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Archive 2013 · On visualization and Planning
  
 
jsuro
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p.1 #1 · On visualization and Planning


Congratulations to jsuro for winning Feature Thread of the Week with 10 votes - View Previous Winners


HI All,

Photography has been quite the journey for me. A long one at that - I’ve been making images since the 1970’s. Like for most of us, along the way my methods, techniques, tastes and visualization have evolved to where I find myself today.

A while back we hit the digital revolution. There was a new sensor, camera, lens, software, etc. out almost every month. During that stage I got out a lot, and shot a lot. I now realize that the drive to shoot was mainly the new stuff. I wanted to see how it all worked. I wanted to see how my images would improve. This led to what I refer to as “chance imaging”. I went out regardless, sometimes not knowing what I would find. I tried to force the images to appeal to me because, after all, I wanted good pictures. In retrospect, I wasted a lot of time.

Fast forward to the last few years. I moved back to film, large format at that. And a new learning curve. This time though I went about it differently, a bit wiser. I learned from the past and this time I tested the new equipment under controlled conditions. More importantly, I planned tests with a predictable outcome in mind. Once done I felt confident about what the equipment could and could not do, and this led me to not only visualize images while sitting in my living room, but because of this I rarely go out on a shoot unless the conditions meet the parameters of those visualizations.

I shoot a lot less as a result. However, the images are much closer to what I had in mind; there is a lot less manipulation in the “darkroom”, and I have evolved a more coherent personal style.

The two images below are a good example of this. I have been shooting in that part of the river since the seventies with all kinds of different equipment. I'd always wanted to go back with my LF camera because of the immense amount of detail that it generates. However, it took about three years before I made the trip. The conditions had to be just so, with overcast skies, high water, no wind and a host of other things. That happened last week, and I was ready.

The results are just what I had in mind: the darkish, almost sinister look that I was looking for, while still holding outstanding detail. For what it’s worth, I shoot far less now, but most times I get the results I’m after. The images below are first cut proofs, and subject to change slightly.

Thanks for Looking,

Jose

Both images: Ebony SV45ti – Rodenstock 210mm S – TMAX 100 @ ISO 125 – 12-seconds @ F22.3 – Polarizer – 4-stop ND – Film developed at minus 10% time.
















May 08, 2013 at 12:32 PM
CarlG
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p.1 #2 · On visualization and Planning


Just gorgeous!! You make me proud of my home here in Tampa.


May 08, 2013 at 01:05 PM
Camperjim
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p.1 #3 · On visualization and Planning


These are absolutely superb with lots of interest and drama and, as you describe, with a sinister quality.

I also spent some time looking at you internet site. I am not sure whether I should just give up photography or be encouraged and strive to improve. I love your images.



May 08, 2013 at 02:23 PM
ckcarr
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p.1 #4 · On visualization and Planning


Both are just outstanding Jose!

As are your words of wisdom.



May 08, 2013 at 02:34 PM
Aaron Cowan
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p.1 #5 · On visualization and Planning


Both are beautiful, Jose. I prefer the slightly angled view in #2, looking more upriver. Very nice write-up too. One reason I like the tilt-shift lens I have so much is that it forces me to slow down and meticulously check everything. Still a LONG way from being comparable to shooting LF


May 08, 2013 at 03:37 PM
chez
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p.1 #6 · On visualization and Planning


Absolutely gorgeous photos. Love the mood in them. Fantastic clarity.


May 08, 2013 at 04:47 PM
cherubino
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p.1 #7 · On visualization and Planning


Lovely tones!! Both are nice, but in the first one I find the tree moss is distracting. I always wnated to do fine bw images, but just do not have an eye for bw.
Thanks for sharing the image and your evolution as a photographer.
Cherubino



May 08, 2013 at 09:46 PM
JimFox
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p.1 #8 · On visualization and Planning


Hey Jose,

Nice work on both of these, though neither feels sinister to me. They simply look like good B&W shots.

I really like the way the river is flowing in #2 the best, though I do like the trees in the background a bit better in #1. But the river is the real focus of the shot, so #2 is my pick.

It was interesting to read what you wrote about your progression as a photographer. No matter what camera you use in the future, I hope you continue to grow and enjoy the art.

Jim



May 08, 2013 at 10:41 PM
briancphoto
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p.1 #9 · On visualization and Planning


I think I would clone out the rocks in the foreground as they are a bit distracting. Just kidding. I love both of the images and the story. The kind of places we can all get lost in and look around. Well done. Brian


May 08, 2013 at 11:15 PM
dswiger
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p.1 #10 · On visualization and Planning


Jose,

Thanks for the well stated reminder that great photographs come from good planning, patience & visualization. Your work and Ben's are a testament to this and has inspired me to improve.

I too have taken up film again just for this purpose. While I still shoot digital, this new discipline has changed how I approach photography.

It' will always be a work in progress but is more rewarding.

Dan




May 09, 2013 at 12:00 AM
 

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gdanmitchell
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p.1 #11 · On visualization and Planning


Lovely images. I especially like how you have pulled visual order out of such a complex and rich scene. (This makes me think of a favorite John Sexton photo near Happy Isles in Yosemite that has an almost unbelievable amount of details contained within its borders, yet still seems to make visual sense.)

