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Many years ago, I was in Manaus, the humid, bustling city in the heart of the Brazilian Amazon. There I was chatting with a local guy and asked him which exotic place he would love to travel to. His answer, and this might surprise you as much as it did me, was Wales. If you step back and think about it, its not strange at all, Wales is about as different from Amazonia as it is possible to get. With this in mind, today we are going to take a look at photographing your home city through new eyes.
One of the things we often say about the cities that we live in is that we rarely go out photographing unless we have to. The irony is that these very places that are on your doorstep and often chock full of photographic opportunities. So how can you motivate yourself to shoot your home town?
Take a Tour
It might sound daft but a few hours in the company of an experienced tour guide will open your eyes to fantastic new photographic possibilities. Yes, you are not going to have much time at each location for that reason, consider not carrying a big DLSR with loads of lenses, instead take a compact with a reasonable zoom to take snapshots. These shots can then be references, allowing you to return to the location at a more appropriate time of day to do a more considered shoot.
One Day, One Place
Another thing we are often guilty of is trying to get to too many locations in one day. This means we are often at places at the wrong time of day for good light, severely limiting the amount of good shots we can get. Instead of this, pick a day, and a small area of your city that appeals to you. Get there at predawn with some ideas in mind and shoot. When light becomes harsh or unappealing, look for the small details of your location, interesting number plates on cars, post boxes, telephone kiosks, all the little elements that make your city unique. As the shadows get longer, and assuming you still have the energy, re-shoot the area again as the golden and blue hours come and go. If you tire easily, do the location over a weekend. Start the early shoot on a Saturday morning, go home and return Sunday afternoon to do the late shoot.
Shoot one area on one day. Photo by Jason Row Photography
What Makes Your City Unique?
Every city has everyday elements that make it unique. Take a picture of a typical London street and it could be anywhere in Northern Europe, but add a red double decker bus and it becomes instantly recognizable as London. Looking for, and photographing these subtle differences can be a great exercise in photographic creativity, forcing you to see your city through new eyes.
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Ukrainians love a wedding. Photo by Jason Row Photography
Take a Walk
Find a spare day, where you have nothing to do, pick a city location and just walk. Don’t lumber yourself with heavy equipment, take a single camera and maybe a single prime lens. Take a holistic approach to your photography, as you walk, let your eyes determine which way you go. At a junction, simply walk the route than looks the most appealing to you photographically. For this approach to work, you need to be aimless in your approach, simply strolling without a care in the world. Because you will be so relaxed and without the time constraints of normal life you will find a whole new world of photographic possibilities opening up on your own doorstep.
One of the great joys of travel photography is photographing the people, but how often do you really look at the people in your own town or city? Sit in a cafe and spend some time just watching people, then hit the streets and try to capture those people. If you are a little shy, try candids with a long lens, for the more bold among you why not approach an interesting subject and ask if you can take a picture. More often than not, people are flattered to be asked.
Watch your fellow locals at play. Photo by Jason Row Photography
Within a few miles of our front doors, most of us have a world of photographic possibilities, possibilities that because we are so used to them, tend to be ignored, they become instead just the background to everyday life. Using some or all of the tips above, your can see your home in a new light, a place as exotic as Wales to an Amazonian.