Archive for the ‘visualization’ Tag

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.

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.

 

 

 

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