08/28/2012 05:15 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Exploration -- Around the World Or Around the Corner

2012-08-28-joe150x150.jpgBy Joe Capra
Joe is a Los Angeles-based photographer and filmmaker, and winner of X PRIZE's recent "Why Do You Explore?" Video Contest for his piece "Midnight Sun | Iceland".

Exploring is something that can be done and enjoyed by everyone in this world. It doesn't matter where in the world you are, what your financial position is, or what physical shape you are in. You don't have to travel the world, go on a major expedition, or sail the world to be an explorer. Exploring can be as simple as taking a new route home from work one day, picking up a camera and photographing your surroundings, or visiting your favorite National or State parks. Often times my most memorable experiences exploring are the ones that have occurred the closest to my home, and are places most familiar to me.

One day I decided to drive a different route home from work, taking roads and side streets I had never been on. I distinctly remember coming to a fork in the road and having no idea where exactly I was or which way to go. I opted to take the left fork, which led me up into the mountains around Los Angeles. At this point I had already gone way out of my way and in the opposite direction I needed to go to get home, but hey, I was exploring and having fun. I continued up the road which ended up leading me to the top of the Hollywood hills and an amazing view of Los Angeles, all the way from downtown to Santa Monica. I had no idea I would stumble upon such an amazing location and view of the city I have lived in for 15 years. I have returned to this viewpoint many times since my initial discovery of it, and it has turned out to be my favorite secret spot in L.A. All because I decided to explore those unknown and unfamiliar streets on the way home from work that day.

Getting into photography was probably the best decision I have ever made. Photography has allowed me to not only see and explore, but also experience this world in ways most people don't. It has also been the reason for many of my travels and exploration. Photography is really what sparked my love for exploration and has become an enormous passion of mine. There is nothing I love more than travelling around this world with my camera. Photography gets me up off the couch, out of the house, away from computers and television, away from everyday life, and brings me out into the world ready for new experiences. I encourage everyone to pick up a camera (it does not have to be expensive), and go walk around your neighborhood taking pictures of anything you find interesting. I guarantee you will see some things you have never seen or noticed before. Photography allows you to stop and smell the roses, as they say. Even though your neighborhood is something that is familiar to you, walking around it with your camera and photographing it will make you see and experience it in a new way. This is what exploration is to me. I love being in familiar places, but seeing and experiencing them in new ways.

Another easy way to explore this world we live in is to visit some of your favorite places (State/National Parks, beaches, mountains), but visit them at uncommon times. As a photographer I tend to be up and outside ready to photograph well before sunrise, during and after sunset, and also well into the middle of the night. These are, and have been, some of my favorite and most memorable times to be out exploring. I have stood in Yosemite Valley many times at 3:00 a.m. and felt like I was the only one in the park, having the entire place to myself. I have done the same in Death Valley, Iceland, and many other places as well. It's a whole new experience being in places like this in the very early morning or in the middle of the night. You hear new sounds, see new things, and experience the location in ways that most people don't.

Exploring is whatever you make it, and it can be as hard or easy as you want it to be. Either way, the enjoyment you will get from exploring will be very rewarding.

Capra drove throughout Iceland for 17 days capturing 38,000 photos to create this enchanting time-lapse video, "Midnight Sun | Iceland".

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This blog post is brought to you by Shell, our Exploration Prize Group sponsor.