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Detours; a Last Look

Tug Boat
Copyright Andy Richards 2014

The last couple posts have treated the concept of “detours” in a literal, or at least near-literal way.  But there is certainly another way to look at the concept.  When we come to a subject we often have a pre-concieved idea of how to depict it.  We are often looking at the “big picture” (pun absolutely intended 🙂 ).  And when we do that, we often miss what may perhaps be the real image.  Sometimes we have to take a conceptual “detour” from the conventional way of photographing things, to see “our” image.  In life, detours are often an inconvenience.  Detours in photography, particularly conceptual detours, open up creative opportunity.

Detours in photography, particularly conceptual detours, open up creative opportunity


I made a “full” image of this tugboat; several of them in fact.  But none of them were really the image – my image.  What attracted me to the boat in the first place was much more abstract.  It doesn’t really matter if it is a boat (though there is plenty of context here to make that clear).  This image was primarily about color, contrast and context.  Maybe a little about shape.

In 2011, we did a Napa Vineyards tour.  I tried to get a “big picture” image that would tell the story of the vineyards.  I never succeeded to my satisfaction.  But I did see shapes and forms in these vines.  So, after trying to show the vines in a sweeping, “landscape” context, I took a detour and focused in on what I “saw.”

Grape Vines; Napa, California
Copyright Andy Richards 2011

The colored doors in Ireland are an example of both a physical and conceptual detour.  These doors are a pretty common sight, particularly in and around Dublin, where we spent several days.  Our last two nights in Dublin were actually in the suburb of Clontarf.  Most of the things “to see” in Dublin are really in the city, which is quite photogenic.  I spent a lot of time walking the streets and shooting while there.  This particular morning, I went out early, in search of a cup of coffee, with no real particular photographic idea in mind.  But I of course, carried the camera.  And of course, when I saw this row of colored doors, I had to make an image – or two 🙂 .

Colored Doors; Dublin, Ireland
Copyright Andy Richards 2014

Again, to me the picture here was about the doors and color.  But my real favorite image was the one of the single door with the approach.  My first approach was to try to get the entire building in the image.  But my “detour” took me to the true subject, that red door.

Colored Door, Dublin, Ireland
Copyright Andy Richards 2014

We have spent some time in Venice, Italy.  It is a magical place, where essentially everywhere you look is “eye-candy” for the photographer.  And it would be easy and forgivable to get completely caught up in the grandeur of the place and just shoot the “big picture.”  But again, a detour from this concept, and at times physically away from the main drag, will be wonderfully rewarded.  On one of our walking tours, we walked through the famous fish market.  I knew I had to go back one morning and shoot.  I made many images there, and this one is just one that seemed somewhat representative.  It is an image that is “off the beaten path,” both physically and conceptually.

Fish Market; Venice, Italy
Copyright Andy Richards 2013

Sometimes a “detour” in photography involves seeing things in your surroundings that were not part of the primary objective.  It involves slowing down, and looking.  In 2012, my friend Rich and I (and spouses) took a trip to Grand Teton National Park.  We were there to photograph the grand scenery:  Oxbow Bend, The Beaver Pond with peaks in the background, the Moulton Barns, Elk, Buffalo, maybe some bears and moose.  But driving down the road, we saw this guy (obviously also “capturing” the big picture), and we knew there was a photographic “story.”  Just a small detour.

Painter, Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming
Copyright Andy Richards 2012

In 2015, my wife and I purchased a second home (now our only home) in the Tampa-St. Petersburg area of Florida.  Our small community which is essentially a suburb of Clearwater, Florida, is near the Gulf of Mexico, and there is a State Park I often visit to capture the sunset: Honeymoon Island, State Park.  I see a lot of shots of Gulf side sunsets with water and sky.  Although it is tough to argue that the sunset skies are incredible, I really think there needs to be some foreground interest to make a “good” florida sunset image.  So I am always trying to find that element.  There are some reefs that work here.  While looking for a good composition, I saw this couple sitting on the reef, watching the sunset.  While making a few images, I kept my eye on them, having a “feeling” that at some point they would create an opportunity for me.  I knew the light would sillouhette them, which was what I wanted.  Sure enough, they stood and faced each other.  And I made the image.  A small detour from my original plan.  A pretty good detour.

Honeymoon Island State Park, Dunedin, Florida
Copyright Andy Richards 2015

On our recent Mediterranean Cruise, we saw a lot of very beautiful sights, with nothing better than Santorini (perhaps competing with Venice as my favorite “eye-candy” site).  But we had been to Athens a couple times and seen all the famous historical sites.  So we opted for a walking, food tour of the city.  It was a fun time and I would happily spend some time getting to know the old city of Athens.  I took a few images of the buildings and some of the quirky things like the ancient churches with huge modern structures build around them.  As we stood in one of the squares, I saw this mural and felt compelled to capture it.

Athens, Greece
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

My trip to Newport, Rhode Island was all about the ocean, lighthouses, and nautical themes.  And we were fortunate to be there during the Newport Boat show.  Which meant we saw some incredibly massive boats, both power and sail.  Newport is a sailing place and some of the sailboats were to me, previously unimaginable.  And I felt like I had been on some pretty good-sized sailboats on the great lakes over the years.  So I burned a lot of pixels shooting some if these impressive vessels.  But again, occasionally, I would drill down and take a detour away from the big picture, to some interesting detail.

Sailboat Hardware
Newport, Rhode Island
Copyright Andy Richards 2016

Opportunities for detours come when you look for them, and and when you are willing to “think outside the box” just a bit.  One of the things I look for when I am photographing is signs.  I often make sign images just to help me remember about places I have been.  But I think my first fascination came when I shot a shop sign hanging along the walkway in a rural Virginia town that said “Open.”  But it was upside-down.  It was quirky, so I shot it with some street context.  That was back in my B&W days in college, so I was able to develop a print and I framed it and hung it in my dorm-room with the sign right-side-up.  It made for an interesting image.  Unfortunately, I wasn’t a good saver back then.  Maybe someday I will have an opportunity to re-create it.  I like to think I have a pretty good sense of humor.  So when I saw these two signs juxtaposed, I couldn’t help myself 🙂 .  There are sooooo many thoughts.  I will leave it to your own interpretation.

Copyright Andy Richards 2015



One Response

  1. […] it through the lens the way your mind’s eye does?  A couple weeks ago, in my “Detours” blog, I spoke of a scene near where my office used to be, in Frankenmuth, Michigan, with red […]

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