I’ve been reading, or rather, re-reading Stuart Sipahigil’s e-book ‘close to home’ in the last few days. Stuart makes a compelling argument that you often don’t have to look much further than your own backyard to make engaging photographs. Granted I would love my backyard to look like his – see page 10 in the e-book for an example – but I am fortunate to live in New England, an amazing part of the world. We take home for granted and stop seeing what is in front of us everyday and as a result miss opportunities to hone our craft without having to travel thousands of miles. This practice stands you in good stead when you do travel and have an opportunity to make photographs that you would have otherwise been unable to make.
William Neill in a recent post on the luminous landscape blog articulates this point nicely. I think I live in a great place, just south of Boston in the heart of New England. William Neill has live in or very close to Yosemite for over 25 years. Yet it took many visits over the course of a number of years for him to begin to make images that were unique and expressed what he felt. What particularly rings true for me is that the better you know and understand your subject the more likely you are to make a unique image. Focusing on subjects close to home allows us to visit frequently, to experiment with making images at different times of the day, different seasons and different weathers. Making it more likely that you’ll capture the essence of the place.
Stuart describes an exercise in his book of limiting your self to a particular area ‘Close to Home’ in an effort to spark the creative juices. My reaction to Stuart’s exercise rather than to initiate such a project, was to think about how far from home I consider still to be close. I’ve been shooting close to home for the last 3 or so years. I attended a workshop in Acadia NP and while I had a good time, I didn’t end up with many images that I was happy with. I realized that I needed to put some time in behind the camera if I’m to stand a chance of getting the images that I hope to make. After 3 years of working the same subjects in different seasons, weather and light, I now feel that I’m likely to get reasonable images when I venture farther afield. The time is right for me to expand what I consider to be my home territory. After some consideration I decided that for me ‘home’ is now up to an hours drive or about 50 miles for morning shoots and perhaps 2 hours or 100 miles for evening shoots. This gives me an enormous range of potential subjects that I could explore. To help me focus I am going to begin a couple of projects – one of which is to get more images of Boston. Even though I live close to the city and travel there every day, I have very few images that go beyond the standard tourist shots. This is the year that I will work to build my Boston portfolio – watch this space!