(Apologies to Robert Frost for misrepresenting his great poem)
If you shoot from your car, I believe the way you travel affects the results you get. Following a road less traveled can be as important as where you go.
I was visiting with my friend Cole Thompson (a great black & white photographer; check out his web site and blog) and we discussed the way we like to travel and how it affects us. We agreed that freeways and main highways are something we avoid when possible.
This is something I have long held as a personal belief, but I had never really tried to express why. I’m very intuitive and I trust my instinct, even when I don’t have a conscious, rational argument for it. In trying to get deeper into my belief I see that I relate driving an interstate highway to watching TV. You are in a brain dead state. You are switched off. For the driving, you react to what’s around you, but you don’t really see anything. Even if something interesting manages to catch your attention, you are unlikely to overcome the inertia of the highway and pull off to do some photography. Your mind set is to get on down the road, keep moving, rack up the miles, get to your destination on schedule.
In most of the country there is a marvelous secondary network of roads. US highways (think Route 66 ☺), State highways, even county roads are often very good ways to explore more scenic and interesting places than you encounter along the freeway. Speeds are generally slower and you go through towns. Actual little towns with cafes and gas stations and people sitting on park benches visiting. Have you been there recently?
But, this is SLOWER! Yes, and that’s a key. Slow down your pace. Take time to see new things. Don’t be in such a hurry that you hesitate to stop to explore someplace new or experiment with a photo that may (or may not) turn out interesting. If you are traveling on a smaller road it seems much easier to hit pause and take a detour.
On a photo explore recently I was traveling back from Texas to Colorado. I took a back road out of Dalhart, just because I had never been that way. To my surprise I spent nearly 3 hours going from Dalhart to Texline, and it’s only 36 miles as the crow flies! I got caught up in the incredible beauty of this wide open high plains area on that particular cold morning with frost on everything. No regrets spending the time, even though it did put me later than I wanted getting home. I won’t remember or regret being late. I will remember this area. When you find something worthwhile, stop to explore it.
And that, to me, is what it is all about. If we call ourselves an artist we should be working our art. Our brain should be engaged and our head should be swiveling every chance we get. If we are in a semi coma on the freeway we are not following our art. Slow down, look around, take the path less traveled.
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.