View Full Version : Photography in the Suburbs

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Richard Wasserman
11-03-2010, 08:20 PM
Well, I live in the boring suburb two towns to the north of you, and I'd say Wilmette is a cornucopia of interest compared to Glencoe. :) The Bahai Temple, the harbor, an actual downtown, Gillson Park, the el. My gosh, you have alleys even. :)

To the O.P., might I suggest driving a few suburbs over? I'm guessing we all tend to get too used to where we live, if I am drooling at the very thought of Wilmette.


Laura,I know what you mean about alleys....

The street in front of my house is even paved with brick (but it's not yellow).

11-03-2010, 08:36 PM
Hi there

I live in a fairly boring suburb of a fairly boring town called Reading...


Man, are you spoiled for choice!:p

You sound like the old complaint: there's nothing to eat but food!

Relatively accessible, you have:

*water views.




*historic buildings/monuments.

*all of the UK. (many people -here- travel daily 50 miles to work, each way!)

I should live in such a "bland" neighbourhood!:laugh:

Try to re-educate your eye to see things it has become blind to (none are so blind as will not see):D

11-03-2010, 08:41 PM
The familiar numbs us, sometimes.

When you see no photographs around you, take yourself somewhere else, a very different environment. Study the differences. When you return to where you were, you'll find yourself surrounded by photographs.

Ric Trexell
11-03-2010, 09:06 PM
Your question brings up two things I would like to talk about. When my mother was in the nursing home, I noticed a lot of blank walls without pictures. I sent off some negatives to be made into 16X20 enlargements and donated them to the home. One was a scene next to the river that runs through town in our largest park. It was in the fall so there was a big orange maple tree in the picture and a path that ran along the river. The city had put in a new wooden boardwalk about 5-6 years before I took the picture. I gave it to the maintainance man to put up and he asked me where I took that picture. I looked at him unbelieving he could ask such a question and said, it is about a mile from where we stand, in the park. He said he had not been over there in a few years.
The other thing I wanted to say is that when I took the NYIP course through the mail, I was suppose to take a picture showing texture for one of my assignments. Knowing there there was nothing in my boring town I jumped in the car and went to another town to see what I could find. Not finding anything I came back and passed a gas station a half mile from my house that was made out of a type of block that I have not seen anywhere before. It had a design on it that made a good example of texture. If nothing else I would have to ask, are there no pretty girls in your town? Are there no cute babies? No puppies or kittens? If so, then it is a boring town.

Michael W
11-03-2010, 09:44 PM
Try night photography, eg urban landscapes on a tripod. Even boring stuff can look interesting as a night photo, and it will extend your photographic knowledge if you haven't done it before.

11-03-2010, 10:21 PM
Everything can get boring after a while, I live at a lake with some great views, but after about 100 photos of the lake it got boring for me, in fact I am on a theme of avoiding photos of water now.

In the suburbs a transport theme comes to mind, cars, bikes, buses, trains, even shoes come to mind.

What about the number on your house, the door knob, a low shot of the grass, your reflection in a window, sunrise or sunset as viewed from your garden?

Good luck.

11-04-2010, 11:05 AM
Wow, I was taking a tour of your city compliments of Google street view and I was impressed by what I saw. I realize you have gotten used to your city, but from an outsider's point of view it is quite interesting.

I would love to photograph the Reading rail station, and what about The Mill at Sonning and the surrounding waterways at different times of day and season. The countryside would be another area I would love to visit and photograph.

Living in the Western United States all my life, your city seems very interesting and exotic to me.

Alex from L.A.

11-04-2010, 11:31 AM
If that is Reading in Berkshire, in the UK, I think it is pretty much interesting. I spent an academic year there in 1989 - 90. Should not have changed much.

