Archive for June 2016

Wordless Wednesday: Snowmelt in the Rocky Mountains   Leave a comment

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Friday Foto Talk: Artistic Photography & Photoshop   14 comments

All these are recent images, this from Coral Pink Sand Dunes, Utah. Enjoy!

All these are recent images, this from Coral Pink Sand Dunes, Utah. Enjoy!

I’ve stayed away from this topic up until now, maybe because I don’t like beating a dead horse (or a living one for that matter!).  My recent series on Visualization led naturally to this subject.  So this week I’m going to post a fairly long one.  Feel free to copy it and read it later, but I just couldn’t see my way to divide it into parts.  This is very important to understand, because if you’re serious about photography it’s important to understand the issue and know without any doubt where you stand on it.

I’m talking about the eternal debate between the belief that photography has become diluted, even ruined, by over-manipulation of images and the reaction to that: it’s simple ignorance of photography as art.  This is an argument that seems to have no end, one that mostly centers around post-processing (“that’s been photoshopped!”).  But it also comes in during the capture phase.

A sandstone wall and wonderfully refreshing creek in a canyon called Death Hollow, Utah. Quite the hike to get here!

A sandstone wall and wonderfully refreshing creek in a canyon called Death Hollow, Utah. Quite the hike to get here!

Shades of Gray:  Where I Stand

I believe, as usual, that the truth lies somewhere between these two extremes.  In fact at different times on social media I’ve argued both sides.  At least I have when I forget that it’s a bad idea to express opinions on Facebook!  First let’s clarify something.  Photoshop is just a software program.  One can over-edit a photograph or drastically change reality without ever touching Photoshop.

There are, for example, simple plugins that allow you to combine different pictures into one.  And don’t forget that reality can be altered during the capture phase as well; Hollywood has been doing it forever.  But Photoshop is the most powerful software for manipulating images.  It was created for digital artists not photographers.  And besides, the term ‘Photoshopped’ is firmly fixed in the vernacular.

Although my opinions recognize the subjectivity and shades of gray inherent in the question, I tend to come down on one side.  I think anything a photographer does to create an image is okay.  Far be it from me to tell somebody how to express their creativity.  That would be very presumptuous.  I do wish, however, that people would say in their captions when their images are not photographs but digital art, using photographs as raw material.  That’s simple honesty.

I’ll also admit to feeling a bit sad when I think that the original (to me the true) meaning of photography is being lost as it merges with digital art.  I’m disappointed that the two are merging, in fact.  I don’t like any kind of homogenization, a feature of modern culture across the board, it seems.

A thunderstorm is about to rain all over me here along the roaring Colorado River, Colorado.

A thunderstorm is about to rain all over me here along the roaring Colorado River, Colorado.

What is a Photograph?

Most opinions on the issue hinge on a single assumption:  what you think a photograph actually is.  I go with the traditional definition.  A photograph is the capture of a single moment, in a single place.  Or it represents a single time and place.  The latter type can introduce all manner of subjectivity.  It comes in when, for example, you take one picture of the foreground and a second of the sky immediately after.  Then on the computer you combine them for depth of field or exposure purposes (or both).  It’s still the capture of a single moment in time.

But when different times and places are combined to make an image, or when the processing completely obscures the moment, then it’s digital art.  One of the simplest examples is when a photographer takes a beautiful sky, perhaps one that he didn’t even capture himself, and pastes that into a different photo to replace a “boring” sky.  Once you learn how to do that, it’s easy to be tempted to go much further.  You start mixing and matching elements to create the perfect image.  These aren’t photographs, although they are routinely labeled as such.  To repeat, I don’t think they are less worthy; they’re just digital art, different than actual photographs.

The road descending from Colorado National Monument near Grand Junction. Note the bicyclist.

The road descending from Colorado National Monument near Grand Junction. Note the bicyclist.

