Archive for the ‘aspens’ Tag

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.

Oklahoma_Sept-2014_6D_030-Edit

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.

 

 

 

Two for Tuesday: A Close Call   31 comments

Maroon Bells, near Aspen, Colorado.

Maroon Bells, near Aspen, Colorado.

Normally my Two for Tuesday series is about someone (or something) other than myself.  This time I’ll share a personal story, something scary that happened to me recently.

I’ve been traveling in Colorado, and made a swing through the Aspen area for the quaking aspen in fall color.  I wasn’t really planning to go to the ever-popular Maroon Bells, but found myself  driving up there as sunset approached.  I knew there was no way I would be shooting the “Bells” from Maroon Lake.  There are already about a million too-many shots of this on the internet and on walls everywhere.

Instead, I hiked past the throngs milling around the lake and on up-valley.  The lake is only a few minutes’ walk from the parking lot, and is admittedly quite scenic.  If you visit this area for the first time, go ahead and shoot from there.  I did on my first visit.  I’m really not trying to be smug.  But if you’re a serious photographer, I think you’ll want to get your own take on the place and avoid the tired composition that has been shot to death.

I climbed up an avalanche chute, bushwacking through the colorful but infuriating undergrowth.  I was sure I’d miss sunset, or rather the colorful skies as the sun set behind the mountains.  The trees and brush were in my way and it was getting steeper.  But I found a rock outcrop and, breathing hard, scrambled up.  I crept out to the edge and got a great view with aspens in the foreground (image at top).  I switched lenses from my Zeiss 21 mm. to the 50 mm. lens.  This was a crucial decision.

Next day I drove to another part of Colorado.  A couple evenings later I was shooting sunset and noticed an empty spot in my camera pack.  My Zeiss 21 mm. lens was gone!  This is a fairly new lens, currently the most expensive one I own.  So I was devastated.

On the computer I reviewed the metadata for all my recent images.  Although I had stopped and shot at a bunch of different spots to shoot, the last time I had used the Zeiss was shooting at the Maroon Bells.  Hooray for metadata!  Next morning I started the journey back across central Colorado, checking every place I had stopped, just in case the lens had somehow dropped out.  In the back of my mind I suspected it was at either at that rock outcrop or it was gone for good.

By late afternoon I was back hiking past all the photographers at Maroon Lake.  I had trouble finding the spot again.  It was just a random spot on the mountainside, away from any trail.  But toward sunset I recognized a tree and then the rock outcrop.  I was nervous; this was my last chance.  But I finally allowed myself to look down at where I’d been shooting.  And there it was!  It sat happily in the aspen leaves a foot or so from the edge of the cliff.

My shouts of joy echoed off the Maroon Bells.  I thanked the gods that I wasn’t the type of person who shoots from all the usual spots.  Needless to say, had I been at the lake that night, the lens would be long gone.  But nobody would likely ever shoot from that rock outcrop.  So except for the odd bear finding it and using it as a chew toy, I knew if I’d left it, it would still be there.  The sun was setting.  So to celebrate, I turned around and shot back toward the lake, where you can’t see but 50 or so tripods were lined up along the shore.

Maroon Lake sits in its aspen-lined valley, Colorado.

Maroon Lake sits in its aspen-lined valley, Colorado.

It’s a special kind of happy to find a lost $1600 lens on a mountain.  But I was also dismayed at my forgetful nature, which I’ve lived with since I was a kid.  Oh well, at this point in life you either accept all your failings or you drive yourself nuts.

Thanks for checking out the story and photos.  Have a wonderful week!

Single-image Sunday: Autumn in the Rockies   17 comments

It’s funny how the shortening days have played havoc with my good intentions to do a Friday Foto Talk this week.  But by next Friday it will be different, promise.  This is the area I’ve been hanging around lately.  Because it’s so darn beautiful!  It is an arm of the San Juan Mtns., themselves a part of the Rocky Mountains of southwestern Colorado.  Telluride is just the other side of those mountains.

 I was hoping the aspens would still be going here but I didn’t have very high hopes.  What a great surprise: they were in their spectacular peak!  I’m not one to be on the hotline as far as these things go; I’m sure there’s an app for it.  I’d rather be surprised.  And I don’t want to avoid going to a place I know is lovely, fall colors or not, based only on some narrow-focused recommendation off the internet.

This was captured atop a ridge when the sun finally cleared the storm clouds lingering over the higher part of this range, which is out of view to the left.  I climbed atop this rock and used it and the nice pinyon pine as foreground.  I think this image has everything the Rockies are: rugged mountains, golden aspens, pinyon pines and lichen-encrusted metamorphic rock.

I’ve been exploring this area more completely than I have in the past.  In fact, I’m right now burning daylight!  Since this is my last full day here, I am going to finish this post, stop watching football, and drink the beer I ordered faster than I want to.  Hello golden hour!  Have a great week everyone.

 

A beautiful morning and fall colors go together well in the mountains of SW Colorado.

A beautiful morning and fall colors go together well in the mountains of SW Colorado.

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