The Art of the Local Photo Safari – How to Find Interesting Photo Subjects When There Are None

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Kent DuFault

is a professional photographer and author. You can visit his website here.

We’ve all been there, wandering around the house aimlessly, wishing there was something interesting to take a picture of. We sigh, and stare at our beautiful camera sitting there, taunting us with its beautiful strap, calling out to be picked up and shouldered.

Then, we throw ourselves onto the couch and peer listlessly out the window wishing we were in Italy, or perhaps Africa. Moscow would be nice this time of year, wouldn’t it? There would be lots of photographs there!

But don’t fret, friends, because there is hope!

Photo Safari. Using People. By Kent DuFault

How to Train Yourself to Hunt Down the Perfect Photograph

It is possible to find wonderful interesting photographs right where you live. But how you ask! I live in the middle of nowhere! I’ve taken pictures of everything there is to shoot.

The Rural Photo Safari

No, you haven’t!

My Neighbor’s Hose By Kent DuFault

Consider this for a moment. The world around us changes not just on a daily basis, but minute by minute. The sun moves, the clouds gather, your organized neighbor THROWS his yellow hose onto its holder rather than coiling it because he’s in a hurry. Maybe it just rained and that big white arrow painted on the road takes on a new punch!

Using Inclement Weather. After a Rain Storm. By Kent DuFault

Learn to Photo Safari

The photo safari is a term we coined for the activity of hunting down interesting photographs wherever you are. Believe it, or not, you’ve got fascinating images right outside your door, twenty-four hours a day, and seven days a week. The art of the photo safari is learning to find them. And it can be QUITE FUN!

So How Do You Photo Safari?

The first step in becoming a photo safari expert is a change of mindset. If you believe there are no interesting photos left in your neck of the woods — if you believe you must travel to an exotic location to find something worth taking a picture of — then you might as well get on the phone with your travel agent. But, if you want to save thousands of dollars in travel expense and find a stunning photograph right outside your door; a photograph worthy of hanging on your wall, listen up.

You’ve now got the right attitude. So, what now?

Photo Safari EARLY! On the way to work. By Kent DuFault

5 Tips for a Successful Photo Safari

1. Plan a block of time that you will devote to your photo safari. Clear your mind of all distractions during this block of time. Remember, you’re attempting to open your mind, and your vision, to SEEING familiar surroundings in a NEW way. Don’t be thinking about what you’re going to cook for dinner when you’re on photo safari. This is your time.

2. Put on some crappy clothes. Why, you ask? Because you are going on a PHOTO SAFARI! This is about the hunt. Do you normally walk around upright with your camera tucked in a bag, or hanging carefully around your neck? Or, perhaps, you get in your car and aimlessly drive around while only half staring out the window. No! On a photo safari you need to stretch your creative self. Step outside and crawl on your belly. Climb through some bushes and lay on your back. LOOK at the world from a new perspective— whether it’s high, low, sideways, or standing on your head. This is THE MOST IMPORTANT TIP we are going to give you for the photo safari— always— ALWAYS— look behind you. We see so many photographers who wander around staring straight ahead. Seventy-five percent of the world is happening behind you. Don’t forget to look.

Photo Safari in Minnesota By Kent DuFault

3. Go outside and take that photo safari during a time when you normally wouldn’t be out and about. This presents your world in a light that you may never have noticed. Take for example, the photograph of the farmhouse at dusk. It was thirty degrees below zero that day. Trust us; there weren’t many people out and about that day. But, it was the atmospheric conditions that created the blue light that enveloped this scene and made the image even more lonely and isolated. We passed that farmhouse hundreds of times and that was the only time it ever looked like that. So, get that camera gear together when it’s cold, hot, raining, foggy, before sunrise, after sunset, during a storm, after a storm, in the middle of the night— go when you normally wouldn’t.

