Imagine a spectacular, rugged landscape. Pine forests that stretch for hundreds of miles, vivid lakes and countless waterfalls. This is central Norway; bear country. While I am packing my camera bag for a two week
photography trip honeymoon to Iceland, I relive a memory that answered the question if we really need to travel for better photographs.
Back to central Norway and the Boreal forest. As I was hiking there with my wife, we didn’t know where to look. Even in bright daylight the light is different. The sky is more blue, like when you look up from an airplane; a deep and dark sort of blue. Among these evergreen pines and shriveled, ancient birches, squirrels and foxes are a common occurrence. It was a good distance from the nearest town as well, but we weren’t the only ones there. Hiking this woodland too, was a local man and his family.
Mind you, that my wife and I are Dutch. So we don’t go hill walking much. So we’re panting, completely out of breath, and this man coming up to us is whistling a tune. His kids are positively running up the mountain and we’re deeply ashamed of not being in shape at all. We meet the family and started a conversation. Casual at first, more interesting later.
I’m hiding my deep breaths, but I think the sweat on my forehead gave it away: We aren’t locals. So naturally the conversation turned to where we are from. The man, I think his name’s Erik, could not believe that the tallest “mountain” in the Dutch countryside is a mere 322 meters tall. Erik told me he’s a photographer too and would love to visit the Netherlands some time. Mills, tulips, and De Zaanse Schans; things I have seen too many times myself.
Erik wasn’t sure about the beauty of his own country though. All those mountains were more of a nuisance than a particular good subject to photograph. The winding road that connects his work to his home is tedious at best, he said. To be honest, I think Erik wondered why I had a camera with me at all. Now, there’s something profound in the way we both admired each other’s countryside, but got blind to our own.
Somehow we tend to forget beauty. Somehow we are always looking for more. More excitement and new lands to discover. And here, in an unlikely place, we met somebody who is looking forward to seeing our backyard for the first time.
Travel photography is a good way to get out and take some pictures of new and interesting scenery. But knowing your own countryside like the back of your hand has its merits. The lie of the land, at what hour the sun rises and sets, how tides interact with the landscape, and which species of flowers are the first to bloom in a particular season.
There should be beauty in your own backyard as well. Chances are that you have just forgotten about it.