“Exploration comes before expression.” David duChemin, The Traveling Lens course.
How you feel about a place cannot be completely known until you have had time to explore it. Walk around it, take in it’s sounds and smells. Feel it’s rhythm. Learn its history. Sure, you can get a feeling or a vibe almost immediately but until you spend some time and peel back the layers, your initial impression is shallow and surface-level at best.
In a lesson from David’s course he talks about spending an hour or two just sitting in a place, wandering around, getting lost (my favorite), and just allowing yourself to become a part of it before you pull out your camera and just start snapping pictures. I loved the advice and decided to put it into practice the next time I went out with my camera. Now, I am one who loves to wander and get lost and spend time in a place, but doing it intentionally and paying attention to the place itself instead of focusing on what I was going to snap a shot of next was, quite honestly, completely frustrating, at first. Old habits are hard to break and so are certain mindsets.
Once I got out of my own way and just gave myself permission to relax, I started walking a little slower, stopping and staring a little longer or closing my eyes and just listening and feeling. That’s when it became amazing. My first priority was no longer about taking photos but instead became more about my surroundings, how they made me feel and what drew my attention. What inspires me and makes me want to get a closer look. That’s when I started to feel a more natural connection with my camera. I was reaching for it less but the action itself became more natural and instinctive.
This is the kind of photographer I want to be. I want my expression of a place to be more than just what I see. I want it to be what I feel. I also want it to be the kind of person I want to be. Taking time with someone, getting to know them beyond first impressions and dismissing snap judgments, I think would make great photography but also makes for a better life and a better world.