4. Don’t be afraid to talk to people and ask them to participate. Many of us are afraid to ask a stranger (or even somebody we know) to be in a photograph. We think it’s embarrassing, especially if we ask them to do something strange. But, most people are interested, AND FLATTERED, if you ask them to be in a photograph. Take for example, the man we photographed with dreadlocks. He was a neighbor we barely knew. One day, while on photo safari, he was out in his yard. We noticed the graphic quality of his bundled hair and asked him if we could photograph him. He was more than happy to oblige. He did think it was a bit strange when we turned him sideways. But when he saw the result, he loved it. Use people in your images. The element of humanity is always interesting especially if done in a unique way.

My Neighbor’s Hair By Kent DuFault

5. Practice techniques you wouldn’t normally use. If you are a stickler for super sharp images, shoot everything out of focus. Put your camera on a tripod and slow that shutter to a second or more. You’ll be surprised at how much the world moves. We went on PHOTO SAFARI one afternoon and shot everything through a pair of sunglasses with some fantastic results!

STRETCH YOURSELF FOLKS!

That is the art of the photo safari. Get out of your comfort zone! Don’t be afraid. It’s easy and a lot of fun! Pretty soon you’ll be putting your photo safaris on the calendar, and you won’t let anything get in the way!

By Kent DuFault— a professional writer, and photographer, who goes on photo safari with his wife on a regular basis.

14 thoughts on “The Art of the Local Photo Safari – How to Find Interesting Photo Subjects When There Are None

  1. Mike - facebook.com/gmjphotos

    First and foremost, I’m guilty as charged! :) Good and valid points on all subjects!
    I suppose the drawback is that “shooting locally” doesn’t excite many of us. It’s those items we see every day, and soon manage to overlook. They’re “too close to home” I suppose.
    However, since you are right on spot with everything, I’ll see what I can wrestle out of my local options. :)
    Thanks for the wake-up call!

  2. Avatar of RachaelTowneRachaelTowne

    Thanks for this post. I started doing a lot of shooting in my neighborhood a few years ago after I had babies and money got tight due to me having very little time to work.

    I live in downtown Napa, CA and am surrounded by old Victorian homes and other attractions. Still, I can become blind to my own environment and think there is nothing worth taking photos of sometimes.

    Sometimes the strong urge to go out shooting overrides this feeling. Just this evening I threw the kids in a stroller and walked around with my camera to take advantage of the beautiful light.

    It’s amazing what you can find if you just really “look”.

  3. Milos

    I am aways wondering why somebody from London should go to Paris and another one from Paris should go to London to take photos. They both can take them at home, often and in perfect weather, light and mood. At least they know their town better.

  4. Ken

    Good article.
    ‘Look behind you’ is one of my golden rules. Also, if you have the urge to shoot something, shoot it. Later you will probably find something interesting in the image that you may not have noticed at first sight.

  5. Stuart Sipahigil

    This is exactly the kind of photographic exploration everyone should try. We should all take a closer look at our own back yards to find great photographs.

    Not to toot my own horn (which, of course, I can’t really avoid), but I’ve written about this, too, over at Craft & Vision. (www.craftandvision.com/books/close-to-home/)

  6. Colin Burt

    So damned true ! Living in a ‘ho hum suburbia does not help . Little boxes built of ticky tacky and they all look just the same. But I guess there must be something here if I can just find it !
    Spoiled a bit by twenty years of touring lovely places in a Winnebago – but with only a basic little point and shoot film camera ! Now a geriatric and have the equipment and the urge but need better photographic vision to find the good images close to home. We do have some good beaches !

    Excellent insightful article . [img]http://farm7.staticflickr.com/6047/6221600347_052b624987_m.jpg[/img]

  7. Pingback: The Photo Frosh: Finding a Subject | MPEX Experience

  8. James Smo

    Thanks for this. I live on a pretty isolated military base, and I am experiencing “photographers block”. I needed this to get me looking at things differently.

  9. Denise Hall

    I am planning a community book of photos in our town. You will be surprised how much there is to photograph in your town if you think outside the box. Good luck to everyone on this.
    My project is a year long project, I want to gather all different seasons. Still an amazure, but keep working on becoming a professional. Mainly I like my work, but don’t know if good enough for showing. Photo shy.

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