And "visualization" (or "pre-visualization") is certainly a very useful skill. But so is "hunting," which is how I often refer to the constant search for images in place where we might not anticipate finding them, so we look. Preparation can be very important and, in some cases, indispensable. However, not all great photographs - not by a long shot! - are the result of such planning, and quite a few - most, I'd say - involve a significant amount of good fortune, intuition, and the ability to act quickly and decisively in the instant.

For me, the thing some call pre-visualization is not quite a single thing. It includes some of the following:

1. What Adams was probably referring to when he used the term, an attempt to imagine the scene not as it is but as it might be in a photograph. (You certainly had to do a bit of that in your photographs with moving water, since that is not literally possible to see "in the wild.") This also goes to understanding how to apply decisions regarding exposure and composition and more in light of what the photo will be rather than what it appears to be, and it also involves decisions about exposure that are focused more on what you will do in post, perhaps, than on trying to achieve an "accurate" capture. Note that all of this applies whether you simply discovered the scene/subject spontaneously or planned ahead of time to photograph it.

2. Literally having an actual photograph in mind, more or less mapped out in advance, and then going out to record its image. I think we all do this sometimes, though I know few great photographers who do it all the time or even most of the time. (I acknowledge that the situation will be different if you are shooting, say, products or certain types of staged fine art work, etc.) By the way, this goes beyond ideas like "I want to photograph that waterfall at noon," to include pre-planning and control over many more elements of the thing.

3. Having a sort of "bank of visual components" in your mind. At one point I thought that perhaps I was odd this way, when I realized that I carry around a sort of mental archive of elements of images - textures, qualities of light, forms, types of motion, juxtapositions, and more - and often, though far from always, when I make a photograph I am, to some extent, finally discovering the real embodiment of these bits and pieces. Eventually, from conversations with many other photographers, I found out that this experience is extremely common, and may be part of what attracts us to certain subjects and certain ways of seeing them and lead to style.

In my view, though I can acknowledge some exceptions, the idea that we really control our images is overstated. There are things we do control, but there is much that is far outside of our control, especially in landscape photography. We cannot make the light - we can look for it, recognize it when it happens, move fast enough to capture it while it is there, and perhaps even increase the odds that we'll be there at the right moment - but in the end it is not up to us.

For me, more often than not, the process is not one of prior knowing followed by going out to capture the known. Instead, it is a constant process of looking, seeing, discovering, experimenting, and growth.

I guess there is more than one way to do this, right? :-)

Dan

Edited on May 11, 2013 at 12:06 AM · View previous versions



May 09, 2013 at 02:18 AM
khilleg
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p.1 #12 · On visualization and Planning


LF is still light years from the best digital out there. These are awesome shots!

I agree with Dan. I plan a lot of my shots. But they usually don't work out that way. And that's OK

Some days it's more about just be out there and enjoying the sights and sounds of being in a "wild" place. That's why I love waterfall shots the best. The rushing water is very soothing to my soul. I wish there was a way to add the sound into my prints

Kevin



May 09, 2013 at 05:58 AM
jsuro
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p.1 #13 · On visualization and Planning


gdanmitchell wrote:
Lovely images. I especially like how you have pulled visual order out of such a complex and rich scene. (This makes me think of a favorite John Sexton photo near Happy Isles in Yosemite that has an almost unbelievable amount of details contained within its borders, yet still seems to make visual sense.)

And "visualization" (or "pre-visualization") is certainly a very useful skill. But so is "hunting," which is how I often refer to the constant search for images in place where we might not anticipate finding them, so we look. Preparation can be very important and, in some cases, indispensable.
...Show more

Thanks so much for your feedback Dan - I really appreciate it.

Yes, there are many ways to go about this photography business. I do enjoy walking around and enjoying the scenery. That said, I'm in my late fifties, and at my age carrying 45-pounds of equipment around in uneven terrain and hot weather is not high on my "enjoyment" list . This last time out the soles on my $#$^@#% expensive hiking boots gave out, and they did as Murphy predicted on the farthest point of my walk. I ended up messing up my left Achilles tendon and have been limping around for a week....

And I agree that for most of us that great light is a very fleeting thing. It can be very hit and miss and difficult to plan for, It can however be parametrized to increase our chances. For example, I have learned that the best color for sunrises and sunsets is produced by high cirrus clouds. I also know that in the fall, winter and spring these clouds show up immediately prior and following cold fronts. That can be planned for. During the summer colors is thunderstorms, and that can be planned for as well, albeit more hit and miss but they do follow a local pattern. In the case of the images above I wanted a heavy dark overcast, no wind, and lots of rain in the prior couple of days. I had to wait for that because those conditions are not very common.

You mentioned Ansel Adams.Yes, He was great and he was out ALL the time. But, I think he was at a terrible disadvantage compared to today's photographers. No weather satellites, no internet, no GPS, and on and on. I use Google Earth extensively for my planning. There are thousands of images made by thousands of photographers readily available for most every location. There is "street view" where you can see where you will be. You can send the coordinates to your car's and handheld GPS. And on and on....

