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Finding Great Subjects to Photograph Close to Home

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You don’t need to take expensive and exotic trips to make good images. So if staying at home is more your thing then a few simple ideas can help you create beautiful images. What you might view as commonplace and bland can still be photographed in an imaginative and skillful way to produce an image that shows a far more striking aspect of the subject or scene. I am not suggesting you get all creative with software manipulation either. I am suggesting explore your imagination and creativity; perhaps push your technical boundaries a little and this will further enhance your photographic skill.

flowers-home

The ability to take an everyday scene and construct from it a superb image will require your application of some or all of the following:

  • vision to see the various elements that might be included in an image
  • concentration and time to develop the idea and assimilate all the components
  • awareness to recognize the potential of a color, shape and form
  • observation to study the scene and time enough to mentally collate the aspects of the image and to try them out in camera
  • willingness to try something new

This skill of making the mundane magnificent is not dependent on the type of camera and lens you use, it works with anything. My particular interest is nature and wildlife, but the skill can readily be applied to most of your chosen genres of photography.

Getting started

To start you should be looking for a spark or catalyst to kick off the mental process. This can be anything that takes your fancy such as color, shape, pattern or motion.

Once you have selected your particular environment, and isolated some elements for a composition, then take some time to arrange and rearrange them in your mind. Walk around, kneel, lie down and test different perspectives. Work the opportunity and let the image evolve, don’t rush it. You may get a few strange looks in certain circumstances, but that is the price you pay.

Something simple like a field of rapeseed (or field of other flowers or crops depending on where you live) is a common, beautiful, bright yellow sight which also heralds the arrival of summer. The endless fields of yellow can be monotonous, but they can provide you with a colorful subject in their own right, or a backdrop for a smaller subject. You can use the color, the size of the field and the detail of individual flowers. Look about for a subject, choose a perspective and include other elements such as: blue sky, clouds, a tree, a car, a sunrise or sunset, or all of the above. Let the image unfold.

Finding subjects close to home

The images here are all taken this year, with this article in mind, all within a couple of miles of my house. This is to demonstrate that there is much on our doorsteps that might keep our photographic needs satisfied, well some of them at least.

Choose any patch of grass on a dewy morning and have a look for a good collection of dew drops and try a backlit shot. The sparkles and perfect shapes of the droplets make an intriguing subject. Here I have turned the image into a black and white just to emphasize the shape and patterns, but often you’ll want to keep the lovely green of the grass.

001 Dewy Morning in the Grass

Garden birds are probably the most accessible wildlife for you budding nature photographers. With some simple skills you can go beyond just taking a record shot, but can create lovely images. Place a bird feeder in a good position, with a decent background, and a thoughtfully placed perch and sit back and wait. Change the perch and change the background at will and you have a whole suite of different images available to you.

002 Robin on Chair

A sunrise over a meadow may be a regular occurrence in your home patch, but to make it a little different get down low in the vegetation. Here I have obstructed the sun with a tree at the edge of the meadow, and thus broken the sunlight up into many light sources coming through the foliage. The background is formed by selecting an aperture that provides sizeable circles of confusion (out of focus light sources) behind the subject. The subject is just a few seeding grass heads, but you can turn the simple into the stunning by constructing an image.

003 Meadow Sunrise

Vast fields of cultivated crops can provide you with a wonderful opportunity. A bright yellow rapeseed field for example. Look for something to isolate within the vast swathe of yellow that provides a point of interest in an image full of color. Sometimes it is simply a color that can spark your thinking, but spotting a dewy web provides a focus for the image. Prowling the edge of the fields on a bright and sunny day will also yield a lot of insect life, which could become your whole new world.

004 Rapeseed Field

You can choose a different day and different weather to change your image. On a foggy day dewdrops collect on spider webs and can give you an abstract view of the rapeseed field. The spark here was the pattern effect of the drops and then the gorgeous yellow background.

005 Rapeseed Field Dewdrops

This image was created by using a long lens that can accommodate a lot of foreground (has a lot of reach and you can stay back from the subject) and can throw the background and foreground out of focus with a shallow depth of field, while filling the frame. If you shoot into the sun, then the sunlight passing through the green foliage will bring out the bright, and almost luminous, green of the leaf with which you can compose the foreground and background. The spark was the beautiful color of the backlit green foliage, completely different from the front-lit color.

006 Garden Bluebell

Sometimes simplicity is the only catchword you need to remember. Find a patch of wildflowers, pick the most concentrated spot and shoot away, picking various subjects. The color and the profusion will give you all you need to create an intriguing and colorful image.

