Overlooking the Obvious: The Art of Not Seeing What You’re Looking At

I make myself shoot something every day for the shear discipline of it. You’re only good at what you do every day, and I intend to stay on top of my game. Occasionally I’ll walk around my own neighborhood in search of my subject du jour. Occasionally I walk for half an hour without seeing anything worthy of turning on the camera.

Today was one of those days. Nothing. Just boring nothing.

Then I opened my mind in addition to my eyes and suddenly I couldn’t stop framing and shooting.

UnobviousWhat happened? I stopped looking for that interesting detail and dramatic lighting and started seeing what was right in front of me. Maybe not the knock-your-eyes-out color burst variety, but the simple beauty of natural composition. And it doesn’t have to be limited to nature, but the beauty of visual contrast. The contrast of shapes, colors, textures that are around us all day every day.

Something reminded me that you shouldn’t have to look special to be noticed, just bloom where you’re planted. Everything has a purpose. My purpose today was to open my eyes.

Sometimes I’m guilty of packing a subconscious agenda when I slip into my shoulder sling and I expect something in front of me to scream “look at me, I’m worthy.” I had to wince when I finally realized my smugness. Today I saw what I wasn’t looking for and it woke me up. You truly see what you’re looking for, and in the process sometimes you miss what’s staring right back at you.

Photographers come in all shapes and sizes and use this marvelous process for a variety of reasons; artistic, philosophical, nature, sports, babies, politics, etc. Depending on the day, I’ll wear any pair of those shoes. But whatever your bent or purpose, I encourage you to look wider than normal and see the world you’re missing. It might be your best work.

No lecture or lesson here. Just a personal observation. Look at life differently and shoot something new tomorrow and then share it with me. I’d love to see it.

About Herb Paynter

Herb is a published author, photographer, retoucher, color reproduction specialist and a regular writer for Digital Photography School. Download his iBook Digital Color Photography from the iTunes store and view his Light and Color video series at Gotta Know Videos.com.
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