OK, it's time to admit it publicly: I am a huge fan of American Pickers. I am amazed by the volume of junk some collectors accumulate. I am astounded by the way it seems to rule their lives. And I am beyond impressed with Mike and Frank's ability to sift through the detritus and dross, and discover items that will have real value for the right person.
I especially like it when they have no particular lead to follow, and instead set off to do what they call "freestyling" - cruising the back roads in search of spontaneous opportunities.
Freestyling is an attitude, and it's definitely one that has a place in my photographic life.
Most of the time, my photo ops and expeditions are well planned. OK, make that moderately well-planned. By which I mean I am out in pursuit of something I have envisioned in advance. It may be a sunset, a person, a location or an object. I've thought about the tools I'll need in my bag, the circumstances I'm likely to encounter, the challenges that may present.
It's not unusual for me to shift gears along the way. More than once I've sought sandhill cranes in the dawn light, only to discover that the birds and I have different ideas about ideal roosting locations. So an intended bird shoot may turn into a sunrise photo op, or a great time to find beautiful reflections of weeds in water.
Those experiences are all about flexibility and opportunism. Freestyling is something else.
Recently, my husband and I had to make an unanticipated trip to Illinois to help with a family matter. Central Illinois in January means miles of flat, unscenic farmland, ground that is frozen and unlovely, hazy days and minimal outdoor activity. The agricultural area is remote, the scenic opportunities limited at best.
And so, of course, as I grabbed my suitcase and tossed in a few wintry items, I also made sure the camera bag was ready to go. On this trip, I would most certainly be freestyling.
What does that look like? It looks like Frank and Mike, with me riding shotgun as my husband drove us to the various places we needed to be. On the road I peered at this and that, and I began to notice things. Barns. An abandoned house. A yard full of rusting farm equipment. A zigzag pattern on a frosty window.
I wondered what some of those things would look like at sunset or at dawn. I bought chemical hand and foot warmers and persuaded my husband to come out with me in the 16-degree morning at 6 a.m. so we could find out. And as I got a sense of interesting things, I asked some questions. What else would be cool to photograph?
Well, I was told, there is this covered bridge about ten miles from here, built in the 1800's . . . would that be interesting? Indeed it would.
And so I took a few pictures, none of which I had in mind as the trip began. They are the opportunities which presented. I am becoming more and more convinced that for the photographer with eyes and awareness, they are there in every situation.
Freestyling. I like it.
To see more of my Illinois images, click here.