007 Summer Flowers

Spring and summer are obviously the prime times for encountering wildlife, and therefore photographic subjects for your nature images are abundant. Unless you live in the tropics, the winter season can be a lot more mundane, so you are probably going to have to work harder. Colorful weeds and insects are always a feature of summer. Putting them together works a treat, although it may take some patience.

008 Dandelion and Ladybird

It is not all about your hands and knees or the hedgehog perspective, so a few leading lines and an old barn will give you a far superior image to a snapshot of endless cultivated fields. Throw in a few colorful wildflowers in the foreground, a dark stormy sky and the farm fields you drive past routinely may take on a new perspective.

009 Old Barn in Fields

A very sparse little patch of flowers, with color being their only redeeming quality, can still provide you with a good opportunity. This technique is purely an in-camera one and utilizes controlled motion of the lens. Slow the shutter speed (low light, low ISO, dull weather or a combination) and zoom in or out by hand while the shutter is open gives the resulting motion blur. This can be used in a variety of ways and once you start your imagination may take hold. If you don’t have a zoom do the same with your prime lens but twist the camera in your hands.

010 Flower Burst

So just to show you that you can make great images close to home with a little effort.

Do you have any other tips or tricks for finding ordinary things and making great photos? Please share in the comments below.

Read more from our Tips & Tutorials category

Richard Taylor is a nature & wildlife photographer living in the beautiful Wye Valley in the UK, sandwiched between the Usk Valley in Wales and the Forest of Dean in Gloucestershire. Through photography he loves to help and encourage people to view the natural world more closely and find the same calming influence he finds so valuable. On the doorstep or farther afield in an exotic location, just a little exploring takes you a long way!

  • Richard Taylor

    Beautiful! If you take the time to look you will see – is the point!

  • Alika

    Sassy little Mynah bird

  • Shakira

    Great guide as usual!! You can see some of my shots in my Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/shakiraduartephotography
    Keep up the good work!

  • Thank you for the inspiration! A different look out my windshield during my commute…bug guts! LOL

  • Annie McConnell

    This is nothing super special, but I fell in love with this stump when I saw it on a walk the other day!

  • Richard Taylor

    Well that looks like a lovely commute Rita! Big blue skys, open highway, no cityscape! Next best thing to bugs is bug-guts I guess!! 🙂

  • Richard Taylor

    Special to you though Annie! And some gorgeous backlit foliage I see there too….and the glorious Autumnal colour on the way…a subject for each season perhaps?

  • Annie McConnell

    Yes, very much! 😀

  • chandra prakash

    near my home…

  • Just bought my first set of automatic extension tubes the other day, macro photography can become quite addictive. Ultimately I realise the best way to get great results is to purchase a nice macro lens. But for a cheap alternative, it seems to have great results. Might have to put a macro lens on my wish list for Christmas thou.

  • Well you have to start somewhere Peta and extension tubes are a good option as you say. I agree with your comment about being addictive…I love my 100mm f/2.8 macro lens and use it for insects, flowers, fungus, food & people! Good luck with the Christmas list!

  • Billey Maques

    Hey found this on my mum’s cloth wire….. Cant get domestic than this…….. Plz critique

  • I like it Billey! It has an elegant simplicity. Good use of the diagonal and depth of field. Monochrome works. Now try and get a butterfly in there 😉

  • Bryce

    Went outside the other day and look what i found… I’m new with photography so please give me some feedback

  • What a fantastic sky Bryce! Wow – you have captured the beautiful, fiery orange colour very well. A very dramatic image! The black silhouettes of the trees add some interest to the foreground too.

    I can see you have tried to eliminate some clutter from the bottom of the picture (houses, buildings etc) but eliminating the telegraph poles and wires would be even better. I know they are everywhere these days but they can be a real distraction and it is worth the extra effort

    For the future, once you have a lovely sky like that you can think about adding something else in there – church spire, person in silhouette etc.

    I know you don’t usually have much time in these circumstances but it is worth keeping in mind a statue or monument that you can use as a subject when you next get such an opportunity…thanks for sharing! Enjoy!

  • Bryce

    I don’t know why.. but I really like this image i found out back after a small wind storm

  • Here is an exercise then Bryce: – try and work out what you like about it – then you will be able to recreate it elsewhere and then add to your personal style library for other occasions. (is it shape, form, colour, perspective, depth of field etc etc that tick your boxes)… Keep evolving!

  • Marketa

    In this picture I used zooming in to blur the sky. Taken from the window.

  • Thanks for sharing Marketa. That is a fun technique and you have created a stunning image! I love the colour and the drama…

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  • Darshan D

    This shot is taken from my window 🙂

  • Sushmita Saha

    I clickd these near my house.. 🙂

  • Beautiful! Wonderful colours and very artistic background Darshan. Nicely done…

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