Bound and Determined

There’s not an amateur photographer out there who doesn’t hit the photographic brick wall once in a while. It’s like writer’s block – the mind goes blank, and you can’t think of one thing to shoot.

I’m not the best photographer, but one thing I do well is consistently find new subjects to take pictures of. Fellow photographers often tell me, “I don’t live in the right area, and I can’t afford a photography trip.” The answer to all your problems is a pencil and a notebook.

The notebook carried in your pocket is an idea book. Bring it with you everywhere, and jot down one-word ideas whenever they come up. Words may include lighthouse, festivals, buffalo, bridges or trees. Go home and look them up on the Internet. You’ll be surprised at how much you discover.

What’s my point? No matter where you live, there are plenty of things to photograph. To save time, know where you’re going and what you’ll be shooting. Have a topic in mind, and don’t limit yourself to a specific type of photography. You may think landscape shots are your calling, but after trying other things, you may change your mind.

Remember: When you see those great photographs of exotic places, they are only exotic places because you don’t live there. People who do live there say, “Oh, that old mountain? I see it every day.” The place in which you live is not a bad one, and to others it looks fantastic and different. That’s why so many people come to the Finger Lakes – to see the sites and, of course, take pictures.


When I searched for waterfalls in New York State, more than 200 were listed. All had different drive times. Some were as close as 10 minutes, while others were four hours away.

Hot Air Balloons & Civil War Reenactments
These scenes found at Finger Lakes festivals are photo inspiring.

Keep reminders in your notebook that ducks arrive in April. Redheads are only here for a few days or weeks.

Buffalo meat was on sale in Wegmans one day, so I jotted down the word “buffalo.” When I looked it up online, I discovered there was a bison farm 30 minutes away. I visited it that weekend, and captured this shot.

Finger Lakes Lighthouse
I placed the word “lighthouse” in my notebook, and when I got on the Internet I found over 40 in New York State. When I went out to capture this image, I found other great shots of beaches, waterfowl and lakefronts.

Dock at sunset
Take note of lighting conditions, sun direction and time of day. This dock photograph is simple, but the lighting at sunset made it phenomenal.

Planes, trains and automobiles fill my notebook. Find planes at an airport, or as reproductions in museums. Automobiles may be antiques, junk cars or race cars.

by Paul Anderson

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