It seems as though photographers get so hung up on traveling in search of exotic, or inspiring, locations that they forget about what is right out their own door.
I must admit that unless I have decided to take pictures of a colourful plant, or quickly capture a photo of a feral cat looking for handouts, or a deer that has hopped the fence with hungry designs on the spring buds growing in my wife’s garden, I rarely wander our yard with my camera in hand. The items we pass by every day become so familiar and commonplace that we pay little attention to them.
Last Sunday I wondered if the ten lilac bushes I planted late last fall made it through the winter. So I walked along the fence to check for spring growth and sure enough all of the new shrubs made it and I later told my wife that all the lilacs she had shipped all the way from Quebec are doing just fine. Of course with the unusually warm winter we had here in British Columbia one would expect no less.
As I walked around I spied a pile of old chain rusting on a log and realized I might be missing an opportunity for a few pictures if I didn’t get my camera. I admit I am not the most fastidious person when it comes to keeping tidy the two acres of land we live on, and because bits of things interest me I am forever picking up stuff that is apt to spend lots of time resting wherever I place them when I got home. That chain has only been sitting there for a year or two, but there might come a time when I will need that well-rusted length of chain.
So I got out my camera and mounted my wife’s treasured 70-180mm macro, grabbed my flash, and headed out. The Nikon AF 70-180mm is unique. It is the only true macro zoom lens around which allows precise framing without having to change working distance and refocus. And so, yes, that lens is special to Linda.
This photo hunt was to look for those bits and pieces similar to the chain and that’s why I chose that macro lens, so I could get in close or zero in on just a part of what I wanted to photograph.
One of my favourite photographers, Robert Mapplethorpe wrote, “With photography, you zero in; you put a lot of energy into short moments, and then you go on to the next thing.”
Those words were perfect for my walk through my spring-like yard. I’d find an object or feature, focus close with the macro lens, zoom in to crop tight, release the shutter a couple times and move on.
Although I can use my flash wireless off-camera, this time I chose to connect it to the camera with a dedicated TTL cord. I decided it would be easier to hold the flash and aim the light from different angles than it would be if I had to keep moving and adjusting a stand. Instead of fussing with a flash mounted on a stand all I did was put the flash in my pocket till I needed it to photograph flaking paint, rust, moss-covered wood and all sorts of things that have found a home in our yard.
I am of the opinion that those photographers that live in a well-kept, tidy yard are missing out on such an opportunity. Just think of how much fun I had on my safari discovering great things of which to take pictures.
Of course there is the possibility that my wife will come up with an altogether different kind of safari once she sees my pictures, one that will be a lot less fun for me.
I love the” I’ll just put this interesting thing I brought home here until I figure out where to put it permanently” justification for stuff around my place, John. Seems that you may have a similar approach! Love the photos. Once the mud gets a little less, I guess I better get out in the yard too. Thanks for the inspiration.
Thanks Derek.. My approach, when there is enough stuff in one place…just build a shed to cover things. (then I forget what I covered)
Have fun when the mud dries.
You have a very interesting back yard. Photogenic, too!
Thanks oneowner, and there is still and acre of sheds, a car I left to the weeds and a trailer with its roof caved in that I ignored.
Yes, cool back yard, I did that in mine ages ago, but then we got all neat and tidy 😦
Neat and tidy…say it isn’t so fragg! Oh well maybe you have a messy neighbour like me that’ll let ya use their yard.
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Your back yard sounds like a photographers dream! Specially the old car left to the weeds! I have been a little more housebound the last year, with a husband who is having some medical issues. I feel like I have exhausted what is in my back yard, but maybe you have given me a little inspiration to take another look! Thanks John!
Yes, just wander around with a lens that lets ya shoot close Wendy.
Great post and compelling images.
It’s one of the strange aspects of our psychology that we tend to take where we live for granted and no longer see it well. Yet if you were a photographer from a different state or country, you might see wonderful things in the prosaic.
When we travel on a photographic expedition we have the energy to get up early for the best light, time is short so we try to make the most of it and we focus carefully on things because we may never see them again.
I have often though of organising a photographic tour of my local area as though we were travelling in an exotic location and time is short. This would include researching it as though it were a foreign country and time were short, then presenting the tour from that perspective.
Thank you Murray. You are so right, I guess its kinda “the grass is greener on the other side” attitude we all easily slip into. I do like your thoughts on organizing a local photo tour.