Often when I'm driving along I get the urge to stop the car, leap out and take a photo. Obviously this is only practical if you are on your own! On numerous occasions I've been frustrated as I've been the passenger or else I have a passenger with me, or else I'm in a hurry or on a mission. I may return later only to find that the moment has passed, the light has changed or even that the subject has disappeared - the spontaneity of the moment has gone. Sometimes I may pass by a place regularly and not see its potential - then one day the play of light suddenly reveals its hidden beauty or spectacular clouds transform an everyday landscape. On go the brakes, out comes the camera....
Being inside the car is a bit like looking through a camera viewfinder - something about looking out of the windscreen, rear view or wing mirror and seeing the world ready framed. In his series America by Car, Lee Friedlander uses the car windows as a deliberate compositional device, the mirrors reflecting odd, unexpected fragments of the passing scenes.
From America by Car by Lee Friedlander
Todd Hido's photographs of lonely rainswept American roads are similarly shot through the car windscreen, the rain blurring and veiling the sombre landscapes.
From A Road Divided by Todd Hido
In the introduction to American Surfaces, Stephen Shore likens the effect of being in a car on a road trip to that of an 'explorer travelling in a bubble of familiarity'. Driving for extended periods puts him in 'a very clear and focused state of mind'. My journeys to the shops or visits to my father can hardly be compared to a road trip - we're not talking Robert Frank's The Americans here! But even on these short trips I find that driving is conducive to creativity - perhaps because there are few other distractions and the mind is fully engaged on the visual, or maybe it's just having the opportunity for some breathing space where the brain can empty itself of daily concerns.
From American Surfaces by Stephen Shore
The other day I found myself doing a U turn on a steep hill in the pouring rain just to take a photograph of a pair of roadside mirrors sitting incongruously on the edge of a wood! There is actually an assignment in the Photographer's Playbook by Steve Young which advocates doing just that:
'Whenever you are driving, and pass something that makes you want to grab your camera, you must immediately pull a U-ey, go back, and shoot it. If you don't, you'll spend the next ten miles thinking about it, and then you'll have to add twenty miles to your trip.'Here are some recent photographs all taken while driving within a 15 mile radius of home.....