The Regular Routine


There are days when I head out on my photo walk and wish I was someplace else – New York City or Paris. Montreal or Toronto. Washington DC or San Francisco. Someplace new and exciting and full of visual stimulation.

Someplace unknown to me. Where every corner promises new sights and surprises. Where everything is fresh and different. Big cities filled to the brim with architectural wonders that would make my head spin. I yearn for extraordinary sights and distinctive scenes. Something challenging and stimulating in front of my camera.

But the truth is I wake up each morning here, in Canton, Ohio. And while my camera and I have traveled together, the vast majority of my images are taken within a 10 mile radius of my home. This is where I ply my craft, along these familiar streets, within these few city blocks. Following this regular routine.

And even as I wish to be transported elsewhere, I understand, deep inside, that the real challenge is finding a way to make the ordinary extraordinary. To look at the scene I have viewed dozens of times and find something new. That is my real vocation. It’s not the fluff of the new but the digging deep, peeling back the layers, of where I am. Here. Every day.

That the prize comes in suddenly seeing that same boring scene in a radically different way. And finding the means to capture the wonder of that transformation.

To wake up and be here.

The Column

Continuing my Third Thursday Challenge black and white theme. Have you joined in? The link will be open through the end of the month.


Posted on January 24, 2013, in Photography and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 26 Comments.

  1. You’re ability to see things with a new eye, a different eye keeps me coming back time and time again.

    • And how lucky am I that you continue to do so – to stop here and support me with your always positive comments? Thank you for that.

  2. I totally know what you mean. The resonates with me. I’m struggling right now to see things differently-and think often “I’ve been here before” and wonder what to find, to see. To me the images you share always looks fresh and new. I love that top image, with the delicate shadows.
    For a second there I thought I missed 3rd Thursday, but yours is a continuation. Phew.

    • Susan – it’s sometimes really hard, to see something new in the same old places. And there are definitely days when I don’t succeed. But this is where I find myself and this is where my feet take me so I keep searching. The thing that keeps me going are those moments when you do see it new and you find something incredible that you somehow missed the 99 other times you looked. That makes it all worthwhile. After all, being in a new place means EVERYTHING is new and different and no matter where you look, there are image possibilities. And I am all for taking those adventures – we all need to feed our creative well with novel experiences. But my greatest satisfaction is getting a good shot the 100th time I passed that same corner.

  3. It is a challenging practice to dig deeper and find beauty in the ordinary, but I think you do it so well. I love that first shot with its diagonal lines and shadows. I remind myself that every day is unique and that there will never be another one with its special combination of light, temperature, shadow. I really learned this lesson in going to my favorite park near my house in Sacramento nearly every day for years, and seeing it in all the seasons and weather conditions.

    • Gina – oh, yes! how very, very true. The conditions are never the same – the time of year, the time of day, the light, the clouds – all combine to make each experience unique. We just have to draw from that truth and capture it.

  4. Oh, Brenda – your gift for creating the extraordinary from whatever it is you see, inspires me! Every time you post, your eye, and your creative vision and process, has produced something beautiful, transporting, awe-inspiring. I completely understand the desire to be somewhere else – especially this time of year! 🙂 And, I would so love to have you visit here in Toronto. What a joy it would be to photo walk with you, and discover my city anew through you eyes! Joy! We must do it some day. We must! But, until then, I’m with you in spirit, along side as you take this amazing artistic journey of yours. Thank you for sharing it with all of us. xo

    • Juli – Someday, yes? You and me plus cameras and Toronto? You live in an amazing city and it would be so much fun to walk it with you – the version of Toronto that you capture and share with us. How very lucky I am to have you as a companion on this journey.

  5. I think someday you will visit the cities that you dream of. But you do such an amazing job of finding the extraordinary in the everydayness, that you might be overwhelmed …… which means you would have to move there! There is a place and time for all things. I have yet to explore the quaint little town where we live….It would take forever to fully know it. You just manage to make every photo fresh. I never think of anything as repeating. I agree, the top image is really quite a winner…perfectly composed and balanced, like a finely stitched suit.
    What a steady hand and sure eye you have. So keep clicking away, we all love what you create. smiles: sharon

    • Sharon – You are so right. I have been to some of these cities that I mentioned – and yes, visual overwhelm was the order of the day. When everything is new, it’s hard to know where to look, how to see, how to find that one view that works. There is something about exploring the routine and the familiar. So yes, I’ll keep clicking away, bringing you Canton, Ohio – in all its glory 🙂

  6. I love your thoughts here and know just what you mean. I was doing one of my usual walks the other day with my camera thinking, really what else do I have to say about this! I love that second shot here, fabulous perspective.
    ps add London to your list, we’ll have fun and there is the best juxtaposition of old and modern architecture!

