Return To The Scene Of The Crime: Shooting Mundane Scenes In Different Light To Improve Your Photography

Return To The Scene Of The Crime: Shooting Mundane Scenes In Different Light To Improve Your Photography

We all have parts of our life that are mundane. Even the most seasoned traveler has mundane tasks or habits that seem anything less than glamorous. While there is certainly something to be touted and enjoyed from the exotic images we all love, there is also some thing to be appreciated in the mundane.

First, the mundane is often not always that. While a scene may be commonplace, unless the light never changes, ever, there is always something different about it day to day.

My challenge to you is to find beauty, not so much in the objects you see every day, but in the light hitting them. By way of example, take a look at these six images taken of the same spit of land on Whidbey Island, Washington. This is the Southern tip of the island and there’s nothing too remarkable about it. I see it about every other day on my crossings to what we on the island like to call the Mainland. Hawaiians will understand.

Would it surprise you to know the first four pictures were taken on the same day? The first two were on the same crossing and the second two were on the same crossing. The crossing time is only 15 minutes. The second two images were taken only one and three days after the first set, respectively. The images only received minor adjustments (and some healthy cropping as I took the images at different points on the water crossing). They look very close to how you see them represented here.

And they point out something I often forget while ‘trudging’ through my daily life; light changes all the time without us noticing it. It creates its own beauty if we take the time to stop, look and soak it all in. None of these images is that stellar by itself, I readily admit that. But the aggregate of all the images, in a series, tells a story you will never get from one picture alone. Yes, eventually I will have a shot of a gorgeous sunset from this vantage point, and while I wait for that twice a year event (because of where the sun sets in each season), I have more of a story to tell in the mundane.

Lastly, this experiment will hopefully help you see more in your daily grind than you do now. It will help you see light daily and that activity will help you notice neuances you missed before because you were waiting for the spectacular sunset or rainbow on the horizon (and believe me, living in Seattle in the Winter helps you to remember to not wait for gorgeous sunsets).

Your assignment, should you choose to accept it, is to record a mundane scene in your life in different light for a week. Just a week. Take your camera with you to work. Use your iPhone or a disposable camera. Use SOMETHING! Just don’t let the device, or lack there of, distract you from the task. That’s an excuse and will not help you take better photos. Taking more photos and thinking about light, how it falls on everyday scenes, how it brightens some areas and deepens shadows in other, how it plays off reflective surfaces….thinking about those things and trying to capture them every day does help.

Get out and shoot.

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Peter West Carey leads photo tours and workshops in Nepal, Bhutan, Seattle, Portland, Los Angeles and beyond. He is also the creator of Photography Basics - A 43 Day Adventure & 40 Photography Experiments, web-based tutorials taking curious photographers on a fun ride through the basics of learning photography.

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