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