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.

 

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6 responses to “Friday Foto Talk: Visualization, Part II

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  1. Your first image has me returning and returning. The layers are stunning. Enjoyed your series on Visualization.

  2. What a great series!!!!! Thanks so much!!!! Great photos that really drew me in to visualization.

  3. That first shot is simply stunning.

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