The Roving Photographer

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Some thoughts on location

On the DPChallenge forums the other evening, someone asked the question, “Do you ever feel limited by your location?” I found it interesting because it echoed some of my own thoughts lately on the same topic.

The replies that were posted weren’t quite what I expected. I figured that most photographers would be like me and would respond, “Yes, I do feel limited by my location. I wish I lived in __________!” But instead, there were a lot of people who said No, they were happy where they were – that they found plenty to photograph in their own cities or neighborhoods or backyards. A friend of mine in Philly went so far as to say that he’s lived there his whole life and is still finding new things to shoot. And he really is.

The sentiment “the grass is always greener” always holds true, but I still have to wonder that so many people seem to have gained such wisdom about it. Me, I suffer from wanderlust several times a year, that insatiable urge to just get up and leave, go see something new – lots of things new – and if you like it there, well, no one said you have to come back.

The sad thing is, because of responsibilities and logistics and finances, I never really take off and go roaming. Instead, I try to placate myself with day trips and short excursions that rarely go beyond the state I’m living in. Which is why I come back to the original question and say, “Yes, I feel limited! I feel constrained! I feel – goodness forgive me – bored with where I live!”

I want to travel to Wyoming and shoot the Tetons and the Snake River. I want to go to Glacier, Yosemite, and Olympic National Parks. I want to hike the Great Smokey Mountains and visit the Cumberland Gap and Harpers Ferry. I want to live a little like Moose Peterson, shooting the Reno Air Races one weekend and a workshop in Maine the next.

But then there’s the other side of the fence. My father is a pilot, so I know something about what it’s like to be away from home for extended periods, to always be on the run. I know that the shine would wear away and I’d become exhausted and dream of going home at the end of each day.

Perhaps we just can’t win.

Or perhaps we can. Perhaps winning has more to do with a frame of mind than with long airline trips and exotic locations. Perhaps it has to do with, as others have said, finding new ways to see and experience what you have around you. I may long for mountains and rivers, but I live in one of the most scenic states on the east coast.

So, as I sit here watching the rain come down outside, I think I’m going to give myself a new challenge: as this dismal, depressing weather continues, I’m going to take photos of the same old boring, bland, blah scenes that make me want to leave, and see if amid all that I can’t find something to celebrate.

Brent Pennington

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