I look for any excuse to get outside and take photographs. More often than not I make excuses to stay inside. This weekend I had the time, motivation and a favorable weather forecast. And by favorable, i’m talking snow, lots of snow.
It’s been a while since I roamed around Washington, D.C., in search of photographs. When walking around in search of subjects or situations to photograph, it’s important to have realistic expectations, or in some cases no expectations. What? For me, In lieu of a paid assignment and with an absence of deadline, I have to remind myself that it is alright to spend a day with my camera and not come home with a photograph.
And that’s exactly what happened on Saturday. I walked about seven miles while I waited for snow that didn’t come and in the end, didn’t take any photos of significance. But I did take notice of how quiet D.C. was. Even for a normally quiet Saturday, the federal government shutdown made it seem even quieter. No museums open, cold weather and a threat of snow, meant a lack of activity.
That night as I thought about the day and watched the snow begin to fall just as the light began to fade, I began to think about what I would see the next day when I returned. Snow and the federal government shutdown. Without knowing it, I was coming up with a self assignment. And sometimes it only takes a small idea to get the creativity started.
There was already four or so inches of snow when I returned to D.C. the next morning. I made a big sweep past the White House, around the WWII memorial, the reflecting pool and the Lincoln Memorial. The whole while I was taking photos, but nothing was exciting me. Then it happened.
I was walking along Constitution Avenue past the Smithsonian National Museum of American History when some movement caught my eye. At first I thought it was just some snow falling off a high up wall. I soon realized it was an unseen worker clearing snow from the stairs and throwing it over the edge. I immediately framed the shot and waited. Sure enough the action repeated itself and I took several photos before I started to think about repositioning for another composition. I moved and shot some more. I then spent the next 20 minutes photographing several workers as they shoveled snow.
And just like that, I knew I had my first real photo of the day. A photo that told a story of the federal government shutdown, closed museums, but still a need to clear snow for people that wouldn’t, or couldn’t, enter. The photograph had story, a nice graphical element and scale.
Sometimes it takes that first picture to get things rolling.
It’s perfectly alright to not get a great photo every time you venture out. It’s ok to not know what you want to photograph when you leave the house. It’s alright to wonder if you will ever get a photograph that tells a story or evokes an emotion.
It’s not alright, however, to not pick up your camera and head outside.