The prison where Oscar Wilde was imprisoned;
The medieval bell tower in the historical centre;
Market scenes at the fresh market in the centre;
Typical British houses which are uncommon in Europe even if they are common to your eyes;
The University campus with its beautiful park, with bridges over the water, sterns fishing, squirrels, majestic old trees;
University scenes of all kind: graduation ceremonies, sport events, bonfires...
Wantage Hall (Upper Redlands Road) certainly merits quite a few shots; Some other Edwardian University buildings as well;
The Old Campus, if it is accessible, and its clock tower;
Old traditional houses with wooden frame;

And the Chemist's with the sign "Pharmacy" :-)


11-04-2010, 04:44 PM
You wouldn't complain about Reading if you came to live up here in the grim northern city I live in, If the World had to have an enema this is where they'd stick the tube :(

11-08-2010, 04:20 PM
You wouldn't complain about Reading if you came to live up here in the grim northern city I live in, If the World had to have an enema this is where they'd stick the tube :(

Oh dear. However being rubbish means it has character - Reading is so mediocre that to me it has little character.

Anyway, the above it not so true, I shot a roll of FP4+ and was pleasantly surprised by the results. This is my fave from the roll: I entitle it 'Suburbia: Land of Contrast'


Couple more:



What do you think?

05-06-2011, 09:29 PM
See, you can find stuff to shoot at home :)

BTW, I came across this list in 2005 and emailed it to myself. It's the longest-saved email on my Yahoo account Whenever I got bored in college, I'd pick a different exercise to shoot:

# Go to one spot and make 100 photos within 100 feet.

# Go to one spot on 10 (100) different days and make 10 (100) photos.

# Go to 10 (100) spots and try to make the same photo.

# Pick one subject, and make 10 or 100 photos of it. Try to use as many pieces of your equipment as you can.

# Pick one cooperative subject and make 10 good photos of them, each as different as possible from each other. For example: high key, low key, ultrawide angle, long tele with wide aperture, motion blurred,

# Pick ten photos that you really like, perhaps from photo history books, or magazines, or advertisements, or seen on the web. Try to replicate them as well as you can. Reshoot a few to get closer to the example.

# On a day, from first light to the afterglow after sunset, make one photo every minute, or every five or 15 minutes, wherever you might find yourself.

# Pick a technique you never or rarely use, and make a set of photos with it.
* An example might be second curtain sync, if your camera is capable.
* If you always shoot color, make a set of B&W photos or vice versa.
* If you tend to use natural lighting make a set of photos with flash or some kind of artificial arranged lighting; or vice versa.
* Pick a type of photography you don't usually do, and spend an hour or a day doing it. For example, a portraitist might shoot landscapes or a sports photographer might shoot closeup / macro pictures.
* Take your least used lens and make ten to 100 photos with it.

# Go out in bad weather and make the best pictures you can.

# Pick one compositional idea, and make a dozen photos using it. Examples might be "rule of thirds", or "diagonal contrast".

# Go to a random location and then make as many "reasonable" and different pictures as you can in three minutes or ten or thirty minutes. For example, ahead of time you might pick a random transit stop and a random direction and a random amount of time between five and 15 minutes to walk. Or a random direction to drive, a random number of miles or minutes, and then random direction and time to walk from there.

# Ask people at random passing by a location and get ten of them to let you make a picture of them, as best as you can, accounting for their personalities, as differently as you can, and using all the techniques in your skill set and a few you want to learn.

# If you use lots of lenses, go to an interesting spot or photo shoot and use one prime lens the whole time. If you only use one lens or a very limited set, then borrow or rent a different set and go on a photo shoot or expedition.

# For a week, pick one color each day and make pictures based on that color.

# Pick your 17 best photos and reshoot them trying to improve on them.

# Pick your 23 worst photos and reshoot them improving on them.

# Go out on a photo shoot with a club or a photographer friend or two. Compare and discuss the photos during and right afterward, and a week later after some post-processing and reflection.

# Pick your 13 best photos and show them to 13 people, photographers and photo-naive people. Keep copious notes on all the comments. Then reshoot them to try to make pictures that achieve the maximum satisfaction for the maximum number of people. Go back and get their comments on the reshoots.

# Pick three to seven friends and people you love. Shoot a commissioned photo for each, and a non-commissioned photo of your own design and choosing for each. Print them nicely and maybe even frame them and give it to them.

