I love traveling to far off locations to photograph things that I don’t have at home. However, if for whatever reason that’s not an option then photograph your own back yard. No matter where you live, I’m betting there is someplace unique near you that people spend money to visit. Maybe check out your state tourism website for ideas. You might live close to some migratory bird route or you live near ranches with animals, weathered cowboys or cool farm equipment. Every single place has something worth shooting, your job is to find it. When I do travel, I tend to go on photography tours but I realized I’ve never once done that here at home. So I recently went on a photography weekend to Vail which is less than a two hour drive from my house. On that trip, I saw wildlife I’d never seen and a larger variety of wildflowers than I ever even realized grew here. I also met other photographers and had a wonderful time exploring a part of my home state I’d never taken the time to visit. I encourage you to take a weekend and explore the world around you, you never know what amazing experience or shot awaits you.
Photography literally translates to paint with light so many photographers believe if the light isn’t there pack up the camera and go home. I say pack up the car and head out. Don’t get me wrong, nothing beats the golden light of dawn and dusk but that’s not always an option, especially if you’re on vacation and can’t hold out for the right weather. A cloudy, overcast day is actually the perfect time to photograph flowers. They look amazing when shot on a cloudy day and raindrops add an extra visual element to your shot. In this weather, you can capture every little detail and create a fairy world for yourself. It’s like the universe has given you one giant soft box to diffuse all that nasty, harsh light, how cool is that? I like to shoot a bit underexposed to make the colors even richer and more vibrant. I’m lucky to live near a wonderful botanic garden that stays open late in the summer. Nothing beats heading there after work to decompress from the day. You can just feel the stress melt away as you casually stroll among the colors of nature.
All of these flower shots were taken on a recent trip to New Zealand. To save money, I almost always travel during off season which means I don’t always get the best weather. I do, however, get much smaller crowds a big bonus when trying to photograph something iconic. Much less likely to have a selfie stick ruin your shot. This trip, I had some rainy, cloudy days but it didn’t stop me from capturing everything that magical land had to offer and it should never stop you.
One of my very favorite quotes is from Auntie Mame ~ “Life is a banquet and most poor suckers are starving to death.” Too often people spend their lives in a holding pattern, continually waiting for this or that to happen before they do something they dream about. When I meet the right person… when I get that promotion… when I retire… then I’ll (fill in the blank). Truth is, there will never be a perfect time to do anything. So don’t wait until you’re a size 4 before you put on the bathing suit and jump in the water. Same goes with photography, yes, we all dream about shooting lions roaming about in amazing light on the Serengeti but you don’t need the Serengeti to shoot lions, the zoo is a wonderful place to hone your wildlife skills. No zoo nearby, not a problem, I’m betting you have at least one park where dogs get walked or one pond where ducks swim, or telephone pole where birds perch. So grab your camera and go find them, preferably in perfect light. These are all wildlife photos taken within 30 minutes of my house, see Serengeti not required. Now stop reading, go outside and find your own wildlife adventure.