Let’s Talk Photography Ep.85 – Finding Inspiration in the Ordinary

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This month’s show is best described as an un-expected part two for last month’s show. Bart shares some thoughts on finding inspiration in the ordinary things around us as we continue to face COVID-induced restrictions and confinement. It is possible to find great photographic opportunities in the most mundane places if you can find a different way of looking a things.

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Reminder – you can submit questions for future Q & A shows at http://lets-talk.ie/photoq

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Last time the main point I was trying to make is that if you can’t change where you photograph, you can find inspiration by capturing how the one place you’re confined to changes.

I got a lot of really great listener feedback (and a noticeable up-tick in Patreon & PayPal support, so thank you!), and a theme that came up again and again was that listening between the proverbial lines, I seemed to be evangelising seeking beauty in ordinary every-day things. You guys were right! Subconsciously what I’ve been doing is striving to find beauty in the ordinary, and capturing the way things evolve over time has been just one my approaches.

I’ve been reflecting on this a lot since recording the last show, and I realise I’d like to take the topic on directly because I have a lot of thoughts and ideas I’d like to share. As a planet, we’re all united in our struggles against this pandemic. It’s rare that we’re all experiencing the same kind of stresses at the same time, so if I’m struggling to keep shooting, others probably are too. I’ve discovered that apparently mundane suburbia can provide the raw materials for some very satisfying photography after all, and maybe by sharing I can help some of you keep those shutters clacking too.

Get Close

We’re used to looking at the world at the human scale, but when you look closely there’s so much more going on!

  • Nature exits at all scale
    • Tiny wild flowers or weeds peeking through all over the place
    • flower buds
    • seed heads
    • berries
    • nuts
    • fungi
    • leaves
  • The places we live are full of textures we often overlook
  • A lot of buildings have interesting architectural details at all scales (particularly true of older buildings)

Change Your POV

Getting close is one way to see a familiar place differently, simply shooting our regular world from an usual perspective can help the ordinary look interesting.

  • The easiest way to change your point of view is to get low
  • The other obvious option is to carefully climb up on something and get high
  • Simply changing the direction you shoot from can make a huge difference. E.g. we normally see flowers from the top down, why not try shooting them from below?

Go Wide

I think of wide angle lenses as multiplying the advantages of changing your POV.

  • Getting low and wide completely changes what the world looks like.
  • Getting wide and close lets you see both details and the big picture at the same time.

Add Some Spice with Inexpensive Gadgets

As well as being my podcasting partner in crime for Security Bits, Taming the Terminal, Programming by Stealth, and more, Allison Sheridan is also a listener to this show. Also, she totally rocks 🤘 When she heard my struggle for inspiration on the last show she responded by sending me a set of clip-on lenses for my iPhone (the Amir 2-in–1 smartphone lens kit). The box just arrived out of the blue, and I had no idea what it was. The set Allison sent consists of an ultra-wide-angle lens, and a macro lens. They feel really well built, and the packaging and instructions are really slick. I was pretty sure Allison had spent a small fortune on me, but, she chirpily volunteered that no, the set cost just $16, and she hope’d I’d get at least that much worth enjoyment from it. I haven’t done much with the ultra-wide yet, but I’be been having so much fun with the macro lens — it lets me focus on things just inches from my iPhone’s lens, so it opens up a whole new world of detail in my suburban confinement!

Clip-on lenses for smartphones are a great example of inexpensive photography gadgets, but there are other things you can play with too, including fun tilt-shift lenses like those from Lensbaby, or even more insane novelties like Kaleidoscope lenses or star burst filters.

Another gadget I’ve gotten great value from is a small mini tripod for my iPhone — as the nights draw in again here in the northern hemisphere I’ll be making ever more use of that to get the most out of my iPhone’s night mode.

Bonus Tip

RTÉ’s (Ireland’s equivalent of the BBC) Documentary on One radio program recently released an episode built around the fascinating story of two lives connected by a very famous photograph, the iconic Grief of a Nation shot of a young girl weeping after JFK’s assassination.

I can highly recommend the entire podcast actually, especially if you have a connection to Ireland.

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