Not all photos are a result of careful planning. Your attention could be focused on one subject when the real story – and the real potentially great photo – could be somewhere else. It’s very easy to miss a great photograph if you’re too focused. This week, I’d like to share a photo by John McGraw that was almost a missed opportunity: End of the Road.
End of the Road has an unusual aspect ratio, one you would expect of a Hollywood movie, not from a still camera. The subject, the “Dead End” sign, dominates the left half of the frame in its form and dominates the shot in its contrasting color from the green background. The wide crop would not have worked well, in my opinion, if it were just corn and sky in the background. The element that justifies the framing is tips of the grasses in the foreground. The gold tips pop out of the background, nearly mimicking the color the sign, and so it pulls the color across the frame without pulling the viewer’s focus too far. There are a lot of interesting textures throughout, even the sign is not a smooth surface. And I like photos of signs like this, it’s like there’s a message hidden below the surface of an otherwise simple statement, or a challenge from a snarky sign painter. Dead End? So you are challenging me not to look further? A photo can stir up questions in this way.
But what if the photograph was never taken?
John wasn’t on this site for this sign, or this photograph as it was composed. In a brief discussion about the photograph, he alluded to the fact that he was photographing a church that was about a 180 degree rotation from this sign. The church wasn’t all that interesting to John, or maybe it wasn’t shooting the way he had hoped, and so he started to make his way back to his car when this photograph revealed itself. It wasn’t what he was looking for, but it was something. He could have hung his head in defeat, therefore completely missing this shot. But because John kept an open mind, open eyes and kept his head up, he found a compelling photograph.
When you’re out and about, keep your eyes open and keep looking around. You may be witness to a fantastic street performer, but maybe the real story is in the watching crowd. As photographers, we can’t be burdened by distractions. The difference between us and a layman is going to be in what we see, or more importantly what everyone else didn’t see. Because it’s the rare stories – those that were missed by everyone else – that are more interesting to your audience. So keep your eyes peeled, mind open and remember to look around often.
John McGraw is an architectural and landscape photographer based out of Michigan, USA. We’ve spoken about John’s work before, noting how he uses color to control our minds. That theme carries through in today’s photo where color plays a large part in conveying his message. So it’s pretty apparent that we like his work, I hope you do too. So wander on over to his photostream and give him some attention. Better yet, buy some of his photos through his website.