Many people’s reaction to a rainy day sounds something like this: «Oh, it’s a nasty day; everything is going to get wet on my way to work.» But to a child, a rainy day means puddles to jump in, raindrops to catch, and the possibility of rainbows. And to a photographer, those puddles, raindrops and stormy skies with rainbows can mean great photographs, if you are looking at things for their positive potential.
If you believe there is beauty and interesting stuff around you, you will see it, more and more, as you open yourself up. You just need a willingness to explore and find what’s extraordinary in the ordinary things around you. It doesn’t matter what the subject is: A flower blossom, an abalone shell, a lichen-covered tree. Your goal is to get past what the thing is, and look at it for any visual delight it might offer.
It’s human nature to want to define what something is—a flower, a piece of granite, a type of tree. But more important for you as a photographer, you need to get beyond what it is and see it more deeply. Ask yourself things like, «what does bark look like up close?» or «what are the colours in this piece of rock and what would it look like wet?»
You can train yourself to see beyond the subject by asking how you feel about what you are seeing. What does it express to you? Are you drawn to the subject for its texture? Its shape? Is the light expressing a certain mood? Is the scene funny, or sad? When you get in touch with what you feel, you draw from a deeper well of vision and will find ways to photograph your subject that express this. If you don’t have any feelings about your subject, this, too, will be reflected in your pictures. They may end up being static, lacking expression and possibly lacking a focal point.
The inside of your house may not be interesting to photograph, but it’s a great place to begin learning to see more deeply. Go into your kitchen and notice the chrome reflections and design of kitchen items, their colours and shapes. If you want to make picture, great. If not, use the exercise as a way to begin seeing the things around you. Or, take a walk outside and look at a tree. Notice the texture, the pattern, and the shape of the tree. Walk around it and notice how the light changes its attributes, bringing out texture, form and shape. Or visit your garden or a neighbour’s yard and look at the variety of design in plants and flowers.
The only rule when doing an exercise like this is to leave you assumptions and expectations behind, opening yourself up to seeing what’s really there. Go beyond you left brain, which tells you, «it’s only a rusty old engine and listen instead to the right brain, which says, «look at all those wonderful patterns in rusty texture. The more you move into the right side of your brain, the more you’ll see.
There are so many wonderful pictures to be made when you look at the world with curiosity. Just imagine now how many photographic opportunities there are waiting for you within close range of your home. The potential is endless.