Why You Don’t Have to Travel Far to Make Great Pictures

It Started with National Geographic

When I was just starting out with photography, my main source of inspiration—and countless other photographers’ inspiration—was National Geographic magazine. In its pages, you could be transported to a Hawaiian volcano, a Mongolian steppe or in an Italian village.

Vanderbilt, Mich.
Camera: Mamiya 7

Not only that, but National Geographic magazine and the photographers they utilize maintain a painstaking and thorough process to make sure the photos published are the best they can be to tell the story.

These days, it’s almost impossible to scroll through Instagram and not see magnificent images of far-off places. It seems like everyone is traveling around the world with their iPhone as they capture a stunning sunrise or a perfectly still lake.

Frankfort, Mich.
Camera: Mamiya 7

Don’t get me wrong, traveling around the world to make pictures would be an absolute dream. But, before you get down on yourself about not being able to do this…there’s hope! You don’t have to travel far to make good pictures.

No Need to Leave Your “Backyard” for Quality Pictures

Wherever you’re located on the planet, is ripe for picture opportunities. The reason for this is that you are in a unique place in the world compared to where everyone else is at.

Mancelona, Mich.
Camera: Mamiya 7

While working as a photojournalist, I’ve learned that beautiful, moving and compelling images can be made anywhere, you just have to be creative and look for them. Within whatever community you’re located in, you could find enough variety to concentrate your work on people, architecture, landscapes—or all three. Make a portrait of a neighbor; capture an interesting building nearby; and/or photograph a hay bale in an interesting way.

Focus on Your Surroundings

No doubt, it may be more difficult to find inspiring material in some communities compared to others. If it just seems too challenging to find good pictures, here’s a tip: focus on what your area is known for or what you feel is interesting in your surroundings.

Star Township, Mich.
Camera: Mamiya 7

For example, if you live near a metropolitan area, try your hand at street photography or capture some of the architecture there. If you live on a vast stretch of land with no people in sight, capture that vastness the best way you can.

It’s all about capitalizing on your surroundings. Actually, that’s only part of it. Your images should also mean something and be interesting to you. When the images you make mean something to you, you’ll find that your pictures will be better and you’ll be more invested. If you’re able to do this, you’ll discover there are more options around you than you thought.

Inspiring Photographers

Danny Wilcox Frazier is a photojournalist who has produced some astounding, in-depth work by documenting his surroundings and people in rural Iowa. Ask 20 photographers where they’d like to make images and you’ll receive 20 answers—none of them rural Iowa.

Emmet County, Mich.
Camera: Mamiya 7

Another inspiring photographer who captures portraits, but also simple details and color, is Allison V. Smith. Smith, by watching a presentation of hers, was highly influential in teaching me that beauty can be viewed anywhere. The photo on her website’s landing page is currently an athletic track. It’s a fantastic image.

Make Pictures

An important aspect of image-making that you must remember is that while it’s awesome to be inspired by these, or whoever you like, and by their pictures. Just don’t copy them. What will help you grow will be to find your own voice and style that is uniquely you. The best way to do this? Make pictures. Easier said than done, I know. But that’s the best way to do it.

Wolverine, Mich.
Camera: Mamiya 7

Once you realize the potential you have in your immediate environment, savor it. Relish in it. Photograph it. When you understand that places nearby can be a trove of distinct photographic potential, the world is yours.

8 thoughts on “Why You Don’t Have to Travel Far to Make Great Pictures

    1. Thank you Angela! I’ve really come to appreciate the starkness, and how the snow can isolate objects and colors in an appealing way. Thank you very much for your comment.


  1. So true. My cousin is around 70 now, has made his living photographing the people, places and happenings of the small town where I grew up. He rarely ventures more than 50 miles from home. His body of work is amazing.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Steve, thank you for your comment! I love your cousin’s approach: it sounds like we may be kindred photo souls. I’d love to see his work if you have a way to share it.


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