Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Pre-Visualization (or not!)

Heading out for a shoot at the coast, I had in my mind a location as well as the type of shots I wanted to come home with….I was wanting a shot along the beach where the rocks form small channels where the water flows and I was really wanting to focus on the movement of the water through the rocks.  I was all set to capture the dynamic forces of the ocean!  As I drove out, I was planning shutter speeds, thinking about how to shoot to achieve the feeling I want, as well as how I’d process the shot.  I was excited to shoot and come home with the shots I was looking for. Well, when I arrived at the location, the tides weren’t quite right to achieve the water motion I needed/wanted, the sand had shifted and filled in some of the channels to the point they weren’t interesting any longer, and the sky was cloudless and boring.  All of my thoughts and planning lay in shambles on the sandy beach!!!   

As important as planning and pre-visualization of your shots are, another crucial skill to have as a photographer is the ability to quickly adapt to changing conditions, locations or opportunities.  As much as you really wanted that iconic shot with epic clouds in the sky, as a landscape photographer we are subject to the whims of nature.  No amount of planning or hoping can reshape the beach or put clouds in the skies.

So once I picked my expectations off the ground, I got busy looking for something that inspired me.    I’m not content to just shoot anything, I want to feel inspired to shoot a scene and then convey that inspiration to my viewers.  Not an easy task on the spur of the moment. This is the time when you really have to flex your creative muscles!

In these times, it’s good to look at the big sweeping scenes to see if something inspires you, or, like it did, start looking down at “little” scenes that could also convey something meaningful. You’d be amazed how much cool stuff is right at our feet.   On this night, I came home not with the dynamic shots I was looking for, but with several macro and “intimate landscape” scenes that I found to provide some inspiration.

It is important to try and pre-visualize your shots so that you can effectively work a location or come home with those killer shots you want.  Likewise, it’s equally important to be adaptable to the changing conditions and be able to flex your creative muscles at a moment’s notice so each of your photo trips can be productive, regardless of the location or conditions

1 comment:

  1. Great points, John! I've found the same works for other visual art. I take hundreds of reference photos when I'm out hiking, and because of the often-less-than-ideal conditions, I find myself shooting images that I might not otherwise shoot. Some of these turn into good paintings. We were at Montaña de Oro in CA, and the low clouds made the light very flat. The mist hanging on the mountain caught my attention and I snapped a frame. Of all the dramatic "rocks and wave" pictures I took on that day, it was the gray sky and one that turned into an 8x10 painting that went on to win Honorable Mention in a juried show. You never know!