“Most people only see enough to avoid bumping into things.” This gem is one of the first things that I remember learning from one of my many photographic mentors. In my experience, this insight is also extremely accurate. Most people tend to go from place to place as if they were wearing blinders. They become focused on one thing – say, getting to the nearest coffee shop – and lose sight of everything else around them. On one occasion I was in the desert with another photographer. As I was setting up my tripod he was a few yards away and said, “There’s nothing worth shooting out here.” I made my photograph anyway. Several weeks later he marveled over the image and asked where I shot it.
From an evolutionary perspective, I suppose that there are very good reasons for keeping your focus on an objective. If your life depends on finding food, it’s probably not a good idea to spend too much time gazing at clouds. But, take a chance and try it anyway. Once in a while stop in the middle of your day, open your eyes and really look at the world around you. Notice the shapes, the colors, the way the light caresses a textured surface. You may be pleasantly surprised.