There’s NO Excuse- You Can Always Find Something

Rotting pylons at Priest Point near Tulalip, Wash., just from the water.

Today is a simple lessons for all of the photographers that struggle to find something to photograph. You can have all the ideas in the world, but still have nothing to shoot. You scratch your head and wonder what you can photograph.

I felt like this most of the time this week. It was just one of those weeks. Busy, but not busy. Then the answer was simple: You just need to go out and shoot.

During my college days at Western Kentucky University, I attended several Mountain Workshops. Most of the time I was a volunteer labbie, but several times I was a participant.

Lining up his shot. A pool hall in Campbellsville, Ky., during the Mountain Workshops.

In 1996, I attended the workshop when it was in Campbellsville, Ky. Former Detroit News-Free Press director of photography C. Thomas Hardin was my photo coach. The assignment I picked out of the hat was a local pool hall. It was really cool. Although it was cool, I had nothing to bring back the first day I shot. I was stumped.

Smoking his pipe at a Campbellsville, Ky., pool hall while waiting for his turn.

After talking to him, he gave me more confidence and I went out to the pool hall to find my story. I was both timid and nervous. It had nothing to do with the gents in the pool hall, it had everything to do with me.

In fact, he taught me that I need to think that every frame is a canvas. Fill the frame with only the elements to tell the story. A lesson I hold dear to this day. Take your time to observe the scene and fill the frame only with the elements you need.

When I came back the next day, I had shot 3 rolls of film. When it was developed, the coach was the first to look at it. Of course, you were there as they go over your film and help you edit.

“You have some really nice stuff here,” he proclaimed, “What did you do?”

My answer was simple, “I just stuck the camera to my face and walked around.”

On days I have “nothing to shoot,” I do just that. I walk around with my cameras and compose through the viewfinder.

Have your camera near as you never know what may happen. Baily gets her head stuck in a bucket as she snoops for a treat.

It was one of those days. It snowed in Western Washington over the past few days. Seattle had some flurries, Tulalip where I live, had a few. To me it was no big deal. I lived in a ski town in Colorado for over 7 years. When we got snow, it was measured in feet, not millimeters.

So I went out looking for photos of snow. Since it was sparse, it was hard to find anything. But nonetheless, I looked. And did find a few photos. Again, I just stuck the camera to my face and viewed the scenes through my viewfinder. The images popped out. The result is here in an earlier blog: Washington snow.

Watching him line up his shot. From the 1996 Campbellsville, Ky., Mountain Workshop.

Almost all of my ideas I have written down in my Idea Log relate more to photo stories, essays, or projects. Some I have to wait for a particular time of the year, others I’m doing research.

One thing I do is keep my camera near and ready for the shot, any shot. Be it a beautiful sunrise or sunset when the sun breaks, or when the nieces and nephews come over for Thanksgiving. It’s always ready.

Batteries charged, and with empty cards. Lenses clean and the ISO set.

So what you need to remember the next time you feel stuck and you feel there is nothing to shoot: Just look around, there’s plenty.

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