Photoshop & Reality:  The Push-Pull

When people complain online about Photoshopped images, they often get criticized by self-described photographic experts.  It goes something like this: any image is art, therefore railing against “Photoshopping”, or processing out the reality of the world in favor of fantasy, is simple ignorance of the nature of photography, perhaps even ignorance of art itself.

Since I’m a live-let-live person I agree with this in principle.  After all, since the invention of the camera photographers have been bending reality.  But I think this kind of response to complaints about overuse of Photoshop is at best trite, and in some cases borders on condescending elitism.

It downplays the very understandable reaction that normal everyday people have to the trends in popular photography.  I’m speaking of the reasonable reactions, not those that assume some kind of purity to photography, or those that are critical of somebody just because they edited a photo.  People are indeed mistaken when they think only out-of-camera images (inaccurately believed to be unedited) are real.

I’ve had people tell me that my long exposures of blurred water or other moving subjects are not real photos.  I’ve also heard people say that cloning out pimples and smoothing skin in portraits is cheating.  But the idea that any kind of enhancement to a photo is getting away from real photography is simply wrong.

A very minimally edited image taken mid-day from the top of Angel's Rest, showing a bird's-eye view of Zion Canyon, Utah.

A very minimally edited image taken mid-day from the top of Angel’s Rest, showing a bird’s-eye view of Zion Canyon, Utah.

Why you may be Right to yell “Photoshopped!”

This push-back goes only so far.  For example if you want to use your images to document something (photojournalism), you need to avoid most editing.  The exceptions are true corrections (color, contrast, etc.) that make the image more true to reality.  In this case you can’t clone out a branch or rock just because you think it is distracting.

But even for most of us who aren’t doing photo-journalism, there are important reasons to not dismiss the “too much Photoshop” argument.  Because the sorts of images that get attention online tend to be those that stand out from the crowd in obvious ways (color, dramatic compositions, etc.), there is much more extensive editing, compositing (combining different photos) and other techniques going on than in the past.  Much more.  It’s a change that probably has nothing to do with art and everything to do with the desire to be popular online.

These heavily-manipulated images are all called photographs, which if you go along with the definition above is simply dishonest.  Why would we lie about this?  It’s because we know that viewers want to believe the photographer stood in front of that scene and that the image is (pretty much) a faithful rendition.  On social media at least, photographs are valued over digital art.

And so it’s hardly surprising that most photographers are heavily manipulating and compositing their images and then pretending they’re the same as simple single exposures.  When anyone pipes up online and complains about this trend, they get that trite response mentioned above.  “You simply need to be educated on photography as art; trust me, I’m a pro”

What is Artful Photography?

The reason I don’t like this is not as much about its condescension as it is about a presumptuous extrapolation that goes along with this kind of thinking.  It goes something like this:  Only those images where reality is bent or twisted in some way are artistic.  And so it follows that minimally edited documentary-style images are not art.  Real photography by its nature seeks to alter reality, and that’s the art of it.  This is complete bull.  While it may sound all well and good, it ignores the very foundations of photography.  It discounts the artistic efforts of generations of great photographers.

I mentioned above that photography has always been about giving the viewer a selective, interpretive version of reality.  But this is just one side of the coin.  There is another aspect of it that I believe runs through all genres.  It’s this:  photography isn’t just about bending reality.  It’s also about observation, timing, and the attempt to capture a simple moment that needs little or no enhancement.

The image of the sailor kissing his girl in Time’s Square, for example, is mostly about the reality of that moment and needed no special developing techniques to become an instant classic.  Claiming that heavy editing on most or all of your images is just you being an artist is rationalization for heavily altering images, probably to get more likes online.

By the way, I think this fallacy; that is, that bending reality is the way you put the art into photography, stems from the long-standing inferiority complex that photographers suffer when comparing themselves with “real” artists: painters, sculptors and the like.

But the dual nature of photography I just described means that it can never be directly compared with more traditional forms of art.  In fact, painters and other artists of the realism movement in the 19th century were told similar things:  “You aren’t doing real art, it’s too realistic.”  But that was real art.  And so is realistic photography.

Wading the Fremont River, Utah.

