Upload & Sell: On
Ben Horne wrote:
I’ve learned that there are two primary methods of “seeing” as a landscape photographer. The first is to wander around — be inspired by what you see, then capture the beauty of nature as you see it. The second is to envision a shot in your mind that was inspired by nature — then intentionally seek that image. I find that many of my photos were created using the second method.
I've talked with quite a few photographers about this whole pre-visualization notion and the extent to which it <i>really</i> does and does not come into play when we make photographs.
There are circumstances in which we can have a very clear idea of the potential image before we even go to the place, much less set up the camera, compose the image, and make the exposure. This "second method" turns out to actually be quite rare, at least in the literal sense, in my own experience and in the experience of many other photographers whose work many in this forum may know, respect, and even admire.
This leads to the role of the "first method," which generally seems to be the predominant approach in most landscape photography. The record is replete with stories of many great photographs that were produced this way. Once again, I'll point to Adams' "Moonrise" as an example, though there are plenty of others. I had a conversation with two or three such folks at the home of one of them on New Years Eve in the Sierra foothills, and one of them was quite vocal about how much landscape and nature photography (and, in my view, other sorts as well) is actually done primarily by responding quickly and often almost intuitively to opportunities that one did not literally pre-visualize nor have much control over. One of these folks became quite impassioned while talking about the myth of landscape photography always being a slow and contemplative process - quite often it is a matter of reacting very quickly to something that is ephemeral, dynamic, and gone almost before you see it.
There is a third way to think about this, and it lies between the two extremes and might even provide a link between them. I've often described to other photographers the sense that I carry a sort of mental library of bits and pieces of images that I'll know when I see them. While I don't necessarily see whole, complete photographs before I arrive on the scene (at least not most of the time, though it does happen) I do often recognize a quality of light, a juxtaposition of shapes, a type of atmosphere, textures, colors, and so forth in the scene... that I already knew of and "saw" in my mind ahead of time. To some extent, the act of making the photograph then becomes partially one of finding a way to make a photograph out of the discovered instance of that familiar thing.
There is much, much more that could be said about this, but I've written much, much too much already! ;-)
Lovely photograph, by the way, Ben.
I knew you would chime in on this thread -- I always appreciate your thoughts, and the points that you raise with your eloquent writing. The third method mention makes a lot of sense, and it is something that I have utilized now that I think about it. It's a bit like puzzle pieces... you can see bits of each element, and it's just a matter of finding the composition or specific subject that threads them together.
In discussing my shooting trips with some non-photographer friends and family, they often ask why I choose to visit the same locations again and again. They will say that I should go somewhere new, and see something different. I then explain to them that I visit these same locations again and again for that very reason -- to see something new, and to see something different -- but within the same location itself. When I'm away from these places, I often think of shots I wish to capture based on my experiences in the past, and that fuels my desire to return.