Photograph Wherever You Are — Seeing the Extraordinary in the Mundane

Two Caballeros – Culleoka, TX – Fujifilm X-E4 – “Kodachrome 64”

I had an epiphany today. It’s been building in my mind for several days now, but it was only today that I believe I fully understood it: photograph wherever you are. Whichever place it is that you find yourself, capture it with your camera.

When I was 16-years-old, my family moved to a small unincorporated community in Texas called Culleoka, which is north of Dallas near Lake Lavon. At that time it was in the middle of nowhere—and it still is—but the city has been inching closer and closer, and is now at its doorstep. I finished high school while there and enrolled in college. I studied photography for two years before leaving home—and Texas—at 19. That was a long time ago; however, my parents still live in the same house in Culleoka.

I bring up all of this because I realized that, despite learning photography while I lived there, and despite all of the times that I’ve visited over the years, I’ve never photographed Culleoka. I never thought this place was photographically interesting. I always traveled elsewhere with my camera, whether it was McKinney, Plano, Dallas, or any number of other towns in the region. I never photographed where I lived.

Courtesy Dock Closed – Culleoka, TX – Fujifilm X-E4 – “Kodachrome 64”

Visiting my parents now, for some reason—maybe because I’m older—I find Culleoka to be a much more interesting place. Yes, there’s still not much to see. If you blinked while driving through you’d miss it. There’s a gas station. A Dollar General, which is a fairly new addition. An auto body shop. A fireworks stand. A couple of churches. Maybe a couple hundred people live in Culleoka, many in mobile homes. There’s access to Lake Lavon at the far edge.

I regret now not photographing where I was, because there’s actually a lot of opportunity, if only I had had an open mind. I didn’t see it before. I just thought it was a boring place. Those “other places” were much more fascinating. I had to drive somewhere else to capture interesting pictures. Perhaps you can relate. Maybe you believe that wherever it is you are isn’t worth your camera’s attention, and because you see it day in and day out it is difficult to view it with fresh eyes.

How do you view a highly familiar location with fresh eyes? For me, I think it was just being away for a few years. Actually, I saw some interesting sunlight on the gas station, and a lightbulb went off in my mind. I was reminded of Wim Winders book Written in the West, which inspired me to photograph Culleoka using my Fujifilm X-E4 programmed with the Kodachrome 64 Film Simulation Recipe. Some ideas are to envision yourself as a tourist experiencing the place for the first time, simply keeping a photographic eye out for interesting light, or reading photography books where some pictures are similar to your current location.

W.S.C. – Culleoka, TX – Fujifilm X-E4 – “Kodachrome 64”

Just because you believe that where you are is uninteresting, doesn’t mean there aren’t things worth photographing. You have to keep a constant eye out. Maybe you need to view it through a fresh perspective. Perhaps you just need to get out with your camera on a regular basis and keep at it until you finally “see it” as some new inspiration hits you—I think just getting out with your camera is the best advice that I have.

Don’t be like me and fail to photograph where you are. Just because you don’t think it is worthwhile doesn’t mean that it’s not worthwhile—with a fresh perspective, you’re likely to find things that actually are interesting, things you maybe passed by hundreds of times and it never caught your attention. You have a great opportunity, and perhaps an interesting series of pictures will emerge from it.

It’s an easy trap to think that you have to go someplace else in order to capture interesting pictures. I certainly believed that for awhile, even though I used to say that the job of a photographer is to find the extraordinary in the mundane. I didn’t always practice what I preached—I assumed that where I was wasn’t interesting enough—but my statement was correct: it’s my job to find what others overlook in the places I find myself, and create compelling pictures with my camera. I hope that I’ve accomplished that this time around.

