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Sunday, June 24, 2018

#Photography: Get Inspired Without Camera

We've all been there; in a fresh country, a fresh city or just a fresh section of your local town. Camera in hand, you shoot and shoot and shoot as your memory card never generally seems to fill up. It's thrilling and you don't want to waste an instant while there is so much to capture. But what if putting your camera down, even simply for 20 minutes, can allow you to take better photos?

I don't mean leave it unattended. But I really do mean use it away or leave it behind as you get a walk in your brand-new environment.

group of photographers shooting - What Happens When You Put Your Camera Down I am aware some of you're having the shakes at the mere looked at being without your camera in a fresh area, but indulge me for a moment. Here several thoughts on why putting away your camera might actually help your photography.

1 – More Awareness

How could you truly capture the essence of an area without first experiencing it? There are always bright and colorful items to shoot. But if you go around grabbing each little scene such as a bird grabbing nectar from the cherry blossom, you risk miss seeing the entire tree.

I had time for you to visualize the shot above while watching an evening program at the Treasury in Petra, Jordan. While this program played, I was seated and limited in my movements, so I looked around at the space and tried to assume photos from each location. By the end of this program, I was only allowed 10 minutes to obtain my shot (which took 1 minute to create and 30 seconds to take), so my time spent gaining a larger awareness for my surroundings helped me greatly to take better photos in the full time allotted.

Being aware of one's surroundings can also be essential for safety. Most of us know the sensation of looking through our viewfinder, or camera screen, and losing all sense of what's going on around us. It's the feeling of “flow” when everything else melts away and there is just the joy of photography. That lack of awareness can work against you when in unfamiliar locations.

Beyond safety, having an awareness of one's surroundings will even alert you if the clouds are planning to cover the sun or if your scene is becoming more or less active. Watching others around you for clues on things to shoot is the following step.

2 – Observing Others

I really like people watching in new environments. Even in the home, if I go shopping with my partner I will typically end through to a bench just taking in the plethora of different shoppers passing by. Even we introverts can enjoy watching how people interact.

Try to find clues about relationships and friendships while observing others. Do a lot of people seem aloof or is there a lot of interaction? Watch how transactions are negotiated in markets. Will there be a lot of haggling over price before money changes hands? These clues can help you anticipate when you're able to get those key shots when you return along with your camera.

Because I took some time for you to people watch when the last train came through town in the Urubamba Valley of Peru, I knew this colorful hat-seller works the crowd when the following train arrived. So I waited and watched and could capture this image.

Will there be a flow to the traffic of individuals around you? If so, choose a good location to create and acquire some candid street photos. While crowds always draw attention, try to find those standing back from the bustle if you wish to capture a variety of everyday life.

Now's also a great time to appreciate who around you might not want their picture taken. Or who's charging photographers to pose for photos?

In this shot of officers in Jordan, I hung around for a couple moments with my camera down, said “Hi” and let the men return to their conversations before taking the shot. I had pointed out that all of them looked intently at anyone new coming through the doorway and that wasn't the shot I wanted. This more stimulating version was my goal.

3 – Observe Patterns

With patterns, I don't mean just the cool shapes created by architecture or within nature. I also mean the patterns humans create as they're going about their day. Observing patterns can help you return together with your camera (or simply have it out of your bag) and better anticipate the minute for shutter release and ultimately you can take better photos.

As an example, watching a worker at the leather tannery in Fez, Morocco or a gentleman unloading chickens in Kathmandu, Nepal, with my camera down for one minute or two, helped me to visualize the action I needed to fully capture and better time my shots.

4 – Interact Differently

Imagine someone came up to you on the street and instantly lifted a camera to snap an image of your face. How can you feel?

Empathy for strangers and how they will answer my camera pointed inside their direction is excatly why I'll typically recommend you ask permission first before taking a shot. Or even better, together with your camera down or put away, connect to your subject first. See what they are doing and ask questions in the event that you can. Something about them made you want to take their photo, so bring it one step further and interact before snapping away.

I played with one of these kids in Peru for a little before having them ham it up for the lens. I don't speak Quechuan and only poor Spanish, but I could recognize kids playing “shop” with weeds and flowers when I see it. I really could tell who was responsible and I played along for some minutes, trying in vain to obtain a good deal on my ugly weeds, before snapping this photo.

People will interact differently with you in the event that you approach them first together with your camera down or put away. Sometimes there is a fleeting moment that many feel must be caught candidly. But far more frequently a richer image can be created when you make human-to-human contact first. As opposed to human-to-camera-to-human contact.

Bottom Line

If you've never left your camera behind for even 10 minutes, I would suggest giving it a try. It's unnerving, I know! But it can result in seeing your environment in ways extremely hard with a camera constantly popping up to your eye.

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