I have always enjoyed taking photographs but it wasn’t until I started to explore the world in earnest that I developed an interest in creating images rather than simply snapping memories. After fifteen months of travel, more than 10,000 captured memories and five digital compact cameras (thanks to a thief, a restless horse, new year water festivals in Laos and backpacking wear and tear) I returned home to London in 2010 ready to start a new hobby.
But something was missing.
Travelling the world had inspired me to learn how to take great travel photographs – but I had just returned home with a depleted bank account and therefore no immediate travel plans to continue the inspiration.
Where would I find my travel photography inspiration?
Initially the motivation to learn compensated for lack of inspiration as I spent my weekends practising technique and getting to grips with the new language that someone with no photography or fine arts training faces. But it wasn’t long before I found myself looking at my surroundings through different eyes and I suddenly realised I had found my travel photography inspiration at home.
Here are five ways to help you find your own travel photography inspiration at home.
1. Through The Eyes Of A Tourist – Without The Tourists
I am lucky to live in a city that provides more tourist attractions than sunny days but as an amateur photographer that brings two problems.
- Competing with the tourist crowds
- Capturing an image that isn’t on the front of every postcard sold in the tourist shops on Oxford Street
Get up early! An early rise not only provides the best light for shooting, but as the tourists are sleeping off the hangovers from partying in Soho the night before or tucking into a big English breakfast, you will enjoy the opportunity to shoot a tourist attraction without the crowds. This not only helps capture images of architecture and outdoor scenes without tourists walking into your frame, it also gives you time to compose an image that is on the front of every postcard sold in the tourist shops on Oxford.
But what if you are looking for something more unique? What if a busload of tourists has arrived earlier than expected? What if you forgot to set your alarm? Some of my favourite shots are the ones I’ve taken “through the eyes of a tourist – with the tourists”. Don’t limit your vision to that of the tourist attraction itself.
What if you don’t live in London? What if you go travelling because you live in a place that is not full of tourist attractions and is not on the travel itinerary of visitors to your country? You don’t need to look for internationally recognised tourist attractions to find images that capture the essence of where you live. Every place has landmarks that make it unique whether its a monument, architecture, wildlife, outdoor scenery or even the local people themselves.
2. Seasonality Creates Diversity
A lot of travellers enjoy getting off the beaten track when exploring foreign countries and its no different when you are a travel photographer at home. Whilst I enjoy chasing that postcard-worthy image of a local tourist attraction, what I enjoy most is capturing my home through the eyes of a local.
Travellers and tourists rarely experience all seasons in a country they visit, but as a local you know that seasonality creates diversity. I live within walking distance of Regent’s Park and although the Park has a static landscape, I find myself returning a number of times throughout the year as the seasons change. I have taken photos of the park’s lake in Spring as new-born ducklings follow their mother as they learn how to survive. I have returned in summer to find the lake surrounded by crowds having picnics in the sun or enjoying a boat ride on the lake. Autumn changes the scene again as leaves fall across the lake to settle in a colourful cluster on the water. And I’ve returned in winter to shoot birds sliding across the frozen water with snow on the lake’s edge.
If you feel you are running out of inspiration for shooting at home, just wait for the next season!
So you have captured an image of the London Eye that is postcard-worthy. You have a photograph of tourists engaging in some friendly (or not-so-friendly) banter at Speakers Corner. You have returned to your local park four times a year. You still haven’t saved up enough for your next trip abroad. What next?
Have you looked a little closer? That building you walk past every day on your way to the train station may not be inspiring, but what about the windows, or the door handle? That park bench outside your house may not make the cover of your next photo book, but what about the texture of the wood it’s made from? The most popular type of close-up photography is flora and fauna but the opportunities to capture interesting forms of texture are endless.
4. Through The Eyes Of Your Lens
Most new photographers find a natural reaction to their new hobby is looking at things differently. I constantly find myself being inspired by something I have walked past a hundred times. Every-day objects in my house suddenly become the subject of my next project. I have also been able to practise some new techniques at home that have helped me create some great shots on my future travels. Learning how to take a waterfall shot with that ‘silky water’ doesn’t require a visit to Iceland. Capturing car trails in a night shot doesn’t require a trip to New York City.
Look at your everyday surroundings through the eyes of your lens – you’ll be amazed at the results.
5. Google – The Verb
Google is both a noun and a verb and I often wonder how we lived without it. Sure, it has ruined pub conversation. The days of spending an evening debating if the capital of Switzerland is Zurich or Geneva are over, as are the frustrating sessions of trying to remember the name of that song playing in the bar. Pub quiz winners are no longer those with the best general knowledge brains, but those who can Google the question on their Iphone the fastest.
But the internet provides a great variety of resources for someone looking for photography inspiration at home. Simply type in “things to shoot in London” (although you may want to add the word ‘photography’ to that), ‘photography ideas in London’ or ‘non-touristy photographs of London’ and you will open a door to a new world of inspiration -- forums, travel blogs, photography articles and competitions, Flickr group discussions and more. Keeping up to date with local events and festivals provide photographic opportunities and sometimes just seeing a photograph in an online magazine has inspired me to shoot something in a different way.