On learning to look

Spotting the picturesque is not difficult: sunsets, landscapes etc. all tend to pretty much smack you in the eye and shout “Look at me! Take my photo!”

Other things, though, take a bit of effort. You have to learn how to look before you can see the pictures that are around you.

One exercise that I’ve found useful in training yourself to look is to go out for a walk, stop at regular intervals (two minutes, five minutes…) and look for a picture wherever you are. The timing part is important — it’s there to prevent you just stopping when you see something; by stopping on a strict schedule, you have to really look at whatever you’re presented with. Don’t move more than a couple of metres from the spot you stop on, but look around, open your eyes, see a picture. Take one photograph, then move on.

The first time you try this, you’ll probably be underwhelmed by the pictures you took. So look at them, look critically and ask if you could improve the picture by changing the angle or framing. Also, look at the sequence: does it tell a story of the area you walked through?

The pictures that I’ve included here are a record of just such a walk that I did a few days ago. I was anxious to try out my new camera, so I took it with me when I went out with the dog. For this exercise, rather than a set time between shots, I set myself the target of shooting a 24-exposure roll of film, without finishing it too soon before getting back.

None of the pictures here are going to win any awards, but that’s not the point; the point is to exercise the looking muscles. I think they do tell a story, though, when viewed as a sequence.

 

So take yourself out for a walk (it’s healthy, you know) armed with camera and timer, and train yourself to start really looking.


A Nikon FM3A 35mm film camera

I spoiled one, which is why there are only 23

Sentinels

Wander around for a while with – if I may use the phrase – a photographer’s eye, and you’ll start seeing things in a new way. They’ve always been there, of course—indeed, you probably pass them every day. But once you start to really look at things, your mind form associations beyond the mundane. It may be an element of humour, it may be a connection with something apparently unrelated, or it may just simply be an ‘aha’ moment. Continue reading “Sentinels”