Envisioning The Image
Dusting Off My Hard Drives – Part 2
During these difficult times due to COVID-19, I decided to look at even more old images on my hard drives to accompany this new subject that has been on my mind for some time and in turn keep myself busy while at home in self-isolation.
I often have studied locations where I am destined to travel to on my next trip in order to find out what other photographers at that specific location have captured. Then when I eventually get to that specific site I will capture what I assume to be the “must-see” compositions, but keep an open mind toward creating something others perhaps have not yet captured while at that same location. Even though I state this, often the image captures I like the most are the ones where I never looked at what others have photographed at my next destination in order to keep an open mind as what might appear before me. Some say that looking at others images can limit your creativeness. I sometimes wonder if this is true.
To envision is to imagine or picture as a future possibility; see in one’s mind’s eye; or visualize. Of course, I envision future captures I might create, but converting that into an appealing image is a whole other matter which for me means using my own specific vision while on site.
While studying a site on the internet I cannot begin to wake up my personal vision, but I can envision the standard capture. Only when at a specific location do my creative juices begin to flow which many might call someone’s personal vision. Whatever you call it, to me it is one’s vision that creates images and not what one envisions. I find it very interesting that Kevin Raber who probably has at least 30 years of continual shooting experience more than myself, calls this site “Photopxl.com-Enhancing Your Vision.” How true.
I recall my very first outing on a landscape workshop with Alain and Natalie Briot where I was taken to the Horseshoe Bend., AZ I had had many eye operations in the months prior to going on this workshop and discussed my handicap and concerns with the Briot’s. They kindly offered to have Natalie accompany me when we were to go near any cliffs. Horseshoe Bend has a fragile rock structure at its edge and many a photographer has lost their lives while getting a bit to close to the edge. So on this day, Natalie held my arm as I walked toward the edge in the excitement of this capture. I had seen it on the internet, but nothing prepared me for the real-life scene before me. What a scene to behold. I was like a kid in a candy store based on what I was experiencing. Natalie walked me left and right along the edge from a safe distance in order to help me select a composition to my liking. Suddenly my vision kicked in and I saw a small plant in the foreground with yellow flowers right near the edge. I could never have envisioned this capture. I have since been back many times to the Horseshoe Bend, but have never found a more compelling image than the one I captured that morning. Natalie’s patience with me on this outing gave me time for my personal vision to kick in.
Another similar example was the first time I went to Monument Valley. I was again with the Briot’s and had seen a few images of Teardrop Arch where through the teardrop in the rock one could see many of the familiar rock structures of
Monument Valley itself off in the far distance. Since I had envisioned using a 50 mm lens, I mounted one on my camera in advance. However, when I finally stood in front of the Teardrop Arch Rock itself I not only wanted to capture the view through the arch, but also the vertical enormity of the rocks, where the arch had been created thousands of years before, in one image. Since the rock seemed at least 50 feet high I found myself changing lenses to a wider angle lens in order to capture what my on-site vision was calling for, i.e., getting the entire rock in the composition. To this day I am pleased I changed lenses. As a beginner at that time, it also taught me a valuable lesson for future shoots—get to the location and then let your vision of the scene dictate what lens you use.
I also recall going to Mono Lake, CA for the first time with an achromatic camera. In past visits, I had always used a color camera and ventured pre-sunrise in the dark out to the
Eastern side of the tufa stacks for a sunrise capture. Since a color capture was not my goal this very morning what I had envisioned for a B&W image did not work out for me in my usual place of capture.
As I was heading back to the boardwalk exiting this location, the sun began to climb and it soon lit up the snow-peaked mountains in the background to the West of Mono Lake. It was then that my creative vision and juices kicked in and I saw the image I wanted to capture—the snow-capped peaks reflecting on Mono Lake with tufas and their reflections captured in the image.
Then there was the first time venturing into the Sequoia National Park with an expert on the Park, Bob Killan, of National Parks Photographic Expeditions. I had seen images taken while looking vertically up at the huge stands of gigantic trees with reddish bark. They looked inviting so I envisioned trying to capture something like that.
As it turned out that did not happen. Sure I have taken images of my wife in front of large Sequoias in the past, but that shot was a “must-have” for the tourist in me years before. But with Bob, who inspired me to get into a more creative mood, I instead focused on a burnt tree from an earlier forest fire that was in front of a large boulder. It became almost an ethereal image to me. Here again, vision trumped envisioning.
Not long ago I was at the Alabama Hills, but this time with the express purpose this time of shooting the Mobius Arch for the first time with my technical camera with both color and achromatic digital backs. Vertical image capturing took a long time since each capture required 7-8 shots with my wide lens in order to get the entire Mobius Arch in the final stitched image, all while the sunrise continued.
After the sunrise, I decided to look around more than I had ever done in the past where often after the best minutes of the sunrise one would just head back to the car.
Not far from the arch I saw an image that struck me as unusual and got my creative juices flowing. The interesting composition was to the side of the arch where the arch was still in the image but from an unusual angle. As I combined the arch with other rock structures near the arch, this composition took on a whole new vision for me as the clouds turned dramatic. It almost looked like a squid with a strange arched rock formation in the background forming its tenacles.
In summary, I now realize that I have often envisioned compositions where I was not using my personal vision, but perhaps other’s visions while capturing the “must-have shot” if you will. Most want the must-have shots, but all too often we capture those shots and never give ourselves time to find new and perhaps more interesting compositions that can make the image your vision.
I have found that traveling more and traveling to new venues helps you exercise using your personal vision more often. If I had the funds I would certainly try one of Kevin’s Antarctica trips. His Palouse workshops cost way less and involve just a handful of photographers where from what I can see one’s personal vision and creative juices might flow day after day.
Get out on location and spend enough time there in order to let your personal juices start to flow which in turn lets your personal vision come forth helping you create something that is yours and no one else’s. Run and gun approaches to landscape photography can be your worst enemy where you are not being fair to yourself after traveling near or far to any location. Instead slow down, take it in and allocate more time to each planned stop while leaving plenty of additional time for unplanned stops. Often that can be difficult if you are with a group, but you owe it to yourself to wander off in your own thoughts so that the best of your creative juices are allowed to flow freely while you “Enhance your Vision”.
After nearly loosing my eye sight, the decision in 2011 to buy a digital camera in order to leave something on earth if blindness were to set in has given me the energy and drive to capture images of all sorts. In one word it is Life that I capture in all its shapes and forms. Life has various meanings to each of us, but it is Life that is crucial to me no matter where it is found. I very much like to see Life and live Life. On one hand, I am a photographer who captures earthy, gritty, emotional and moving street scenes with a worldly emphasis. And on the other hand, I am also a photographer who loves the openess and solitude of the beautiful and moving landscape environment where ones artistic juices are allowed the freedom to flow to their maximum. Sometimes that means dramtic colors and other times it means capturing the scene in stong and intense black & white images. In January 2016 I was again fortunate enough to receive the coveted Jay Colson Portfolio Award at FOTOfusion where 50 professional photographers and photo editors voted my portfolio the best. Winning this Award once is an honor, but now that I have won it three years in a row, it is an overwhelming achievement. Below are links to various articles written about my photography and what moves me to capture my images. Cuba Article-Leica User Forum My Street Photography-Leica User Forum My Landscape Photography-Leica User Forum