So you see, we can do a lot of planning ahead without leaving home. That said, All of this is worthless if we don't have a vision of what we want the scene to look like in print, and to capture that vision we have to know exactly how our systems work. All of this needs prior planning and visualization. As I get older I realize how precious my time is and I try to maximize it .

Thanks again,

Jose





May 09, 2013 at 11:49 AM
jsuro
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p.1 #14 · On visualization and Planning


khilleg wrote:
LF is still light years from the best digital out there. These are awesome shots!

I agree with Dan. I plan a lot of my shots. But they usually don't work out that way. And that's OK

Some days it's more about just be out there and enjoying the sights and sounds of being in a "wild" place. That's why I love waterfall shots the best. The rushing water is very soothing to my soul. I wish there was a way to add the sound into my prints

Kevin


Thanks Kevin! I love waterfalls, and we don't have them in Florida so I miss them a lot. I will be going to the North Western corner of SC in October to pick up a new SUV and will go waterfall hunting and fall color in SC, TN and NC. As you might have guessed I'm already doing a lot of planning!

Best,

Jose



May 09, 2013 at 11:57 AM
gdanmitchell
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p.1 #15 · On visualization and Planning


jsuro wrote:
That said, I'm in my late fifties,...


You are still a kid! ;-)

... and at my age carrying 45-pounds of equipment around in uneven terrain and hot weather is not high on my "enjoyment" list .

Ah, the stories I could tell!

I've been backpacking into the Sierra for years on foot, and now carry perhaps 15 pounds of photo gear. However, when a fellow photographer invited me to join him and a couple other of my friends on a horse and pack train supported 9 day trip later this summer, I only pondered for, oh, five minutes before saying yes. ;-)

And I agree that for most of us that great light is a very fleeting thing. It can be very hit and miss and difficult to plan for, It can however be parametrized to increase our chances....

As is often the case when I actually hear the full story from folks who talk about pre-visualizing their photographs, it turns out that we are not that far apart. While some who hear others use the term imagine that it implies that they go out knowing what their photograph will look like ahead of time, what you describe is quite different. In many cases I work in a similar manner. While I depend a lot on good fortune and intuition and quick response to changing situations, I do know how to increase my odds. This comes from attention and sensitivity to conditions, a heightened awareness of things like light, an experienced-based improved and constantly improving ability to sense what might happen, and flexibility about making decisions on the spot as things evolve.

And, yes, when I press the shutter button I often have a pretty darn good idea of what the result might look like as a print, and I often even have in mind some ideas about how I'll likely post process. (Though I do "explore" the subject from multiple angles and compositions, too.)

Take care,

Dan



May 10, 2013 at 01:30 PM
gordon l
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p.1 #16 · On visualization and Planning


Excellent images and I enjoyed your words as well. They are so true to my situation as well.

We do the best we can. I sometimes feel people are "forcing" an image to be great by pulling out lots of Photoshop tricks. Sometimes I just admit this photo or that one is not IT and hope for better light another day.



May 10, 2013 at 04:37 PM
gordon l
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p.1 #17 · On visualization and Planning


Having just read all of Dan's stuff, I also agree with him. We do 'hunt' for images once we're at a location, trying to find something new or to see something in a new way.

Thanks Dan. Very thoughtful words about our passion.



May 10, 2013 at 04:53 PM
jsuro
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p.1 #18 · On visualization and Planning


gdanmitchell wrote:
You are still a kid! ;-)

Ah, the stories I could tell!

I've been backpacking into the Sierra for years on foot, and now carry perhaps 15 pounds of photo gear. However, when a fellow photographer invited me to join him and a couple other of my friends on a horse and pack train supported 9 day trip later this summer, I only pondered for, oh, five minutes before saying yes. ;-)

As is often the case when I actually hear the full story from folks who talk about pre-visualizing their photographs, it turns out that we are not that far apart.
...Show more

Thanks so much for these insights Dan. It goes to show that we all do it somewhat the same way an different at the same time if that makes any sense. AND, I would love to hear some of the stories! I love being entertained with photography out in the field tales .

Best,

Jose



May 10, 2013 at 11:05 PM
jsuro
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p.1 #19 · On visualization and Planning


gordon l wrote:
Having just read all of Dan's stuff, I also agree with him. We do 'hunt' for images once we're at a location, trying to find something new or to see something in a new way.

Thanks Dan. Very thoughtful words about our passion.


And this is true. The friend that I was shooting with did just that. We were shooting the rapids, standing on some rocks that jutted out into the river. He looked down and right and found a shot 2-feet away, with the water doing circular eddies with streaming bubbles. Darn fine shot, straight down into the water. So yes, it works that way too!

Best,

Jose




May 10, 2013 at 11:13 PM
jsuro
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p.1 #20 · On visualization and Planning


And thanks all for the kind comments!!

Best,

Jose



May 10, 2013 at 11:41 PM
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