The 100 Mile Diet for Photographers

This article was previously published in Outdoor Photography Canada (OPC) one year ago. The newest issue of OPC is a visual treat and we highly recommend a subscription if you love outdoor and nature photography!

We know a lot of photographers who only dig out the camera when they travel. It’s easy to understand why. Most of us are inspired by a change in scenery and travel gives us that needed change plus a good dose of visual novelty. Fresh views open our eyes. We are no longer blinded by our contempt for the familiar like we are at home. We see photos everywhere!

©Darwin Wiggett - Nothing beats travel for fresh visual stimulation!

©Darwin Wiggett – It’s hard not to make a good picture with such exotic subject matter as in this scene from Kathmandu, Nepal

But relying on novel experiences to bring out the creative eye is like relying on drugs to make you happy. Once the drug wears off you are miserable… and then to feel good again you need an even higher dose of the drug. For travel-addicted photographers one exotic trip begets another even more exotic trip. To see ‘fresh’, the travel-addicted photographer needs a higher dose of novelty. Soon the photographer gets jaded because they have seen it all.

©Darwin Wiggett - Ho dee hum... Namibia, been there done that!

©Darwin Wiggett – Ho dee hum… Namibia, been there done that ;-)

To get off the roller coaster rush of travel as a forced way of seeing, my partner Samantha and I think that photographers should adopt the 100-Mile diet. Just like the food version where you try to source most of your nutrition locally, the 100-Mile Diet for Photographers asks you to source the bulk of your visual inspiration locally. Doing so will force you to see the magic in the mundane, make something from nothing and grow as a visual artist. You’ll learn to make compelling images of things most people would not even notice. And here is the hidden perk: if you can make evocative images of the everyday world around you, then what will happen when you travel to a new location? Your images will soar because you already have the skills to make great images anywhere. You’ll see the travel destination with the freshest eyes making images that go beyond the clichéd and predictable. Your images will have your unique stamp on them. What could be better?

©Darwin Wiggett - School zone speed limit sign near my house

©Darwin Wiggett – School zone speed limit sign near our house

So how do you start the 100-Mile Diet for Photographers? Easy. Just get out into your neighborhood, local parks, natural areas, the mall, the main street of town or wherever your life takes you day to day. Pretend you are a visitor from a foreign country or an alien from outer space. What you used to take for granted visually, now becomes inexplicable and intriguing. Don’t judge; just shoot anything that catches your eye. Keep it to the details. Visit frequently. It helps to have a small portable camera like a digital point-n-shoot or even your smartphone. You won’t want to be lugging around your giant bag of lenses to the local coffee shop!

©Darwin Wiggett - there is graphic beauty in even the most mundane suburban subjects.

©Darwin Wiggett – Even the most mundane suburban subjects have graphic beauty

A 100-mile Diet helps you develop the essential skills of ‘learning to see’ that seem to elude so many photographers. Both Samantha and I have travelled around the world and photographed incredible places. But it wasn’t until we gave the same respect and attention to our own neighbourhoods that we saw improvement in our creative skills. We believe this skill is so essential (yet so overlooked) that we created a workbook called Learning to See with plenty of fun exercises to get you flexing your artistic muscle! So don’t rely on ‘exciting’ subjects or iconic destinations to make images that in the end have often been done before. Learn to ‘see’ the wonders in your own backyard for a lifetime of creative photography.

©Darwin Wiggett - our back door.

©Darwin Wiggett – Graphic detail of our back door.

©Darwin Wiggett - drain in our back alley

©Darwin Wiggett – A back alley drain near our house

©Darwin Wiggett - the street lamp near our house

©Darwin Wiggett – A street lamp near our house

©Darwin Wiggett - a local park

©Darwin Wiggett – Tree details from a local park

©Darwin Wiggett - Living room details

©Darwin Wiggett –  Our living room details

©Darwin Wiggett - House Plane Leaf

©Darwin Wiggett – House Plant Leaf

About the Author

I am a Canadian landscape and outdoor photographer who loves long hikes in the woods, yummy food, hairy dogs, good company and a good guitar jam.

7 Comments

  1. Byron Robb
    June 23, 2014

    I love this idea. I also love the idea of short walks from home. So many of my photos are from short walks.

    Reply
  2. Jane Chesebrough
    June 23, 2014

    Great reminder that everything is in front of us if we just take the time to “see”.

    Reply
  3. Henrik
    June 23, 2014

    AS an employed Person I am restricted locally somehow, so it was natural to look for things right before your eyes in everyday life for Photography :-) ….
    Btw here’s my latest Addition
    http://www.mopswerk.de/2014/06/poppy-field-delight/
    THX for your pictures!

    Reply
  4. David Barrett
    June 23, 2014

    Great advice, but is 100 miles still a bit too calorific a diet? Perhaps it’s because Canada is such a big place that 100 miles seems a small distance – although I recently moved to Australia from the UK, so I may come to terms with vastness. I think the best point is that the more we visit a place the more we see and that limitation, like “boredom” nearly is nearly always good for creativity.

    Reply
    • Darwin Wiggett
      June 24, 2014

      Hi David,
      I agree, a 10 mile or 10 kilometre diet is better, but we had to play on the marketing value of the “100 Mile Diet” which almost everyone has heard about to sell it as a magazine article ;-)

  5. Robert Guimont
    June 24, 2014

    Great advice, but I’ve got all you guys beat. I have a 10 foot diet. I step out into my backyard and shoot insects… mostly because that’s all I have time for, but I still get great shots.

    Reply
  6. Dave Benson
    June 24, 2014

    Thanks for repeating a VERY important message… and I certainly understand the 100 reference and agree with Robert and David… I have considered writing a 10-10-10 blog one day… 10 meters, 10 km and 100 km… so when we look at the main idea… familiarity with our surrounding can get us in a rut… but on the half of the glass it is the area we are most familiar with and one we can reach in short order for dramatic moments brought on by Mother Nature…

    Reply

Leave a Comment

Top