Walking: The Secret to Great Photography
“Walking brings me back to myself.” Laurette Mortimer
How are you today? I hope this is finding you and yours safe and well.
You know what – I hate walking.
I admit it!
I am not someone who will ever say, hey let’s go for a walk!
Unlike my wife and son, who love walks, and will walk for hours and hours – with no purpose or destination in mind!
That seems so unappealing to me.
If I have a purpose, a destination or a reason to be walking – other than just walking – I love it.
And guess what my favourite purpose is?
Yes! Taking photos. You got it.
Walking with my camera and exploring is my very very very favourite thing to do.
The whole process of walking for a few hours or more at a time becomes almost a meditative practice with my photography that is simply essential to how I love to shoot.
Walking and getting lost – are usually the best combo for me.
And I imagine you might feel the same.
Today I’d like to share some of the reasons why walking is the secret to great photography.
Set your intention
“Most of the time walking is merely practical, the unconsidered locomotive means between two sites. To make walking into an investigation, a ritual, a meditation, is a special subset of walking, physiologically like and philosophically unlike the way the mail carrier brings the mail and the office worker reaches the train. Which is to say that the subject of walking is, in some sense, about how we invest universal acts with particular meanings.” Rebecca Solnit
For me walking and shooting requires me to set an intention to be open to everything on my walk and to approach this experience not as a journey to getting anywhere – but to simply be on a journey of curiosity and seeing.
Clear your mind and go without expectations
This can actually be pretty challenging – removing yourself from expectation. The reason you should do this is because it makes you ready to receive more photographic opportunities. It opens you up to see more.
The reason it’s tough is because our lives are dominated by expectations. We expect our walks to end at a certain destination, we expect our spouse to stack the dishes in the sink a certain way, we expect our kids to be less noisy.
When we are out walking with our camera we want to stop expecting to see certain things because it limits our capacity for observation.
To give you a basic example – when you’re walking around Paris, you don’t want to keep looking for the Eiffel Tower all the time, because you’ll miss so many other things by spending our attention looking and expecting to see the Eiffel Tower.
We only have so much attention to give at each moment.
Brings deeper meaning to simple pleasures
“Nature’s particular gift to the walker… is to set the mind jogging, to make it garrulous, exalted, a little mad maybe — certainly creative and suprasensitive.” Kenneth Grahame
Walking is something that almost all of us have access to, even if we’re limited to how far we can go. It’s not about going to exotic new locations, or buying more kit.
It’s just about being outside, probably being alone – and becoming ‘suprasenstive’ to what’s around us.
Travel light – one body, one lens
I travel with my full kit because I am well practised with it, I can change things without being pulled out of the creative experience. So until you feel like this – try walks with just one body, one lens.
The lens you feel most comfortable with, and then you are not wrestling with kit, but being awake and curious to the world around you – and shooting with as much ease as possible.
Look behind you – regularly
Light directionality changes the world around you, so don’t always be looking ahead – see how the light is changing where you have come from. Plus your perspective changes the light.
Nurture your curiosity when your walking
“With the utmost love and attention the man who walks must study and observe every smallest living thing, be it a child, a dog, a fly, a butterfly, a sparrow, a worm, a flower, a man, a house, a tree, a hedge, a snail, a mouse, a cloud, a hill, a leaf, or no more than a poor discarded scrap of paper on which, perhaps, a dear good child at school has written his first clumsy letters.” Robert Walser, from his short story “The Walk
What’s in that old building, what’s behind that fence, what’s down that path, what is that person doing? Going slow and being insanely curious about anything that piques your interest – this is guaranteed to lead you to some interesting things.
Don’t have a set path & use your senses to guide you
I try as much as possible not to set out on a route, or have a destination in mind. I often like to guide myself through sounds and smells around me. To use senses other than my eyes to give me a different perspective, and help me find different things.
Get out of your rut: walking gets creativity and inspiration flowing
“I suspect that the mind, like the feet, works at about three miles an hour. If this is so, then modern life is moving faster than the speed of thought, or thoughtfulness.” Rebecca Solnit
I find it easy to get locked into working on my computer, being at home and thinking about my photography. I know I am in a bit of a rut when I start working on my images for the 4th or 5th time.
This is a sign to me that I need to get myself out the house and just walk somewhere and shoot.
The process of walking almost always sets off ideas and thoughts that I wouldn’t get sitting at home. Even if I walk somewhere and then think – this is not what I want to shoot!
And I love the quote above about how slow we actually think – so giving ourselves a task that fits in with our mental processes is going to make ideas and creative inspiration easier to flow in right?
Don’t be afraid to go to the same place over and over
I made a whole project where I shot the sea from the very same spot, same framing, over several months. The whole point of this project was about capturing the changing colours and textures of the sea and light. It’s one of my favourite recent pieces of work.
By the way if you are interested in doing a photo project – I have a new class coming up in a few weeks all about that. I will help you develop an idea and help you complete it. It’s super cool, details here and I’ve made this an excellent price for this 6-class online workshop of £397. Limited spots.
Life changes all of the time. Be prepared to pay attention and notice. See what’s new and different when you go to the same location over and over. Challenge yourself to see in your ‘old haunts’ what you haven’t seen before.
This article reminded me of to another one we wrote a few years ago on the The power of Silence.
I hope you enjoyed those ideas and thoughts about the creative art of walking!
Do you regularly use walking to aid your photography? I’d love to know, comment on our blog or hit reply.
Have a great day,
Anthony and Diana
“Every walk is a sort of crusade.” Thoreau