One of my favorite things to do when away from home is to grab my camera and wander. I try to wander without expectations, but with the hope that something might speak to me. Sometimes I do my wandering in nature. Other times, it may be in a city or small town. It doesn’t really matter, as both are rich in visual offerings. I find it is much more about my mindset—being open and receptive, and taking time to explore. I can’t be in a hurry when I do this. It is more about slowing down, observing and receiving an image than creating one. I like to think of such images as small, beautiful gifts.
This is one of those images. It is not the kind of subject I would normally seek out: a slightly crooked garage door barricaded by wire fencing on an abandoned commercial building. Yet I loved the soft colors, the layered patterns and the soft, even light. It was the subtlety of the broken pattern of the rusted wires that added the element of mystery and surprise—that turned this from a pattern image into a story for me.
Sometimes, we are given a brief moment to capture—such as those “decisive moments” for which Henri Cartier-Bresson is so well known. This is especially true when people or moving subjects are involved. Other times, however, we can take time to explore and be curious, framing our subject in many different ways. Rarely is there one perfect way to frame a scene, and each of us would likely see the scene in a different way. So we explore and play and experiment and respond, finding the image that best speaks to us in the moment. A few other images that were part of my exploration process that day are shown below.
Especially with the convenience of camera phones, it’s easy to wander about and explore subjects that catch our attention. Don’t stop with the grab shot. Instead, take a few minutes to explore more deeply. Indulge your sense of curiosity!
Patterns make great visual subjects. Broken patterns are even more interesting, as they add an element of surprise, introduce a story or spur a question. It's that one yellow leaf among a sea of red leaves. Or the one seagull in the flock that is facing the opposite direction. Or the brick that is missing from the wall. When you find an interesting pattern, see if you can find a way to break it, layer it or otherwise offer an unexpected element to the composition.