Wading the Fremont River, Utah.

Awareness, Awareness!

So let me put this subject in more concrete terms and relate it to visualization, discussed last Friday.  Whether you are visualizing the specific way the final image will look or deciding that later, during processing; whether you are trying to match the way the scene looked to you in real life or deliberately altering that look, you are practicing real photography, not cheating in some way.

Either kind of image can be art, or it can fall short.  It’s not what you do to the image during processing that makes it art; it’s how consciously you create it, how closely your process follows your own vision.  And that includes what you actually observe in the field, not just your imaginative flights of fancy when sitting in front of the computer afterwards.

The Watchman overlooks the Virgin River: Zion National Park, Utah.

The Watchman overlooks the Virgin River: Zion National Park, Utah.

Navigating your way around the Argument:  A Balance

Many years ago I had a job prepping samples in a lab, waiting for an opportunity to go into the field in Alaska.  My boss was out of the ordinary, in a good way.  He would occasionally write a motivational phrase on the sample bags, underneath the number identifying the sample.  He knew we’d see it because we had to record the numbers.  I was soon sent into the field (what else do you do with a young guy full of piss and vinegar!).

For some reason we got a batch of sample bags that came from the lab.  A few of them had his writing on them, and while swatting mosquitos in the tundra they would show up.  A small batch had the following written on them:  “Awareness, Awareness!”  I knew it had nothing to do with safety (which he trusted us with).  It was part of his belief system, to be aware of everything around us, and to recognize it for being completely awesome and amazing.

The prickly pear cactus bloom comes in two colors, a vibrant fuschia and this more subtle yellow one: Zion National Park, Utah.

The prickly pear cactus bloom comes in two colors, a vibrant fuschia and this more subtle yellow one: Zion National Park, Utah.

So are we somehow cheating when we bend and twist reality?  Are we misleading viewers when our images do not match what the scene really looked like?  The answer is an emphatic no.  At least not when you do it consciously and with ‘awareness, awareness!’  It’s simply your artistic side at work.

Just do yourself a favor.  Don’t make the mistake many photographers make.  Don’t go around bending reality because it’s “more artistic”.  After all, creating images which differ from the way things actually looked is not any more artistic than consciously noticing everything about the way the scene appears to you, in order to match that during capture and post-processing.

My advice is this:  Do your own thing and don’t worry too much about what I or anyone else says.  But if your goal is doing artful photography, avoid following trends and use that powerful editing software with some care.  Make sure to focus on the capture phase just as much or more than the post-processing phase.  Start with careful observation of what’s going on around you, and throughout the process never stop observing.

Be conscious about what you’re doing and visualize a final image that is true to you and true to your subject.  Most of all, don’t worry about the opinions of people who don’t know as much about photography as they think they do.  Think about your subject, its surroundings and the overall feeling or mood, rather than what kind of image will get a lot of attention online.  The rest will fall into place naturally, trust me.  This is the most important thing I’ve said regarding photography in this blog.  Happy Shooting!

The setting sun highlights the walls of Capitol Reef, Utah, with the Fremont River flowing through it.

The setting sun highlights the walls of Capitol Reef, Utah, with the Fremont River flowing through it.

Friday Foto Talk: Visualization, Part II   6 comments

Lupines greet sunrise over the Palouse of eastern Washington.  I visualized putting the purple wildflowers together with the area's characteristic verdant green.

Lupines greet sunrise over the Palouse of eastern Washington. I visualized putting the purple wildflowers together with the area’s characteristic verdant green.

This is the third and final part on visualization in photography.  If this is interesting to you, definitely check out Pre-Visualization and Visualization, Part I.  This post will make much more sense if you read those first.  Except for the image at top, all of these shots are very recent, from southern Utah.

Visualization and the Black & White Photo

Let’s start with an example: shooting for black and white.  It’s a bit of a special case but illustrates visualization in action.  As I mentioned in my recent series on B&W, you can go out specifically to shoot black and white or you can decide later to convert one or more color images after your shoot.  If you decide before going out to do B&W, you are forced  to visualize the black and white image while you’re looking at the scene in living color.  It’s perhaps the simplest example of conscious visualization in photography.

