TheAspenStand: Is Learning to Notice What's Around You A Part of Your Photography?

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Is Learning to Notice What's Around You A Part of Your Photography?

people, dancer, belly dancer, woman, crowd, adults, children

I watched the video "Visual Exercise" by Sean Tucker several times and two points really hit on something I think about often. The first point, in life and in photography, is learning to really observe and understand your surroundings. In life, observation skills take on a safety and security aspect. As in photography, observation skills give you an appreciation of all that is around you.

The second point that stirred feelings for me is not being so focused on your camera gear.  He basically references that a paint brush alone does not make you an artist because there is so much more to it.

"Art is gonna come out of experimentation."  ~ Sean Tucker, photographer

Tucker reinforces that, "Owning a camera does not necessarily make you a good photographer. It's going to take more than that because, photography, at the end of the day, is still an art." He talks about using our phones and making mistakes but I'll let you watch the video to hear those points from him.

I often use my camera phone to get shots because my DSLR isn't available. Some photographers frown upon using them but it's my phone and photographs or nothing. I'll take some shots with my phone. The cameras on phones have improved tremendously over time. A friend was using her new Samsung on a recent visit to the Grand Canyon and the quality of the photographs was excellent. Just like a DSLR, we can also take as many photographs as we want. There's always the chance of getting something really good that would have been missed otherwise.

I don't carry my DSLR on most daily dog walks or hikes. Sunrise the morning of this shot had the makings of a beautiful start. I used my phone to capture the dew drops on the tall prairie grass as the sky was exploding with morning color. It was a nice share for our local community Facebook group page. It's not perfect but I was able to show off the beauty of that morning that others weren't able to witness.

grass, silhouettes, sky, sunrise, dawn, morning, orange, pink, yellow

I've always been a people watcher. I can sit in one location for long periods to observe the busy world around me. I think the interesting take on this trait is that I prefer to photograph objects, nature, and animals.

On the streets in the French Quarter of New Orleans, I can watch tourists all day but I'm more interested in the other aspects of my surroundings. I shot this yellow bicycle with the pink tires and a multi color seat on an overcast day. There weren't many people on the street and the bicycle was the brightest thing to catch my eye. The bicycle was also captured with my phone.

bicycle, pink tires, gray day, basket, colorful, NOLA, New Orleans, Louisiana

We should look at the world around us as children do. I've often said this in social media posts. We should have an intense curiosity. Looking under, around, and from above objects to get a different perspective. Looking closer than we would normally look reveals some interesting things too. 

The photograph below is of two tiny mushrooms I noticed on a piece of dead wood after a minor snowfall. It intrigued me that these two mushrooms were still attached. The forward, more shriveled up mushroom was about the size of a dime so you can estimate the size of the one in the back. That brown stick like item near the back mushroom is a tiny piece of wolf lichen. 

mushrooms, dried mushrooms, dead wood, photography, close-up, macro, snow

Two questions for you. 
1.  What was your take on the Sean Tucker video? 
2.  Whether you are a photographer or not, do you consider yourself a good observer? 

Leave a comment here to give me your thoughts on this post.


  1. Hi Patricia,

    Great post--thank you.

    My dad was an amateur photographer, so I grew up being his assistant. We processed thousands of black and white photos from his old Rolleiflex. I still have boxes of negatives, too.

    I think I've gone the other direction and now do all my photography on my phone. I've been meaning to take some shots on my "real" camera now, though. The pendulum is swinging back the other way.

    Yes, I consider myself a good observer. The shots I like the best are the ones that make me curious to know more about the image. Sometimes it's because I don't know what it is, but it looks compelling. Other times I know what the image is, but want a closer look.

    Thanks for making me think about photography!


    1. Hi Carol,
      I'm so glad you liked the post. I can see how you became interested in photography. I too have sheets of negatives and many slide trays full and just ready to view.

      I remember watching in amazement as black and white prints developed in trays before my eyes. My hobby with photography was lost for more than 10 years after all my camera gear was stolen during a move. I didn't get another simple camera until the digital age. I'm so glad I picked it up again because it is a great way for this introvert to share.

      You are a good observer Carol because I look forward to seeing what you post on Instagram.

      As always, thank you so much for your input Carol.


    2. Hi Again, Patricia,

      Isn't it amazing to watch prints develop in trays? Does anyone do that any more, I wonder? It seemed like such magic! All of the chemicals, the equipment, the trays, etc., were fascinating.

      I like what you post, too, Patricia!

      See ya around the block!


    3. Thanks Carol. I think I'm getting into the swing of posting on a regular basis now. I too wonder if people still develop black and white in dark rooms?


Comments from visitors put perspective on my work. Let me know your thoughts about the post. Thanks.