Back alleys can be good for photography

(John Enman Photo)
(John Enman Photo)

Outside it was cold, grey and rainy, but my friend Jo interrupted my lazy morning with the suggestion that we take a drive for some roadside photography.

I got ready and we headed out towards the town of Vernon, making the same drive that I did last week with my IR camera. Vernon is about two hours away and she thought it would be fun to go there for lunch.

The drive was drab and wet, and although we stopped a couple times for photos, I wasn’t satisfied with my results. However, after arriving in Vernon and a good lunch at a place called “Eatology” I wanted to spend an hour or so wandering with my camera. I left Jo resting under a blanket in my car and walked down the nearest alley.

I like alleys. There is always something worth photographing in any city’s back alleys and although I have visited Vernon many times I have never taken the time to search out the interesting things one finds discarded, forgotten or stored in the alleys behind retail stores, and these days there is always creative graffiti decorating the walls.

There isn’t a town I have visited since I first picked up a camera that I haven’t made at least some time to photograph a few alleys. I prefer mid-day and mid-week. Mornings can be busy and things I want to photograph are sometimes blocked by vehicles and after dark on some unfamiliar path behind those downtown buildings, I am not sure its that safe for a lone photographer.

For me, mid-day gives the best light with less shadows and the best opportunity to take my time. And on that overcast, drizzly day the light was perfect.

It isn’t at all that unusual to meet people that wonder why I would be photographing things that at first glance are messy and ugly. Why would anyone want to take a picture of paint splattered on a wall, or some seemingly unintelligible words drawn beside a drainpipe, or a metal reinforced doorway?

They will see me pointing my camera, stop, and even though they have walked past it many times, take the time to really look at the colourful spray painted creation or labyrinth of pipes and wires that cover the wall and always smile as they seem to see it for the first time.

Some, as if we are friends, give me an appreciative nod and wish me well. However, like the woman I met this time, will walk along with me. There was a light rain and I asked if she was worried about the guitar she had strapped on her back. She said no and smiling asked me if I would like to hear a song she had written.

I wonder if it is the camera that puts people at ease. I have met so many interesting and enjoyable people when I have been wandering with my camera.

So I got a song from a stranger named Juanita Zwick that I met in a back alley in the rain. I stood there enjoying the moment listening to a good singer that played well. And yes, I did take a couple photos of her that I will email to her.

Alleyways are always interesting and are great places to be creative with a camera. Remember that photographer Ansel Adams once said, “A good photograph is knowing where to stand.”

Stay safe and be creative. These are my thoughts for this week. Contact me at or

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