05-07-2011, 12:05 AM
Go for a nearest city instead.

05-07-2011, 02:24 AM
I live in a small town that's pretty dull. Go walking around your neighborhood. I've found closed signs for businesses that went bust...a funeral parlor (previously an opera house dating back to the time of Pres. Lincoln!), a creek that meanders through town, bar signs, two cemeteries (!), flowers that the city council donates every spring...and even a soccer game or two. Oh, and a car repair place behind my house with a lot of wrecked cars.

You'll find something.

05-07-2011, 11:16 AM
every place has its own unique "feel" great photos are everywhere! Pre-visualize the scene beforehand. sometime a little r&d helps too: I thought my hometown was pretty dull until I visited the local historical society and discovered for myself hundreds of little known facts & locations and it literally put a new perspective on things: for example, my town used to be a resort heaven for wealthy New Yorkers at the turn of the previous century. Now its just strip malls of cent stores, hair salons and banks. makes for interesting photo essays.

05-25-2011, 05:40 PM
This is a great thread. I too live in a pretty boring area. Theres quite alot to see if I travel about 3 hour east or west or north. But in my little corner its pretty bland. So I've been trying to work my head around the same issues.

Heres what i found so far:

1. If you cant be at the right place, be at the right time. OK, so you are not in a phenomenally photogenic place like Yosemite. Well ive been there and I've managed to take really bland boring pictures there with not a AA lookalike in the bunch. Why didnt the art just magically flow into every frame? Mostly because I stink as an artist! But also because I wasnt there at the right time. High noon in late summer with a cloudless sky and just a trickle of water flow. How boring is that? **The really great pictures of Yosemite have something more than just the slabs of granite. Perfect lighting, snow, mist, moons in the background, etc. Those photographers either did the research or did the time to know when exactly to be there to get the dramatic pic.

So there you are doing time in suburbia. Scout out places that you think have potential. Mark them on a map or log. Now while you are living out your days, pay attention to what is going on in your area. Weather patterns, fog, solar/lunar, events, parades, gatherings, breaking news, whatever. Get a kit packed and ready with everything you need. just be ready for that special day when the planets align and that assembly-line of houses suddenly becomes the center of a magical confluence on energy.

2. Hone your technique. Just think if you live a town with the same houses and the same sky and the same people... that gives you an excellent test environment! Practice making these mundane areas look interesting. When you do go on that vacation of a lifetime and you take a suitcase full of film. You want to be able to use it to your full extent.

05-25-2011, 07:06 PM
This thread and the interesting things puptent has found in SW Minnesota (which I thought was boring when I lived there) got to me. This morning was a cloudy, dreary day. I went out walking in my boring, suburban, covenenant-controlled (HOA nazis) community. I found a nicely textured, curved wood fence. The community pool was closed and really cold and lonely looking in expectation of opening this weekend. But the jackpot was a walking/drainage tunnel under the main street that was lined with mud bird nests. To do it real justice I want to go back with my Mamiya and a 9-foot step ladder.

05-27-2011, 01:44 AM
I know this is a bit late: but Alex you have done well. I really like your first two shots. Keep up the good work.

05-27-2011, 02:10 AM
Surely there must be some lonely housewives in your suburb that wouldn't mind posing for you... for a price, of course.

05-27-2011, 03:12 AM
I live in a forest near a huge lake. I'm very bored with lake-mountain-tree vistas and would love to spend time wandering around a real city! Maybe someone should organise a home-swap page. In my case that would mean looking after the 4 mutts though, and they don't like being left at home and they do try to sneak onto the bed at night. :D
I am going to try the small things idea, and I've just purchased a tent to do some exploring with.

05-27-2011, 03:16 AM
I live in a forest near a huge lake. I'm very bored with lake-mountain-tree vistas and would love to spend time wandering around a real city! Maybe someone should organise a home-swap page. In my case that would mean looking after the 4 mutts though, and they don't like being left at home and they do try to sneak onto the bed at night. :D
I am going to try the small things idea, and I've just purchased a tent to do some exploring with.

Tent, exploring and the four dogs?:D