Finding the Beauty in your own Backyard

August 08, 2013  •  Leave a Comment

Beauty is in everyone’s backyard.  While it helps to have lots of time and money to travel far away to exotic lands, it really isn’t that practical.  Beauty easily exists within a short drive from where you lay your head at night.  The trick is being able to keep your eyes open and find it.  Another benefit of focusing on things close to home is that you can visit these locations multiple times to “luck out” with the right conditions for an image that you picture in your head.  You can wait for the right season, lighting – heck, you can even try each season and see what works best in post-production.

I know it may be difficult to fathom that beauty is right next to you.  Most times, people rarely “vacation” to the destinations that are close to them.  I’ve lived near Washington D.C. for many years and only venture into the museums and monuments when there are guests in town visiting me or a special event in the city (cough, cough National Cherry Blossom Festival).  I know, I’m embarrassed to admit it but I try desperately to avoid the congestion of a big city.  It’s probably why I leaned towards landscape and nature photography in the first place.  I wanted to get away from the commotion of life and back to the simplicity of nature.  Although, after putting in a full week in the office and tackling chores at home, the last thing I want to do is venture out and explore where I live.  Most times, I just want to relax at home.  I have no idea why getting up to photograph at 4AM on travel is so much easier than 4AM at home, but it is. 

With that said, I’ve tried to make more of a conscious effort to visit places that are closer to home and record their beauty  - capture the magnificence of places that I remember as a child and try to bring out the splendor in each of them.  I can tell you that this has been quite challenging.  The radiance of National Parks and top travel destinations really do half of the work for photographers.  They are iconic, attention-grabbing places so naturally those photographs draw people into them.  Don’t get me wrong, I still have to concentrate at those destinations, but trying to make lesser-known places striking which in turn causes a viewer to want to know more about the location is difficult.  Each detail of the composition, lighting, and subject choice needs to be spot on.  If any of those items is lacking, the photo will fall flat.

One example is on a recent weekend trip to Rehoboth Beach in Delaware with my family.  I ventured out with my dad one morning to see the sunrise on the beach, and of course, I took my camera along.  We’re kind of inseparable.  There were not any tropical palm trees, long docks, or large rocks for the waves to dramatically crash against.  Actually, for the longest time, I could not find anything to use in the foreground to make the image interesting.  There wasn’t even a pole or two in the water to help guide the eye through the photograph.  Therefore, I settled for an outfall pipe.  Beauty from a storm drain at the beach: it completely sounds like a project that a crazy, college professor would give his students with some life lesson to learn in the end.  I did my best and attempted to create a passable image.  For me, it’s not great.  I feel there is flatness in this image.  The one thing that I do feel the image conveys is the calmness of that morning.  It was peaceful, relaxing, and quiet.  Heck, we even saw pod of dolphins swimming as the sun rose up from the horizon.  At the very least, I feel I was able to reveal that sentiment to the viewer in the image.    It may not be magazine cover worthy, but I learned from the experience and gained insight about the camera as well as my personal preferences in capturing water images.  So venturing out close to home is helping hone my skills in order to be ready for a future trip to the rocky shores of Acadia National Park or the coastal views in Olympic National Park. 

So what is interesting in your local area?

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