Some of the pictures that I captured in Colleoka, Texas, over the last few days:

Abandoned Houses – Culleoka, TX – Fujifilm X-E4 – “Kodachrome 64”
Boaters Warning – Culleoka, TX – Fujifilm X-E4 – “Kodachrome 64”
Man at Lake Lavon – Culleoka, TX – Fujifilm X-E4 – “Kodachrome 64”
Abandoned Shack – Culleoka, TX – Fujifilm X-E4 – “Kodachrome 64”
Red Taco Trailer – Culleoka, TX – Fujifilm X-E4 – “Kodachrome 64”


Find this Film Simulation Recipe and over 200 more on the Fuji X Weekly App, available for both Android and iPhone.

If you have an iPhone, be sure to check out my iPhone camera app: RitchieCam! Find it in the Apple App Store.

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13 comments

  1. Ed C · May 25

    I just wtached an excellent Aussie film called “Gold” starrng Zac Efron.  The cinematic effect seemed to be B&W but had a dstinct tone to it-maybe a silver effect? If you watch a preview on YouTube, maybe you can get an idea of what I mean. It was pretty cool. Maybe we can copy it? GOLD Trailer (2022)

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    Like

    • Ritchie Roesch · May 26

      It looks very Bleach Bypass to me (from the trailer). Do you have a camera with the Eterna Bleach Bypass film simulation?

      Like

  2. Francis.R. · May 26

    A small and neat community. Peaceful. In Instagram one can follow hashtags, I follow hashtags of my country because they are photos mostly taken by foreigners and as so they are amazed by the things we have as a given and therefore we don’t notice. The only few times when people awakens to what is close to us tend to be when getting new cellphones or cameras, as a way to explore the new equipment.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ritchie Roesch · May 26

      That’s great advice: look at IG hashtags of your local area for inspiration. I’d never thought of that. Thank you for your input!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. justingould · May 26

    I have an exercise for times I’m low on inspiration. I stop at a random point and from wherever I am, I have to take four pictures. It makes me aware of small details and to look and things with new eyes.

    Like

    • Ritchie Roesch · May 26

      That’s a wonderful exercise! I’ve heard of something similar (although I have never done it myself): one picture in each direction (front, back, left, right, up, down), for a total of six. It sounds like good practice. Thank you for sharing this tip!

      Liked by 1 person

      • justingould · May 26

        Thanks Ritchie. Ah, yes. I’ve also see the ‘shoot from far, mid and near’ as well. These exercises are all good for helping us ‘see’.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Ritchie Roesch · May 26

        Absolutely! It’s great to stay in photographic shape. Athletes and musicians practice daily, and photographers should, too.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. The pandemic kind of forced me (and many others) to stay put and I struggled with finding fresh inspiration. Sometimes it works to blank my mind and see a familiar place anew. Sometimes I need music for a different mindset. Lately I discovered street photography because people are always new and different. Seeing something in the mundane is a real talent but also a skill one can train.

    Like

    • Ritchie Roesch · May 26

      Playing some tunes with AirPods or Beats Buds is a great idea! I should definitely try it. Thank you for your suggestion! I agree: finding the interesting in the mundane is a skill that can be practiced and learned.

      Like

  5. Udo · 30 Days Ago

    At the beginning of the first Covid lockdown, a little bit more then 2 years ago, I started to do a walk around my appartment a few times per week. I’m living on the countryside of eastern Switzerland and the walk is an approx. 1km round. Of course I took at my first walk mit X-T30 with me and I did so at my second, third … walk. After a few walks I questioned myself whether it’s still worth to take the camera with me, because honestly along the way there are only a few farm houses and a lot of nature. In the meantime I guess I did somewhere between 50 and 100 of these walks around my appartment. And to my surprise I’m still exploring each time a few more things to photograph. This came to my mind when reading your nice article.

    Kind regards from Switzerland,
    Udo

    Like

    • Ritchie Roesch · 29 Days Ago

      Thank you for this comment! It’s very surprising at what one can find even though they have photographed the same place over and over. I think it’s a sign of growth as a photographer, that your vision is becoming stronger. Keep it up!

      Like

  6. Pingback: Photograph Wherever You Are — Seeing the Extraordinary in the Mundane — FUJI X WEEKLY – a world without pictures is like coffee without cream and sugar, bitter

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