Thursday, December 5, 2013

Plain and Simple

     "If you want to be a better photographer, stand in front of more interesting stuff."  This quote, attributed to a talented National Geographic photographer, is often used as motivation to travel to exotic locations to photograph unique and rare subject matter. Trophy hunting, the money shot, so to speak. But I am not so sure that is what is meant by that famous quote.
      Does standing in front of an ancient castle, an amazing sunset, or an exotic location make you a better photographer? I don't believe so. Now, obviously, an interesting subject will make for an interesting photograph, but that doesn't necessarily translate into being a better photographer. In fact, standing in front of something that many find uninteresting and looking for a way to make it interesting, is much more conducive to improving your skills. When your subject matter is fairly non descriptive or even outright boring, it forces you to look closer, through different eyes. Light, shadows, lines, contrast, composition. These all take on a much greater meaning.
    Now don't get me wrong. I am all for finding great subjects to photograph. That is why I will often endure sore knees and blisters to find a beautiful scene in the mountains. But maybe the originator of the quote above meant that a photographer can improve by 'looking' for interest in the scene before him, no matter the scene. I feel this quote would make more sense this way: " If you want better 'photographs', stand in front of more interesting stuff."  But if a person wants to be a better photographer, look for things that often go unnoticed. Your ability to 'see' will improve, which can only make one's photographs better.
    The subject matter of the image below is what many may consider boring. Just a plain and simple field. But I thought I saw something interesting. The lines and shapes in the grass gave the scene an artistic or abstract feel. This image is not unique or special in any way, but it does help illustrate the point that even boring subject matter can hold some interest. Thanks again for looking!