    • Becs – I will absolutely add London to my list – wouldn’t that be something? Architecture heaven – and being able to share it with a native!

      And I ask myself that question all the time – how can I find something new to say? Sometimes it seems impossible to think I’ll find a new image from all the ones I’ve already taken of the same scene. But then, the light falls differently, or I change my viewpoint – and there it is. There’s nothing better than that.

  7. First I have to say that this series is a perfect example of how it’s possible to find beauty in unexpected places and I think I fully understand the rush you get from it.

    I’ve had the same experience with my shooting radius. The vast majority of my shots come from a several mile radius around my work. Challenging and frustrating at times, in the end I developed a strange comfort in really knowing the area wherein I shot (and continue to shoot). Better still is the feeling that comes from really finding a diamond in the rough–seeing something that went unnoticed by others and nabbing it. You rock at this!

    I’m curious though, do you get any pushback from over-protective security guards or police? That’s been the biggest struggle for me. I get very little leeway from them even though I assume they’ve seen me countless times. Ah well, just adds to the excitement I guess.

    • Chris – there IS a “strange comfort” from walking the same streets. Rather than experiencing visual overload – which is what happens to me when presented with a new place – I have to slow way down and really look, really see beyond what I know is there. And yes, the payoff is that amazing feeling that comes from finding some new within the old – it doesn’t get any better than that.

      And yes – I have had my share of security guard interference. I have been told to “cease and desist” at the mall (twice) and the library. Standing on a public sidewalk, I was taking photos of a newly-built research center of a major corporation and the security guard informed me that I wasn’t permitted to do so. I politely told them that photography was allowed of anything from a public sidewalk. They insisted and, being basically a wimp in the face of authority, I left.

      Because of these “rules”, it is a real challenge to find an indoor place to shoot here in the winter. Luckily, I am able to walk around in the local community college where I took my photography classes. There are so many places where I wish I could shoot but I don’t even try.

  8. Photography is not a crime!! 🙂

  9. Yes, making the ordinary extraordinary…as you do so well. I understand that desire for new vistas. But, like your experience here, when I make an effort (with a capital E) to really look where I have always been looking, there is always something new that gets my attention.

    That is the draw of photography to me. Seeing through the lens with a new perspective.

    • Deb – you are right. You do have to try harder when faced with the familiar – but then the payoff is so much more when you find the new within the old. There are still many cities that I want to see and experience with camera in hand but I derive the most satisfaction from constantly re-discovering my hometown.

  10. You do an excellent job of finding new ways of seeing and sharing your everyday world. It is a challenge many of us face as we photograph in our daily world. It is good to know others share the challenge. It is good to see how others meet this challenge.
    I especially like the first image. So Brenda.

    • Anita – yes, that is the best thing about sharing here. Discovering that these feelings and questions are not yours alone – that others struggle with the same issues and find ways to overcome. It is inspiring.

  11. I think you hit the nail on the head, Brenda, at the end when you said “to wake up and be here.” To me, the ordinary is always extraordinary. And you show that so well.

    • Kim – sometimes, I find it hard to remember that the ordinary is extraordinary. That’s where photography brings me back and I am glad to “wake up and be here”.

  12. Yes, I’d like to go to Paris too. I agree though, I enjoy finding the interesting in the every day- & to be honest we wouldn’t be taking many photos if we only got the camera out when we were in new & interesting places.

    • Leanne – there are so many iconic cities that I would like to explore – Paris is certainly one of them. But you are right – it is the daily moments captured; the deeper exploration of where we are – that is truly the most meaningful.

  13. “That is my real vocation. It’s not the fluff of the new but the digging deep, peeling back the layers, of where I am. Here. Every day.” I love these lines. It’s so difficult, but so worth it, isn’t it?

    • Lisa – yes, the digging deep remains a challenge. I am having an especially hard time these days, when the weather is uncooperative and walking outside on my usual routes involves many layers of clothing. And even when I do venture outdoors, the light is flat and dull and uninspiring. But I soldier on – what else is there to do?

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