A few of Zion's temples in monochrome.

A few of Zion’s temples in monochrome.

But you need to go further if you want to ‘visualize’ your way to being a better photographer.  Visualization only begins to make a real difference when you’re thinking about the subject and composition, along with the lighting conditions, and imagining the way you want the final image to appear.  In the case of B&W, the final images obviously do not match reality, which is in color.

And that isn’t the only way that photographers twist reality.  In fact, next Friday’s Foto Talk will wade into the polarizing subject of reality, art and “Photoshopped” images.  For now, realize that visualization is an important part of your decision whether to match reality or go beyond it.  Visualization during shooting can make that decision feel much more natural, less contrived, even more honest, from an artistic point of view.

I'd been wanting to capture the Temple Cap Formation of Zion National Park so I went around visualizing it.  This vantage point shows it perched atop the East Temple.

I’d been wanting to capture the Temple Cap Formation of Zion National Park so I went around visualizing it. This vantage point shows it perched atop the East Temple.

Can Visualization take your Photography to the Next Level?

Consider how visualization (especially the subconscious variety) influences the way you photograph your subjects.   Even so-called documentary images, those that attempt to match the reality of the scene, not only carry the subject’s story.  They carry your own personal take on that story.  Images captured with visualization can easily reflect your overall style.

I don’t believe great photography of any kind is possible without some level of visualization.  Even those excellent spur-of-the-moment street photos result from the photographer’s mental pictures of what’s happening.  Where anticipation of the critical moment is so important, these mental images are formed instantaneously and mostly outside the photographer’s direct awareness.

Thunderstorms in Utah’s canyon country mean full waterpockets. Here I wanted an extra-low point of view, so set my camera right on the rock at the edge of a pool.

Getting Started with Visualization

Don’t feel overwhelmed, thinking I just threw another obstacle in your path to becoming accomplished at doing photography as art.  Visualization is more natural than you might believe at first.  In fact, you’re probably already doing it to a small degree without realizing it, even if you’re a novice.  At least you are if you avoid thinking of things non-photographic while you’re out shooting.  But your goal should be to go further.

On your next photography excursion, start visualizing your images as you shoot.  Begin, as always, with conscious observation and awareness of your subject.  Then just let things happen in your mind.  Don’t expect instant results.  It takes practice and isn’t easy to do consistently even after you get the hang of it.  I’ll admit right here that I don’t always have the right frame of mind to visualize properly when I’m shooting.

The Navajo Formation dominates Snow Canyon State Park, Utah, and a high viewpoint helped me to visualize an overview shot of it.

The Navajo Formation dominates Snow Canyon State Park, Utah, and a high viewpoint helped me to visualize an overview shot of it.

After all, you’re not following a recipe or step-by-step instructions in order to get a specific type of photograph.  It’s much more organic and open-ended than that.  I know it seems like using crystals and the energy fields of pyramids.  There’s a reason visualization is not much discussed.  But I think it’s important to go beyond the cookie-cutter world of popular photography, where using a camera to make images is too-often taught as if you’re simply mastering a device plus a series of apps.

So give it a try.  Think about your subject and its surroundings, the overall feeling or mood of the place.  And visualize the kind of image(s) you think would portray both the scene and your unique take on it.  Don’t be discouraged if you aren’t dialed in right away.  Your mantra: keep trying!  Have a great weekend and happy shooting.

When stormy weather moved in at Snow Canyon, Utah, my images and then, later, the processing reflected that.

When stormy weather moved in at Snow Canyon, Utah, my images and then, later, the processing reflected that.

 

Friday Foto Talk: Visualization, Part I   18 comments

This image was the result of waking up just after sunrise and while still sleepy walking into a fog-suffused meadow in the Sangre de Cristo Mtns., New Mexico, visualizing an image that would capture that mood.

