Revisiting Old Stomping Grounds

Those familiar places you’ve frequented with a camera in hand don’t have to be boring. If you’re willing to look, there are always new photographs to be found!

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Here’s something that has affected all of us at one point or another. All those places near to our homes that we always used to enjoy visiting for a few photographs — those places become boring after a while. They’re easily accessible, so naturally, we go there all the time, and after enough of those trips, we get bored. It’s a conundrum most photographers will face. We’ve been there and done that. It begins to feel like we’ve taken all the pictures we can possibly take at these locations. They become as familiar as the backs of our hands, and we stop seeing photographic opportunities.

But maybe “boring” is the wrong way to look at our old photographic stomping grounds. Perhaps a shift in perspective is required to breathe new life into these areas. Is it beneficial to start looking at these places as a challenge?

Here’s how I see it: The first few times we get to visit these areas, we’re full of wonder at our new discoveries. We spend hours walking around taking photographs. And doubtless, on these forays, we took all the most obvious photographs. The easy things, the things that stood out, like landscapes with ideal composition, or interesting landmarks. The unusual aspects of the place. That sort of thing.

But now that all of those photographs have been made, what new is there to create? Well, to my mind, this is an opportunity to make ourselves grow creatively. Now it’s a challenge. Of course, there are new things to create — there always are. The issue isn’t with the area, but with our own photographic eye. If we want to keep going back to our old stomping grounds, then we have to start looking at these places differently. We need to look beyond the surface to find deeper things that not everyone might have noticed about these places.

For example, let’s say that one of your old favorite places is a particular city street, like a small-town main street. You’ve taken pictures of the stores and the interesting architecture, made something of the geometry in the way that parked cars line up along the street’s edge. But what lies beneath those things? Have you examined the texture of the stone and brick? There could be other things, like trees that line the street, or colorful planters. Even in the neatest neighborhoods, there is always a bit of litter, and perhaps there is a message in that if you happen to spy some. Signage could be a subject or benches along the sidewalk. You name it — there will be all kinds of details to look at, most of which are going to be much more hidden from day to day viewing than the examples I’ve listed here.

And, too, there is something to be said about an area changing over time. You might be surprised to find new buildings erected or old ones torn down if you’ve not been to your old stomping grounds lately. Trees and other familiar features might be gone, and moveable objects might be in different places from what you remember. That newness is another thing to explore. When things change, that in and of itself is an opportunity for new photographs. Maybe even for photographs that compare how things were to how they are now. No matter what, never assume that no more photographs can be taken at the areas you’ve visited regularly. As long as you’re willing to look again, there is always something to find.