It’s always tempting to think that what you need for inspiration, photographically, is to visit some exciting new place and it’s true that being somewhere new and different can give you a real creative boost. But if you look at many famous photographers, you find that their best shots were often taken very close to home. For example, Ansel Adams lived near Yosemite and visited it again and again; Edward Weston lived near Point Lobos and did the same. Painters, too, often paint the same thing over and over – think of Monet with his lilypond, haystacks and Rouen Cathedral.
Going back time and again to the same places enables you to fully explore them and your own reaction to them. I first noticed this when I did a course assignment on Canterbury Cathedral. I had to make several visits to get enough material for the assignment, but even when it was finished I kept going back. Each time I went there, I saw different things, and my seeing became more nuanced and subtle. The kind of photographs I took there began to change, and began to express better how I felt about the place. That’s not to say that these were the photographs that everybody else liked best, but they were the ones that made me feel I’d done what I wanted to do – which, let’s face it, is what’s important in the long run.
But cathedrals are a bit of a visual feast anyway, and what do you do when you’re going back to places that don’t inspire you that much in the first place? I often feel the need to get out of the house and away from the computer, but I’m very limited in where I can walk to without getting in the car first. My usual walk takes me up a country lane and back through the orchards, which sounds nice but there isn’t a lot there that’s particularly inspiring. The last time I took my camera with me, for some reason my eyes seemed wider open to the possibilities and these shots were the result. It did help that someone had been playing with the apples and plums!
This one’s a little bit macabre, but on the way there I spotted this headless doll lying on the other side of the fence and it reminded me of a crime scene. I shot the whole body at first, but then I thought that just having the hands reaching out for something said a lot more. Not my jolliest of shots, but I like them in their own way and feel they say something.
The wheatfield looked wonderful, but at first I couldn’t figure out how to get a shot that made it look the way I felt when I saw it. There were some narrow tracks through it and I thought I’d try to use one of those to lead the eye through the image. When I got home and put it up on the computer screen, it just didn’t give the effect I wanted. The path didn’t stand out enough because there wasn’t enough contrast, but when I increased the contrast the wheat looked harsh and hard-edged. I wanted to get the feeling of softness and abundance that I was experiencing. After a bit of experimenting, I tried the Orton technique on it and got what I wanted. It emphasised the path enough to show it up, and added to the soft feel that I was trying for.
And then on the way home, I spotted these flowers and petals which had fallen from an overhanging tree onto the concrete path. I thought the colours were lovely – this is probably my favourite shot of the day and I like the way it looks a bit painterly without me having done anything much to it to make it that way. I’ve also realised that I have quite a few images of fallen petals, flowers and leaves, and I think I might try to add to this and develop it into a little personal project.