The result of waking up just after sunrise and while still sleepy walking into a fog-suffused meadow in the Sangre de Cristo Mtns., New Mexico, visualizing an image that would capture that mood.

I want to follow-up on last Friday’s post on Pre-visualization. This is Part I and next Friday I’ll conclude with Part II.  I strongly believe that most of our best pictures are captured when we are in the right frame of mind, and a big part of that is visualization.  Although pre-visualization can result in great images as well, I don’t think it’s as important a skill as visualization.  It’s not easy to put these ideas into words, but here goes!

At least it is easy to describe the difference between the two types of visualization.  I thought about calling the subject of this post Syn-Visualization; that’s because it takes place while you’re out photographing.  Pre-visualization on the other hand happens before-hand, while you’re planning a shoot.  A simplistic distinction I admit.  The two certainly overlap and lead one to the other.  Observation while out shooting is directly related in that it can lead to and be spurred by both kinds of visualization.

I had walked by this tall cliff of andesite near Mt. Hood many times, waiting for the right conditions to image it so as to show some of the lush environment along the creek that cut into the lava flow to expose it.

I had walked by this interesting cliff near Mt. Hood (Oregon) many times, waiting for the right conditions to show some of the lush environment along the creek that it borders.

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While in Oklahoma, I’d been pre-visualizing images of tall-grass prairie in wind.  The warm mood of this sunset allowed me to capture it, but with just the barest sense of movement instead of a longer exposure that would blur the textures of the grass.

Visualization in Practice

Let’s use a hypothetical example to show both kinds of visualization at work.  On a first visit to a place you might observe something about a subject that you want to highlight.  Unfortunately the light and other conditions aren’t quite right, so you shoot a more or less documentary (objective) photo of the subject.

Thinking about it afterwards, you spend some mental energy visualizing your desired image, planning that second visit (it may be the next day or next year).  Then when you’re onsite again, you are faced with different conditions, different from last time and different than your pre-visualization.  Your mood and state of mind are different.  There may even be things that have changed about the place.  A large log has fallen into a waterfall, for example.

Unfazed and with an open mind, you observe everything about the subject and conditions.  You observe the mood of the place, and inevitably your own state of mind influences your interpretation of that mood.  You begin to visualize an image that may to some degree be influenced by your pre-visualization and planning.  Or you may throw out all thoughts of realizing your pre-visualized image and visualize a different image.

All of this should lead to getting the best possible image.  A picture that does more than just record your being there.  One that is deeper than what you thought was possible after your first visit.  And as a bonus, you could end up being more artistically satisfied with your image than with one that is simply about the light, one that gets a lot of “wows” & “stunnings” online (although it could do both).  The more conscious visualization you do, and the more time you spend behind the camera, the more all this “virtual photography” takes place in your subconscious (read on).

Any safari-goer would love to get an image of a charging black rhino, right? This one wasn't charging but he was covering the ground between us a bit too quickly, especially since he had caught me outside the vehicle (a no no in Kruger N.P.)

Any safari-goer wants an image of a charging black rhino, right? This curious guy wasn’t charging, but was covering the ground between us a bit too quickly, especially since he’d caught me outside the vehicle (a no no in Kruger N.P.)

The result of visualizing pretty Mexican girls who wanted to clown around, and I borrowed a piece of fabric with Mexican flag colors as a backdrop.

While in Mexico I pre-visualized images of a pretty Mexican girl smiling.  I ended up with three young friends who wanted to clown around, causing me to change my mind and visualize them together, a borrowed piece of fabric with Mexican flag colors as backdrop.

Subconscious Visualization

Let’s go deeper into how visualization might help your photography without much conscious effort.  Both pre- and visualization can happen in the subconscious as well as the conscious mind, but there’s an important difference.  Subconscious visualization while out shooting is made conscious (or explicit) when you make the photograph.  It doesn’t always happen of course, but there’s at least a decent chance it will.  In contrast, subconscious pre-visualization moves to the front of your mind in the less useful form of an explicit pre-visualization.  Who knows if it will be made into an image or not, but the chances are slim compared to onsite visualization.

