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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.