When It Comes to Subjects, Use What You’ve Got


If there is one type of photography I would most like to do, it is coastal photography.  I could take nothing but seascapes the rest of my life and be happy. However, I live in a suburb of the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex. I am 300 miles from the nearest ocean, which is not particularly attractive anyway, and probably over 1,000 miles from the nearest scenic coastline. Opportunities for me to take seascapes are rather limited.

My next favorite type of photography is landscape photography. However, again, I live in the North Texas area. If you are not familiar with our geography, let me introduce you to it. We have no mountains. We have almost no running water, like creeks, streams, or rivers. Our trees aren’t very tall or interesting. The area is not desolate, so it doesn’t have the photographic charm of a desert or the southwest U.S. It is pretty much just flat, boring land. As a result, for me to capture beautiful landscapes pretty much means I am getting on a plane. Obviously, I cannot afford to do that all the time.

Several years ago, I was complaining about this state of affairs to one of my brothers. He lived in New Hampshire at the time, and he said something that changed the course of my photography. I think you will find the idea useful as well. He said: “Why don’t you go take pictures of the longhorns (as in cows, specifically Texas Longhorns) behind your house? Nobody else has that. That seems really cool to me.”


This was coming from a guy who lived in an area of great natural beauty, with tall trees and the White Mountains just outside his door. He was only a couple of hours from the coast, and not that far from places like Acadia National Park in Maine. These were all things I would have killed to go photograph, and it seemed odd to me to hear him mention something in my area that he might actually like to photograph.

This conversation forced me to think about my own advantages in photography. And what I realized is that we all have natural advantages. You have some too, even if you haven’t thought about it.

In every country, most people live near a coast. For most photographers, that means coastal shots are in play. Harbors, lighthouses, sailing vessels, and other nautical structures are all great subjects. Conditions are always varying as the waves get larger and smaller, tides go up and down, and the weather changes. If you are really close to the coast, you might even think about underwater photography.

Acadia National Park

If you live in a large city, you can shoot skylines. You can take architectural photos. You have endless opportunities for street photography. The opportunities for night photography in large cities are second to none.


In rural areas, as I mentioned, you don’t need areas of great natural beauty to take great photographs. In fact, I once saw a photographic project by someone who lived near a scenic mountain range, but eschewed these majestic mountains to take pictures of farming life on the plain nearby.  There were incredible pictures of barns, cattle, windmills, and other features of rural farm life. These scenes are available to virtually anyone in rural areas. You don’t need to be in an idyllic village in New England to take great countryside photos.


This was all driven home to me again recently. I have long been interested in night photography, but realized that most of my night photos are been taken in large cities. I decided I wanted to get out and take shots in remote locations where you can see millions of stars and even the Milky Way. You know the photos I’m taking about. I started researching where I’d need to go for this and started looking at “dark sky” maps. Here is one such map I looked at:


Notice that the sky gets really dark in the western half of the U.S., and that darkness begins at a line roughly following I-35. Living in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area, that puts me right on the line, and means I’m only an hour and a half away from dark skies.  And if you are in the western half of the U.S., this is in play for you as well.


I’m not suggesting what you should shoot. Shoot whatever you want. But when you are thinking about what you want to photograph, consider what is around you. Somebody else thinks you are fortunate to have the subject matter you have. Take advantage of it.