Pre-visualizing aspens in front of the Grand Tetons for most has them in fall colors, but spring green and their exposed trunks meant visualizing something different.

For most photogs. pre-visualizing aspens in front of the Grand Tetons has them in fall colors.  For me, spring green and exposed trunks meant visualizing something different.

I believe that visualization (both conscious and subconscious), much more so than pre-visualization and planning, leads to images that accurately reflect the nature of the subject and your own take on that subject.  It’s for the simple reason that visualization happens when you are faced with your subject, light and other conditions of the moment.  Images based on good observation and visualization reflect your own style better too.  Pre-visualization is subject to extraneous influences.

All of these benefits depend on how observant and conscious you are when you photograph.  If, while you’re out shooting, you are thinking about an argument you had with someone, or about the election and that guy with the fake hair, you can’t expect much useful visualization to take place.  I’m the first to admit I don’t always succeed at this level of attention while shooting, but the effort is worthwhile.

Visualization concludes with the next Foto Talk.  Thanks for reading, happy shooting, and have a super week!

The Columbia River Gorge in Oregon is a good place for visualization. Here at a restored area I was trying to depict the gorge the way it was before dams, with wetlands lining the length of the river.

The Columbia River Gorge in Oregon is a good place for visualization. Here at a restored area I was trying to depict the gorge the way it was before dams, with wetlands lining the length of the river.

 

 

 

Wordless Wednesday: On the North Rim   2 comments

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Posted June 8, 2016 by MJF Images in Uncategorized

Friday Foto Talk: Pre-Visualization   6 comments

From the Columbia River Gorge, this was a completely unexpected image, only captured because a traffic jam forced me to take a detour. Although I've been here many times since then, the conditions have never measured up to that day.

From the Columbia River Gorge, this was a completely unexpected image, only captured because a traffic jam forced me to take a detour. Although I’ve been here many times since then, the conditions have never measured up to that day.

The past half-dozen or so Friday Foto Talks have focused on landscape photography.  The topic of this one, pre-visualization applies to all photography.  But it’s become apparent to me that many photography “experts” believe pre-visualization is critical when making landscape images.  That triggered my always-ready skepticism, so I thought I’d examine this assumption with a critical eye.  Is it really possible that, at least with respect to pre-visualization, I’ve been doing landscape photography wrong all this time?  (In general I don’t pre-visualize my images.)

Mount Rainier from Eunice Lake, an image I had pre-visualized, though I did not know about the flowers until I hiked up there.

Mount Rainier from Eunice Lake, an image I had pre-visualized, though I did not know about the flowers until I hiked up there.

Pre-Visualization Defined

What exactly is pre-visualization?  In order to distinguish it from visualization (the subject of next Friday’s post), I’m defining it the following way: Before you’re out shooting, imagine in your mind the way you’d like an image to look.  You’re starting to pre-visualize.  Going further, you imagine the place and subject, the composition, all the supporting elements and even the light that makes the image look perfect.  In short, everything about it.  You also make the necessary plans to execute that image, including when and how to get there, where exactly to stand, etc.  You may even imagine all the praise you’ll get, but that’s a different topic!

I had come here to Great Sand Dunes National Park photograph the dunes, but found myself on a dry lake-bed nearby, and an un-pre-visualized image.

I had come to Great Sand Dunes National Park to photograph the dunes, but found myself on a dry lake-bed nearby, with an un-pre-visualized image.

Problems with Pre-Visualization

CHANGING VARIABLES

With landscape photography, I sometimes pre-visualize when I’m making a repeat visit to a place, rarely on a first visit.  But here’s the kicker: I mostly don’t get the precise image I’ve visualized.  Often I don’t even come close.  Does that mean I fail at getting successful landscape images?  Only you the viewers can judge, but in order to keep going I assume the answer is no.  Instead of getting discouraged, I recognize there are far too many variables at work for me to consistently realize my imagined images.  Light is the obvious one, but access and other compositional restrictions, unexpected extra elements, even the exact mood (both of you and the time/place) all come into play, most of the time ruining our best-laid plans.

