Ordinary Places

I have written my share of articles on this blog about making pictures
from the world’s, or at least America’s, greatest locales. I have also
put up my share of posts about backyard photography. Today’s is about
creating images at or near home, but its also about viewing where you
are as someplace special. You are where you are so “see” the beauty or
power the same as you would see it at Zion N.P. or Monument Valley.
View the animals just as if you were in  Yellowstone or at the
wildlife refuge 200 miles away.I am staying away from macro photography in this article.  Your own
backyard is just as spectacular as the earth’s most famous places when
it comes to viewing the world up close.  I could include thousands of
close-up images here so I will instead limit my photos to landscapes
and wildlife.

Nighttime skies, and moons can be found everywhere.

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If there are skies near home and even in our own neighborhoods, then
surely the sun rises and sets as well. If there is no place right by
home to accomplish a clean and unobstructed image, a short drive will
provide what we need.
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Of course, if you are willing to eliminate the silhouette of the tree,
you can make your image from your bedroom window.

Here the light from the sun and a few trees provides us with image
opportunities. No need to be in the Rocky Mts., or even the
countryside for this scene of metaphorical enlightenment. Light +
trees = picture.
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I am fortunate to have a body of water nearby, and it provides me with
constant sunrise opportunities. No need for oceans here.

No need to go to Holland, the mountains, or the deserts in bloom to
find flowers that can sweeten up your images. Somewhere near home,
there are patches of flowers that will allow you to turn a seemingly
ordinary place into something special.The pictures below of Purple Coneflower, Blazing Star, Virginia
Bluebells and Phlox, were made within a reasonable distance to my
house.  All of these locations are “photograph-able” in and of
themselves, but are certainly “spruced up” by natural growing

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This field, even though it is near the shores of Lake Michigan, is
actually hideous when it is not in bloom. Those grasses as well as the
flowers hide a lot of flaws. The sort you often find in disturbed
areas and places that man frequents.
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Water is a blessing no matter where you are.

This first image is of a Ring-billed Gull at sunrise along the shores
of Lake Michigan, and the second is a bland old automobile bridge over
a small river.

The second is an early morning picture of an early fall tree, with
some morning mist.

It is often best to both see and feel an image, before you make it.
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A rusty old car bridge over a small river can be just as inspiring as
the grand canyon.

If you live in a place where the seasons are obvious, then you are
already at a world class location.  We need not a grand landscape full
of fall colors to make compelling pictures of this visually powerful

Small sections of forest, or cemeteries, parks or yards, are all that
any photographer needs to create  pictures that tell autumn’s story in
vivid style.
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A road in a county park.
16AutPets 027If you are fortunate enough, or unfortunate enough depending on your
point of view, to have a real winter season where you live, pictures
will present themselves everywhere.

A little bit of water in a small pond or creek, makes a perfect
compliment to  snow covered branches.

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A few trees and a bit of open space, the morning sun, and there you
are. Some of you may have yards where this could have been made.

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Ordinary animals, from ordinary places.

Birds of prey such as Red-tail Hawks and American Kestrels are in
suburban and even urban areas all the time. You may occasionally need
to use power lines as a part of your pictures, but do they ruin those
pictures?  .
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The American Robin is the official bird of my home state. I got this
immature bird through the open window of my car. If I was making
pictures of this bird in Yellowstone N.P. I would have been doing the
exact same things, the exact same way.

Doves and pigeons are common everywhere and this Mourning Dove, who
looks like an overweight gunfighter getting ready to draw, was on the
roof of my garage when I created this photo.
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This sky full of Starlings could have been photographed in the
wilderness, or in downtown Manhattan.
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There’s nothing like a backyard bird feeding station, to provide lots
of pictures of lots of birds.  Male Baltimore Oriole.
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Gray Catbird with a mouth full of orange.

On the fence. A female Northern Cardinal sitting on my backyard fence.
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Chipping Sparrow on bird feeder.

If you live in North American and it’s spring, almost any country
(sometimes city) roadside will bring a singing male Eastern or Western
Meadowlark, and in numbers beyond our imagination, a male Red-winged
Blackbird for relatively easy images that are also easy to sell.

It’s not necessary to visit the Serengeti in Africa, to be a wildlife
If there are open barns, old garages, picnic shelters or even car or
foot bridges in your area, check for Barn Swallow nests. Work quickly
and unobtrusively. You may need electronic flash, but they will
tolerate a lot if you leave some space between you and your subjects.

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Mammals like Tree Squirrels and Chipmunks are found in abundance in
many locations, but here I chose a roadside Thirteen-lined Ground
34SBs 116Also don’t forget that nighttime visitors like Raccoons and Opossums
can be found out in the daytime as well. This is especially true in
the winter. Both critters are omnivorous so they can be found
scavenging meat, but also eating berries and even bird seed.

Nature photography is a wonderful profession, but it is at its best as
an advanced hobby.  You don’t have to travel the world to make great
images, or to experience great moments that you can memorialize in
pictures.  Often your most compelling images will be created within a
few miles of home.  You can keep track of the seasons and what visual
wonders they bring, easier near home. You can also carry your cameras
with you when you run errands and often wind up creating your best
wildlife photos.

It is the ordinary that many photographers miss. Ordinary subjects
make extraordinary images.

“To teach is to learn”

God Bless,


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