Guest Post: Jane of Ardis on Being the Travel Photographer of your Own Life’s Journey
[Jane of Ardis © Scott Hortrop @ Light Touch Images]
Jane of Ardis: Intuitive alchemist, sorceress of stuck + soul scribe. Bibliophile. Cat concierge. Tea obsessive.
Photographically, what surprised me most about living in China was that I found side streets and my unfashionable, unpretty suburb of an unfashionable, unpretty provincial city far more interesting to shoot than the big temples and famous landmarks.
[China © Jane of Ardis]
I found myself smitten with the strange beauty of the very ordinary: criss-crossing electricity wires against the sky, the local market, everyday life in the local park.
My students were fascinated when I showed them photographs of my hometown. It’s a quiet place in southern England, somewhere I’ve often thought of as nothing special, even slightly boring.
As I noticed their responses, it was like my inner kaleidoscope twisted and suddenly I could see the glittering beauty + brilliance hidden behind all the routine and taken-for-granted places.
When I returned to the UK, I wanted to keep seeing the remarkable and interesting qualities of my well-known surroundings. Three years later, I’m still playing with this.
[Purple Crocus © Jane of Ardis]
These are my top 3 tips for becoming a travel photographer in your hometown.
1) Don’t leave it for another day
If you were in Cairo, Beijing or Athens (or insert name of far-flung destination you daydream of visiting) would you pass by a photographic delight, vaguely deciding to come back ‘another day’?
Then don’t do it with your own neighbourhood. Photograph what’s there now. It stops you building up long mental ‘to-do’ list of places to photograph, which tends to be dampen rather than fire up my photographic enthusiasm.
And the truth is that, like so many other things in life, your photographic subject won’t always be there for another day.
[Gravestone Skeleton © Jane of Ardis]
2) Slowly explore a familiar place.
These are a couple of photos I took exploring my local churchyard and park. In over a decade of living close by the church, I’d never noticed that interesting dancing skeleton on a tombstone, purely because I’d never looked that closely at it.
So explore slowly. Take time to look at things from different perspectives and to go up close to notice the details.
[The Ocean © Jane of Ardis]
3) Go for a camera-less seeing walk
Yes, this might sound a little bit counter-intuitive to some of you.
Every so often I go for the a walk somewhere photogenic, and leave my camera at home. Why?
There are two main benefits.
First of all, no matter how great your kit is, or how extensive your technical skill, what makes a photograph come alive is how you see. On a ‘seeing’ walk, I just enjoy the beauty of my surroundings, appreciate the light and practise seeing and framing interesting and delightful compositions.
I’ve found it improves my photographic eye no end.
Secondly, inevitably sometimes I’ll see something and wish so hard that I had my camera. But I don’t – and you know what, the world doesn’t end.
This helps me cultivate what I think of as photographic equanimity. This means that when I am shooting that fleeting moment, I can sidestep all the angst about ‘what if it doesn’t come out well?’ because I know that if that happens, yes, it’ll be disappointing. But I can choose not to get mired in that disappointment.
Which makes the process of taking photos a lot more fun and pleasurable, which is presumably why we started doing it in the first place! And, if it doesn’t come out quite as I hoped, a lot easier to spot what went wrong, because I’m not beating myself up about it.
Jane of Ardis
[Self Portrait at the Sea © Jane of Ardis]
Note from Melinda Eliza: I wholeheartedly recommend Jane’s radiant guided meditations – her words, her voice, and her accent (I’m such a sucker for a British accent!) will bring you joy and set you free. Visit Jane’s website at www.janeofardis.com! You can also find her tweeting positivity at @JaneOfArdis.