While in the middle U.S. I wanted an image of a covered bridge or other historic architecture, but with a different composition. This one at Bollinger Mill, Missouri, fit the bill.

While in the middle U.S. I wanted an unusual composition of a covered bridge or other historic architecture, but didn’t visualize anything too specific.  This one at Bollinger Mill, Missouri, fit the bill.  

THE NEED FOR FLEXIBILITY

To be a photographer is not to always stick to your plan; it’s to be ready at a moment’s notice to enact plan B (or plan C).  It’s to be almost hyper-aware of your surroundings, observing the changing weather, light and other conditions, and to adapt, making the most of what you’re given.  You could lay out a pre-visualized plan and stick around until all the light and other variables cooperate.  But the time and patience required for that is not very practical, at least for the majority of us.

Sure, the occasional image might be important enough to you, so go ahead and do it.  Or if you’re shooting architecture, portraits, or some other type of photography with more easily controlled variables, then pre-visualization can work without great amounts of extra patience and time.  But your usual mode of operation for landscape and nature photography should be much more flexible and open-minded.

I had pre-visualized a starscape image featuring the Milky Way (when I was more into those), then I came upon this different kind of image with the Big Dipper & Vermillion Cliffs.

I had pre-visualized a starscape image featuring the Milky Way (when I was more into those), then I came upon this different kind of image with the Big Dipper & Vermillion Cliffs.

SNEAKY INFLUENCES

Changing variables and the need for flexibility is only the most obvious reason to take pre-visualization with a grain of salt.  Isn’t it possible that many of our pre-visualized images are influenced by images we’ve seen online, even down to the exact place and composition?  I think so.  This is perfectly fine if you’re a tourist or otherwise casual shooter and simply want to take some photos for fun and memories.  I was casual about photography for years, so I mean that sincerely!

If you’re more serious about photography and want to develop a style all your own, if you view your photography as artistic expression, it’s extremely important to avoid influences that could lead you to capture too many images that are derivative in nature, simple replications of the photography of others.

I had pre-visualized this image of Jackson Lake with the Tetons and the Milky Way. The setting moon was an unexpected addition.

I had pre-visualized this image of Jackson Lake with the Tetons and the Milky Way. But I’d planned on waiting ’till the moon set, not including it’s light behind the Grand.

When & Why to Pre-Visualize

Despite these downsides and cautions, I believe there is a place for pre-visualization.  For one thing, pre-visualization helps to develop at least a preliminary plan.  And it even works sometimes, with some luck.  I’ve posted the image at bottom before.  I’m posting it again because it’s the most recent successful image that I deliberately pre-visualized before arriving at the location.  But it’s the exception.  Most of my successful landscape images were not explicitly pre-visualized.  However, this doesn’t mean visualization was not involved (see below).

Definitely pre-visualized image of a small exploration drill rig. I even planned the pipe as leading lines plus the blurred movement in dim blue dusk light.

A pre-visualized image of a small exploration drill rig. I even planned the pipe as leading lines plus the blurred movement in dim blue dusk light.

The most important reason to engage in at least occasional pre-visualization is that it can help you to be more conscious about your photography.  Consciously thinking about your pictures before you go out shooting leads to more subconscious pre-visualization, tapping into your creativity.  Going further, the practice of pre-visualization (either consciously or subconsciously) can lead to a greater amount of visualization, which is done while out shooting.  Next time we’ll examine these things in more depth, specifically visualization and its role in making good photographs.  Thanks for reading and have a great weekend!

I had pre-visualized this image of the barn and cliffs of Capitol Reef, Utah. All I needed was at least one of the two horses being out in the pasture, plus good light of course.

I pre-visualized this image of the barn and cliffs at Capitol Reef, Utah. All I needed was at least one of the two horses being out in the pasture, plus good light of course.

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