on everyone’s ‘must-see’ list. How many of them have you never visited? Take a weekend, or better yet, take a few days off from work and have a staycation.
The last time I shot downtown Atlanta, that is what I did. I grabbed my travel kit and drove to the nearest transit stations, taking a train downtown. Then I wandered the streets of Atlanta all day, shooting architecture, people and parks. I came back with dozens of new images and saw sites I hadn’t seen before.
Take a virtual tour
Google Maps is one of my most used resources on the web for photography. Sure the maps are great for finding things and getting you there, but the two tools I spend my time on are Street View and Satellite View.
Satellite View is excellent for birds-eye views of places. You can find out where that river goes and how you can access it. You can discover vast forests and other green spaces you didn’t even know were there. Bring up your town on Satellite View and fly over your area for a bit, highlighting places to check out.
With Street View, you can take a virtual drive. After you have found an exciting location with Satellite View, drill down to the road level and bring up Street View. It’s a bit painstaking, but you can take a drive down a road, checking out both sides for interesting things to shoot.
A few years ago, I decided to head out to the Monastery of the Holy Spirit in nearby Conyers, Georgia. I hadn’t been there since I was in high school, but I remembered the grounds, architecture, and people were fantastic. Looking at Google Maps, I saw I was going to be on a two-lane highway for several miles. So I drilled down to Street View and took a virtual drive down it, looking for other points of interest. I was able to find a dairy farm and a beautiful lake I shot as a bonus.
Start With Your Own Back Yard
If all else fails, try this. Grab your camera and your favorite lens, preferably a prime. For me, that would mean my nifty-fifty on the Canon or my little 35mm f2 on the Fuji.
Head out into your backyard.
Don’t have a yard? Then just walk around the block. Now, look at everything. Every building and all the details. Every tree, limb, and leaf. Every animal, whether it be a mountain lion or a squirrel. Take pictures. Shoot everything. Shoot close and wide. Leave no figurative or literal stone unturned.
Here’s what you will find out. Once you get started, you can’t stop. You will discover many interesting things to shoot and see details you’ve never noticed before. Now head back in and dump your card. I promise you will be amazed at what you come back with if you open your mind and just shoot.
It doesn’t matter where you live; there is plenty around you to photograph. It is more likely that you just haven’t noticed the beauty close to home. Rather than think about those far away vistas, take a look near where you live.
You always and absolutely have things to photograph.