Photograph the world from your neighborhood

Casey and Lisa, Dia de los Muertos Booth

Tall Man and Small Dogs, Dia de los Muertos Parade – Austin, Texas


This is a continuation of Dia de los Muertos with the Olympus E-PL1, a post I made a few days ago. This time, rather than talking about equipment, I talk about why I photograph instead of how I photograph.

As I thought about the Dia de los Muertos event that I went to this past weekend, I thought about how neat it is to live in the United States and experience these things. There are certainly may wonderful advantages about living in America but the multicultural aspect is certainly on of them. To experience the food and festivals of the various cultures around the world without leaving the country. Sure, the events, parades and food we have in the US may not by 100% authentic and not all places in the US have a large multicultural population however, it is certainly more convenient traveling maybe few hundred miles and not hopping on a plane to visit another country. Even in Austin, which is a medium size city, we have hispanic cultural events, we have German towns with Oktoberfest, we have Chinese New Year celebrations. Each is an opportunity to photograph. Each is an opportunity to document a world that maybe different from the typical suburban US experience.

Please click on an image to see a larger version

I was listening to a web-based photography seminar this past weekend. The famous photographer talked about how he leads photo tours to Nepal, India, Mongolia, different countries in South America and other photo-enticing world-wide destinations. Exciting, I’m sure and very expensive. By going on these elaborate photo junkets, do you really think this will make you a better photographer? Is going on some expensive and fancy photography seminar on the other side of the planet going to magically transform your photographic eye, allow you to quickly compose and adjust exposures or change your creative vision? Maybe, but I doubt it. It might be fun and it can certainly be a trip of a life time but that’s not the same as practicing the craft of photography. I think constant practice is the key to photography as it is in many other things. Save your money and shoot more often in your own town. Take advantage of the US’s multicultural heritage — closer to home — and shoot more often. Now, I have nothing against traveling abroad. It’s a fantastic way to get to know more people and learn more about their culture. Daily pilgrimages to Little Italy, Chinatown or a Little Tokyo is no substitute for the real thing. But, in terms of photography, practicing often and nearby is going to yield better results.

Consider that if you get really good at capturing events closer to home, imagine how much better you will be if you do finally get to that exotic location. I’m not claiming my photographs are any great shakes but I’m out there often and I practice. And just maybe, If I go out there enough locally, I may even transcend the need to travel to the other side of the world, at least for street and lifestyle photography. Now landscapes, that’s a different story and another blog post.

Here are a bunch more photographs from this event.

Dia de los Muertos Parade

Dia de los Muertos Parade – Austin, Texas

5 thoughts on “Photograph the world from your neighborhood

  1. Very good advice, and nice photos as always.

    We’re also lucky here in Germany; we have so many other countries nearby, so even when traveling it’s doable by car rather than airplane. We’ve been to Italy this spring for instance, and loved every inch of it.

    But I also try to practice locally. May I insert a link to a group here which I created on Flickr, for others to participate? It’s called “People of Moerfelden-Walldorf”, and that small space where we live is some 20km (or some 13 miles) from Frankfurt, where I work, with Germany’s biggest airport in between. The address is http://www.flickr.com/groups/moerfelden-walldorf/ – and I have mostly photos of this year’s carnival parade there at the moment.

    Practicing locally is great, you might even overcome your fears of talking to and photographing strangers…

  2. Wolfgang, you so right. It’s so nice in Europe how, with a short train or car ride, you are in another country with a different culture and architecture.

    Looked at your Flickr group. I like how I feel like I’m part of the parade. Looks like a fun festival.

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