Why not? Ok, ‘why not’ won’t be tallied as an official reason to photograph in your own backyard, but seriously, why not? Especially now as landscapes in many locations are brushed by the aesthetics of winter, critters are/and will become more active, and many of us are limiting our interactions with the world as we continue to move through this pandemic.
In a number of recent Backcountry Journeys articles, we’ve hinted at the notion of getting out there and photographing, even if you are unable to travel. This keeps coming up of late because, frankly, we’re all hyper-antsy to get out and to do some photography, and aren’t traveling as our schedules would normally dictate. We all want to photograph, because that is who we are and what we do, right?
Most folks reading this can commiserate with having a photography trip (or two) canceled over the past year and, as such, might have their camera gear stored away accumulating dust. With travel still uncertain we have to look to other avenues in which to get our photography ‘fix.’
Why wait for a trip to work on your photography? No matter where you live there is more than likely something out there, be it landscapes or wildlife, that is worthy of having its picture taken by you.
Personally, I’ve been spending a great deal of time with my long lens at a local wetland here in Flagstaff where a pair of Bald Eagles have been joined by a number of geese, ducks, and heron. I even tracked a Road Runner, which is quite rare in northern Arizona.
Having the intention to go and shoot has been cathartic, to say the least. I am now planning out a couple of landscape scenes to pair with the fresh snow that fell here over the weekend. There MUST be something that’ll look cool under 4 feet of powder, right? Of course, there will be!
While we are all anxious to get back out to incredible and new locations, in the meantime I personally have a need to use my camera in order to feel like myself. And shooting locally has been a fun and educational experience. Because of my recent experiences, I thought that I’d share the sentiment with you. So, do you need a couple of reasons to get out there and capture your local area? How about four (I’m sure there are many more)?
Let’s be real, heading out locally to take photographs is cheaper than traveling. It is also quite a bit easier as you can simply (carefully) throw your gear into the car or go for a walk, and there you have it. No flights, hotels, or car rentals involved (Full Disclosure: traveling with Backcountry Journeys makes this part quite easy as we take care of the details leaving you to focus on your photography and having a great time). And, if you are not yet comfortable with traveling, shooting locally is a solution to feeling stuck.
Shooting locally offers you a chance to get better. While photography workshops are awesome ways to learn new things, practice, and get amazing images to add to your portfolio, anytime that you are able to practice is time well spent. No matter where you are at on your photographic journey, there is likely something new to learn! So, take newly learned techniques (that you read about in a BCJ article, or saw on a BCJ video) and give them a quick try. Need to develop a good in-the-field workflow for landscapes, or practice with your camera’s Auto Focus systems with birds? Get out locally and practice those things with little to no pressure. Then, when you are able to travel again and find yourself someplace incredible, you’ll be more prepared to maximize your time and take better pictures.
Unless you just moved, you likely know your neighborhood, town, and region well. Can you brainstorm anything out there that you’ve always found interesting but have yet to try photographing? Being familiar with a spot or a subject will help you to tell its story through a unique image. Maybe it’s a neighbor’s barn or that one tree that sits alone in the middle of that field you drive by on the way home from work. What type of light matches that subject to portray it best? Since you’ve seen these subjects over time, you’ve likely seen them look different depending on conditions. What an advantage!
Planning & Execution
This one is in a way an extension of my previous point. Planning and execution should be easier because you know the area, you have time, and you can head out over and over to shoot your scene/subject in different conditions. Does your scene tell a better story with snow or dark ominous cloud cover? Maybe it’s best on a hazy afternoon? If your planned shot is near home, you’re then right there for when those ideal conditions present themselves. Or, you can shoot the same scene in more than one condition and find out which is best. And, if you mess up, or if something just didn’t quite turn out correct, you can go back and try again! Just think how less bad it’ll be when you set up for a shoot and realize that you once again forgot the memory card in the card reader back at home. The same goes for batteries left on the charger (don’t pretend this has never happened to you-we all know that it has). If you are not too far from home, you might be able to run back and grab what you forgot and still get the shot.
Hey, I get it. Looking for scenes or wildlife near home isn’t as ‘sexy’ as traveling to Alaska, or arriving at an iconic National Park landscape that you’ve wanted your whole life to photograph. Yosemite’s Tunnel View, Brown bears fishing at Brooks Falls, the Watchman from the Virgin River at Zion National Park … Capturing images like these deserve to be high priorities for folks’ life lists. But, if you find yourself not getting your camera out because you are “stuck at home,” I’d encourage you to ask yourself why.
Photographing locally is not just a good idea, it’s a GREAT one! Even if you live somewhere that you would label as being ‘boring.’ Remember there can be magic in the mundane and in the overlooked. Do you want to be a better photographer? Challenge your eye. Find something where you least expect it or find a fresh way to look at something you think you know well. It’s pretty easy to dismiss things we see every day, so this can be challenging. Get to work, friends. And have fun!
Kenton Krueger has spent the past several years guiding backpackers, hikers, and photographers into the wild places of the American West such as Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, Yosemite, Glacier, Katmai, Zion, Bryce Canyon, Arches, Canyonlands National Parks, as well as internationally in Costa Rica & Brazil. In addition to backpacking and camping, his adventures include rock climbing, exploring the slot canyons of southern Utah, mountain biking, and bagging 14ers in Colorado’s San Juan Mountain Mountain Range. Kenton is a trail runner, former pilot, and spent roughly five years writing and photographing for the award-winning Omaha World-Herald newspaper, out of his hometown, Omaha, Nebraska. Kenton looks forward to utilizing his years of trip leading and guiding experience, combined with his passion and experience behind the lens, to provide memorable and unforgettable experiences at the wild places we will visit together.