blog article

Some learnings, observations and helpful tips in photography


Looking for beauty in the everyday

Sometimes the most photogenic scene is alway right in front of you; it just takes time, waiting for the right light conditions and looking a little harder at a location for the aesthetic to reveal itself.

By Brenton Jones


February 16, 2019

As a landscape photographer, I'm constantly asked 'what's the best photo you've taken?'

The corny answer to this question is 'I haven't taken it yet'? But if I'm forced to pick one, then it's this photo, 'The road home'. It's perhaps my favourite because of how it was captured, the mood and atmosphere it evokes and what it symbolises to me.

If any of you have seen the movie, American Beauty, you'll know that there's a famous scene where a boy films a plastic bag as it's picked up by the wind and travels in beautiful harmony with its surroundings in an everyday urban streetscape. This scene, since first watching the movie back in 1999, has always reminded me to look at things differently, that there's beauty all around us if only we're willing to look more closely.

The flying plastic bag in the 1999 movie classic, American Beauty. A reminder to also look closer at the world around us.

There are many golden rules in landscape photography, which if broken, can hurt real bad. One of those golden rules of course is never leave home without your photography gear. On this one day in 2016 when I was driving home from work, I just happened to have my photography gear in the car. From that day on, I've never left home without it (I think there's an ad slogan in that!).

For four years, every day of the working week, I travelled from Orange NSW to Bathurst NSW. This one way, 56 km road trip blesses me with some wonderful, yet oddly mundane rural views. To me, it's a beautiful landscape, but it's also very familiar, just like an urban streetscape with fallen leaves from the movie scene above.

Despite this mundane familiarity, not a day goes by when I'm not mentally constructing potential compositions in my head. What's great about this process is those potential compositions can change depending on what the light is doing and what impact the weather is having on the landscape too. Think sunrise/sunset, fog in the valley, black clouds above and rain falling on the distance hills, elements or moments that can make or break the mood and atmosphere of an image.

I often fantasise about certain locations on the side of the road thinking, 'that would be an awesome shot if only there was some lightening hitting the ground in the distance'. Well, I didn't quite have the luxury of being gifted with lightening this one drive home but I certainly got hit with a dramatic rain storm and some fabulous afternoon light.

'The road home' photograph is literally that; an image of a road I take all the time but never saw a shot until the weather and light presented itself right there in the moment. Now, I very rarely have the time to indulge in spontaneous photography. 99.99% of the time, I am meticulously planning shots well in advance. The reality however is I had actually planned this shot in my head for about 2 years; it just wasn't clear to me until the conditions presented the perfect image. The wet road and it's reflection of the light in the sky, the darkness of the trees framing the road and the rise and fall of the landscape as it pulls your eye through to the far horizon, to uncover some everyday yet comforting reminders of home...the tree on the hill, the neighbours white ute, the cows in the paddock.

Mood and atmosphere in an image is everything. I look at this photograph and it instantly takes me back to that moment when I stepped out of the car and my camera got wet from the rain. More than that, it reminds me daily of why I moved my wife and kids to this area of the Central West NSW, a place of dramatic weather changes and extremes and winters that can often see snow. This photo is the rural Orange I see everyday. It's my plastic bag blowing in the wind.

Lessons learned:
1. NEVER EVER leave home without your photography gear.

2. Never stop mentally building compositions in your head of locations you're exposed to everyday. The day will come when everything aligns. You just have to be ready to take the shot!

3. Beauty, or the aesthetic, is alway around us; just look a little closer.