Photography In Your Home Area (Project)
Closer than local
We have looked before at the advantages of local photography and by local we were looking at both the financial and practical advantages of not overlooking all the many sites that are within a reasonable distance from you, perhaps a 20 minutes drive. In the article we consider a range of reasons and identified that for other reasons, we are often happy to travel considerable distances, overlooking what is near to us.
In this article I want to bring it even closer, to look at what we can achieve within our own home area, basically an area we can walk to easily from home. Many interested in wildlife generally, and bird watching in particular, will be familiar with the concept of a home area, somewhere that you know really well, where all species are known to you and you can follow the situation throughout the seasons. I want to suggest a local project, that would allow you to gain experience and the motivation to get out and take photos throughout the year.
Town and countryside locations both offer opportunities and each area will have its unique features as well as many that are common with other places.
To illustrate this lets just look at a few places where I have lived.
The village I grew up in, in Wiltshire called Purton. It has:-
and a load of other features, many of which I photographed many years ago. I also photographed areas before estates were built, and people, many of whom are no longer around. Look back into history and we find it was mentioned in the Domesday Book, connected with Malmesbury Abbey, has a history of Roman finds, and was the home and resting place of The Reverend Dr Nevil Maskelyne, the Astronomer Royal who developed latitude and longitude, as well as the Hyde family that included the mother of both Queen Anne and Mary II, and influential statesman Edward Hyde, and others.
The home I had before the one we have now, was a farmhouse in the country, here we had:
all of which I photographed. Nearby was Prescot HillClimb, which entertained collectors meets with hundreds of old cars, or overhead flying aircraft on military exercises, and hot air balloons in numbers and a range of events on the railway.
Now I live in Cheltenham, we have a little wildlife at home, more in the local parks. Cheltenham was one of the spa towns, it has:
from my home I can see the Cotswold Hills. Over the year there are many festivals and events, from the Gold Cup at the racecourse, the Literature Festival in October that brings in hundreds of celebrities you would only normally see in TV, most promoting a book. You have viewpoints within the town and on the outskirts overlooking it and beyond. Transport includes an airport, motorway and main railway as well as one end of a steam preservation railway.
In the country at the farmhouse there was a lot to photograph at home, with all the wildlife, but in the town we have a lawn, a squirrel that visits most days, a pond that has its own fish plus attracts frogs and a large range of flying bugs of many types. We have photographed snails and slugs, several bugs, and spiders, plus many flowers and plants. I have been out early, before other people, to get shots without the people and cars, and occasionally late to get some night shots, I have photographed firework shows, and quite a bit more. I haven't been to the race track when racing has been on and there are many other possibilities I have missed or just not got around to yet.
I often go across to one of our larger parks, that's only a few minutes from home, to photograph the swans and a variety of ducks and other birds, squirrels and to try out different equipments such as lenses. I have photographed it in the snow, with winter frozen ponds and ducks skating on the surface, in spring, in summer with young, and in autumn with colourful trees, and every time I go back I spot the differences.
The point I am attempting to make, is not that I have chosen nice places to live, but that everywhere there are opportunities and features, and would offer great possibilities for a local photographic study.
A project to photograph your home area
I want to propose a project that you could do, to photograph your home area, not a rush around and photograph it in a day or less, as you would an attraction you are visiting, but a year study of your local area. Looking at as many aspects as you have time for, but making sure that you do get out and take photographs, rather than just read the magazines and websites and plan to do it when the sun is right and you have the time. You want photos in different weather, in early morning and late evening and all other times of the day, and to stretch the range of photographs that you take.
Most places have a local church, can you capture its architecture, its stain glass windows, and the mood at different times of the year. There is likely to be a range of other architecture perhaps some representing specific periods, others specific in character to the area. In many towns you will find houses and other properties that are far older than others surviving from before the arrival of the town. Everywhere has a history, and in most places there are historical societies, people particularly interested in all aspects of the history of the area, and only too delighted to share their knowledge with you.
If you search out old maps, and perhaps some not so old, and many are available on the internet as well as from many other sources, you can discover what was in the area at different points over time, and often get an insight onto why the area is laid out the way it is.
Most areas now have a number of nature reserves and patches of undeveloped ground, some a little more than a ditch, others varied and interesting sites. Patches of Woodland , lakes, Canals , streams and rivers as well as parkland and parks, Gardens and more open up more possibilities.
As well as the history, architecture, plant and wildlife you have the many activities around people, from work to leisure, from sport to relaxation, hobbies, interests, and the events of life, from new babies, childhood, teens, lovers, marriages, families, to older people and eventually funerals, and gravestones and other remembrance markers. There are carnivals, processions, remembrance days, sporting celebrations and perhaps some of the more unusual and quirkier side of British society.
Perhaps you have a port, an airport, motorway, exhibition or country show, perhaps races, a visiting circus or fun fair, people with allotments, equestrian interests, cyclists and walkers. Perhaps you have a Viewpoint or two, the scope for a panorama, or a time lapse sequence of history being made as a new structure is put up.
Over a year the seasons change, plants grow, wildlife flourishes and moves into and out of the area, there are changes in the weather, maybe snow, floods, cloudy days and days that are sunny with no clouds in the sky and many in between.
Then there are the areas personalities, characters, pets and ..........., well you get the idea.
You will see that to photograph everything you could, within even the smallest local area, would be impossible, so perhaps as well as taking photos, in large numbers of different situations and conditions we also need to look at what we are going to do with these, perhaps a local exhibition and how about a photo book, be it a single copy for you or a fundraiser produced to aid local charities or to fund your next project.
I would suggest that you start with a brainstorming session, list all the photos you can think of and places, events and activities that would tell the story of the local area. Then prioritize these, some you will feel are essential, some would be nice, and some perhaps not that important. Put together your initial plan, sorted by the month you will be hoping to get the image, and then talk to others, who may have more suggestions.
The next step in the most critical, and that is you get started straight away, start collecting photos, some because you want them now others as recce exercises so as to know how to tackle them later. Some you will be able to handle, some you will need to develop extra skills to get, others you will have to wait for events or the season. As a year project, you have plenty of time, a chance to get images now and go back and get more, but unless you get started it may never happen.
Over the year many new opportunities, ideas and views of some locations and more will change, and you will get extra opportunities, there will be events you forgot and extra events taking place, as well as perhaps newsworthy opportunities. We don't therefore want to be prescriptive, its fact finding, photography and later prioritisation, you will be surprised at just how many good photos you get, probably more than you can use.
Along the way the variety will allow you to gain experience, to try out new techniques, and to both enjoy and develop your photography.
Of course on this website we will have more ideas for you and many of the skills that we have covered or will be covering will be of help, including our Teaching yourself photography.