Shooting, photographically speaking, is a kind of meditative practice from me. I know meditation is generally helpful, but I’ve always found it kind of cheesy. So using photography in this way works for me. It helps my get out of my own head and appreciate the world around me. This all sounds pretty peaceful and relaxing when I say it like that, but I think it’s a wee bit different from what you may be picturing. When I grab my camera and jump in my car, I embark on a hunt: the hunt for eye candy.

It sounds a little goofy, I know, but it doesn’t make it any less true.  It’s like playing a game of Where’s Waldo? with my real world surroundings. I have a mental list of things to seek out to photograph, and it plays constantly through my mind as I drive or walk, relaxing me and forcing me to focus on making good images.

It’s all about finding ways to create photographs that are pleasing to the eye; things that will intrigue the viewer, make them think or feel something, and things that will guide the viewer’s eye seamlessly through the composition.

So, what exactly do I mean by that? What specific things do I keep an eye out for?

Honestly, when I first started this, I didn’t realize the full extent of my internal creative list. So this will be the first of a few posts about discussing what details I look for in the world around me, that help me see the magic in everyday life.


First and foremost, lighting is critical to photography. Without getting too technical, the light in the scene has to hit the film, or nowadays, digital sensor in order to create the image at all. All cameras, from cellphone to Polaroid instants to medium format cameras operate this way. I’ve studied the science of it before, but there is still something magical to me about creating a tangible image, just from light.

Aside from the magical mechanics of photography, the lighting in a scene is also super important in affecting the mood of an image— and not just the Golden Hour. Each different lighting situation creates a different mood, and it’s important to make sure it’s compatible with the mood you are trying to convey in your image. Check out the images below for examples.


documentary photographer clovis nm

A nightscape may not come to mind when you think of lighting in photography, but it is just as important in this context. The light from inside the drive though illuminates the window and asphalt below. Almost everything else is engulfed in darkness, emphasizing the drive through and making it feel like a life raft in a sea of shadows.


The combination of the soft lighting and dreary fog was perfect for this setting. Also take note of the leading lines in the of the dirt that guide you to the old car.


The barely rising sun works together with the airplanes in the distance to ellude to the beginning of new adventures. And also it’s just pretty.


documentary photographer clovis nm

In this photo, the light leads our eyes to the brown couch inside this store, and next to it, my shadow on the wall. The use of light and shadow almost gives the illusion that I’m sneaking in to the shop to sit on the couch.


The soft lighting in this scene reflects the peaceful, calming feeling I got when I glimpsed this church. I made my poor mother pull over and let me take a few pics in 20 degree weather.


The effect of the reflected light hitting the tent, and accompanying shadows, creat a beautiful curvy shape that leads your eye nicely throughout the image.


Using the light you find, is a wonderful way to create a composition. The use of colored lighting in this bar was too wonderful to overlook for me.


The bright, midday lighting in this photo adds to the lighthearted nature of the photo and event I was photographing. But also note I took advantage of light reflecting back into the subjects face too ensure the shadows didn’t obscure her face. I also love the light catching the spray in the air, which helps bring your attention to the subject and what she is doing (no bug bites for her).


documentary lifestyle photographer clovis nm

The lack of lighting in this photo clearly emphasizes my daughter’s face, and also gives the sort of eery illusion that she is floating in space.