This is an article I’ve been wanting to write for a while now. As I look back on my years as a photographer, I’ve come to realize that much of my best work has come through exploration. Not random wandering, but sort of guided meandering towards points of interest. Read as I talk about photography and the magic of exploration
Often, I say to myself “today I am going to this location at this time of day and I am going to shoot this type of photo”. And sometimes that works out just fine. But just as often it does not. I’ll shoot a bunch of stuff. The light is not so great or maybe at the wrong angle for the scene, etc. I’m trying to force the image into my camera the way I imagined it. And I come back with nothing really usable to show for it.
Other times I will go out, camera gear in hand and sort of head toward areas of interest, looking here and there along the way. I see something interesting, so I pull out the camera and shoot some photos, then move on. And I come back with several great shots.
The definition of serendipity
- The occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way.
- The phenomenon of finding valuable or agreeable things not sought for.
What I am trying to say is, I realize I get just as much useable imagery from unplanned sessions as I do from planned sessions. And it’s more unexpected, fresh, surprising and to be honest, inspired. I’ve just witnessed “photography and the magic of exploration”.
Having thought about this a fair amount, my theory is that when you engage in exploration rather than focusing on a particular outcome, it frees your mind to take in all the possibilities around you. Shots other than the one you were focused on getting start to look good. You have allowed your brain to take in and process all the possibilities around you.
Not all who wander are lost
How to you engaging “guided meandering” and ensure that you are improving your chances at seeing things worth shooting? Just as an example, I’ll look at Google Maps around the area I am in or planning to go to. Look for interesting features like lakes, rivers, meadows, big rocks, viewpoints, winding trails. Then when I arrive at those locations, I already have a good idea which direction to explore in.
Take a look at the photo at the top of the article. This was taken during a side trip as I was on my way to a campground about 95 miles further on. I had noticed a side road that eventually arrived back at the main highway, so I decided to take it. I’m glad I did now! A wonderful image due to photography and the magic of exploration.
Photography and the magic of exploration
Now, take a look at the photo below. This was taken as I was just out exploring through the farmlands near my home. It was just after a heavy rain and I wanted to go out and take a look. I turned on this little back road and there it was. Beautiful reflections in someone’s front yard.
Your mileage may vary
Keep in mind that I am primarily a landscape photographer. So, driving long distances down winding back roads plays right into my niche. You can do the same thing on a smaller scale when doing portraits. Do some driving around in the area you are going to be taking photos and look for locations to do the portraits. Awesome photos due to a combination of photography and the magic of exploration.
Wildlife photographers’ sort of do this on a small scale as well. They may focus on a specific area, but they tend to explore hunting for wild creatures. When a shot presents itself take it. I have actually gone out to look for birds and came back with no bird photos. But I did come back with some great photos from the trip there and back.
Conclusion of photography and the magic of exploration
Just keep this information in mind as you go through life practicing your photography. I am not saying don’t plan for certain shots. In fact, most of my shooting adventures are planned. Especially related to date, time, weather, seasons, etc. All I am saying is don’t forget about unplanned photography and the magic of exploration.
Loyd is a professional photographer living and working in Portland, Oregon. Loyd has been doing all types of photography for over 13 years, but he is focused on fine art landscape photography. Loyd’s work has been on book covers, CD covers, on TV, in online galleries and on the walls of homes. You can see his online photo storefront at loydtowe.com