If you ever wonder what you should be shooting, get a farm. I mean this in the photographic sense.
I am not the first to suggest that all photography is local, nor that if you are a serious photographer that you should take your camera with you everywhere you go, nor that the best light in the day is in the morning and afternoon when you get those beautiful 45 degree slanting rays of sunlight. There is beauty everywhere. There is photographic material everywhere.
Regardless of where you live, city, suburbs or countryside, you can stake out a territory – a farm – as your core area. Then you â€œfarmâ€ it for photographs.
When you get to really know an area, your farm, then you know just how certain features will set up with morning, evening or overcast light. I have my own favorite sites in my farm, and I know that these buildings and landscapes work best at different times of the day and seasons of the year. Your farm is constantly changing.
Consider this example. On a particular morning, the light is unusually beautiful, with a mixture of cloudscapes and golden sunlight. Once you have your farm staked out, you will know just where to go and what to shoot as quickly as possible to take advantage of that precious and fleeting light. You know in advance what side of a building works best in the morning, and then again in the evening.
You can see another Gene Krebs contribution here.
In my own case, my farm is a circle of countryside of about 15 miles around my home. I keep going back again and again down country roads to familiar spots, knowing in advance just where I should position myself to take advantage of different lighting conditions. I can already â€œseeâ€ in my mindâ€™s eye what kind of a photograph I might be able to compose even before I get to my destination.
My farm never gets old nor monotonous, because I continue to discover new subject matter on each trip. It is often the case that I see an image as I am driving along, and it doesnâ€™t register with me until I am past it. I force myself to stop, turn around, approach the subject from the opposite direction, and then turn around again, and get out of my car, and look at it again. Some of my best shots are the ones that I almost never took!
When you work your farm, you learn just how the changing sunlight will work from one angle or another, of how you will need to come back to a site again in the evening or on another morning. And when you find new subjects (they are endless), you have the experience to plan your next shoot. You learn how the sun moves across the sky with
the change in seasons, what time of day it rises and sets, and how the angles of sunlight change from day to day.
With time, your farm becomes a mental state, not just a physical location. All creative artists have their ups and downs. Writers get â€œwriterâ€™s blockâ€ when staring at a blank page, in need of priming the pump to get the creative juices flowing. Your farm can do that for you. The simple act of going out into familiar territory can get your creativity back.
Change your mode of transportation. If you drive a car, stop somewhere, get out, and
take a walk, seeing everything slowly and in detail. If you normally walk through a city neighborhood, take a bus and enlarge your territory by a few more blocks. Do whatever works and is different.
Then, when you take a trip and visit a new area, you have the farming technique to use in exploring a place you have never visited before. When you find an interesting subject, keep going back to it at different times of the day, and on different days.
Take advantage of your computer software to record keywords describing your shots.
In digital photography, your camera records EXIF data on every shot, including the date and exact time of day, shutter speed, aperture, and ISO setting. When you review your portfolio, you will see that one shot was taken on an evening in June, and another in late afternoon in October. One learns how things change. You might even start to think
that when next October rolls around, you will plan on such and such a day to capture a certain tree again, and see how it changes from year to year!
Remember that no matter how familiar your farm becomes to you, it is always different
each time you enter it.