Finding a Unique Take on the Commonplace

November 19, 2017  •  Leave a Comment

The cliched and commonplace isn't always as dull or "been done" as you might think. Photographers like Stephen Shore are able to capture the beauty in the mundane everyday, turning diners and living rooms into places where a story is taking place; because that's where most of the real stories happen.

Likewise, finding a place where tourists don't go or don't know about, can help you find a unique shot.

In 2012, I was visiting my family in Northern Ireland. One of my friends from high school told me about an out-of-the-way graveyard in the countryside he'd recently discovered, and suggested that we go take a look at case anything was worth photographing.

The graveyard was very old and very beautiful, but it was in the quarter mile walk from the road to the graveyard that I saw this:

Three Trees in AntrimThree Trees in Antrim

There was something about the three trees cresting over the hill that really struck me. In the end, it was an accidental find, given that we were there for something else entirely. Being open to possibilities is definitely a big part of being a photographer, and you should never be surprised when you find a shot in the least likely places, or even just in a literally different direction from what you'd expected.

Here are a few suggestions on how to find something else to say about a place that has had too many photographs taken of it already.

  • A commonplace landscape, but with something unique occurring, such as a weather phenomenon, or other visitors doing something interesting.
  • A tourist location, but taking photographs of the tourists taking photographs (like that Leaning Tower of Pisa shot).
  • Stand in the spot where everyone else is taking photos, and turn around, shoot what is literally behind the scene.
  • Focus on something small, like a single flower or rock, with the legendary scenery secondary in the composition, as a backdrop or even lost in bokeh.

Do you have any other suggestions? How have you found the unique shot hidden in plain sight?


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