Great ‘minds eyes’ shoot alike…..

It’s funny how a simple thing in life can spark something that otherwise was not on any agenda. I was at a book store yesterday and picked-up a copy of the April 2010 issue of National Geographic Traveler, the cover caught my eye. The cover shot, by Massimo Bassano, of the town of Positano, on the Amalfi Coast, threw me back to my time there in late 2007 shooting along the same coast. What was uncanny to me was that Massimo had chosen almost the same vantage point as I did, a different time of day, but my dusk shot was in Amalfi later.

“A good photograph is knowing where to stand” Ansel Adams.

It got me thinking about all the inherent traits we, as photographers, photojournalists especially, fine tune to enhance our ability to use the minds eye to its fullest when scanning a scene or situation. Most of the time this is accomplished with no thought to the process. We scope out a vantage point, lighting,  and all movement in our vicinity including faces. We see the possibilities or imagine them before we even raise a camera to our eyes. In our minds we have already taken the photo and all we have to do is transfer that to an image others can see.

“You cannot depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus.” Mark Twain.

The more I shoot the more I know that photography is more a way of thinking than it is a technical exercise. A ‘minds eye’ approach to an image rather than calculated technical skills. ‘Keep it simple’, is sound advice and ‘F8 and run’, if you’re in the news business, worked for me and received a Canadian Press Award to prove it. An example of this that has stayed with me for years is a photo captured by Ansel Adams, ‘Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico, 1941. This was his most spontaneously conceived and executed image. He viewed the scene and saw the image while driving back to Santa Fe after a day of shooting in the Chama Valley and was only able to make one exposure, an exposure based on intuition as he could not find his meter, before he lost the light and the sun finally set. The negative it yielded was, from a technical standpoint both contrasty and somewhat underexposed in the foreground. Yet is one of the most sought-after prints by collectors of fine art photography, with an earlier print fetching between $200,000 – $300.000.

Ansel glimpsed this photograph laid out before him from the road and his mind gathered enough information to instantly envisioned the image. All he had to do was transfer from his ‘minds eye’ to the negative (8×10 inches) before the image was gone. A technically perfect exposure would not have produced the same photograph and capturing the right moment did not produce a technically perfect negative.

The lesson here, for me anyway, is to develop and fine tune your intuitive and perceptual skills in approaching photography. The camera will always be only the tool used to capture what your mind sees, so if your ‘minds eye’ is shut you are simply the cameras operator. Do everything you commit to in life with ‘intention’, have an idea of what you would like the end result to be, then proceed with that vision even though there maybe some obstacles or shortcomings along the way.

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2 thoughts on “Great ‘minds eyes’ shoot alike…..

  1. An update to this blog is that I have been invited to meet Massimo at a workshop next month. Tempting. Fate has a funny was of showing up, you just have to have your eyes and ears open to realize it when it happens. As a result of seeing that cover yesterday and acting on it, I now have an new opportunity to meet a fellow colleague and a new friend in the lady, Barbara, without whom I never would have connected with Massimo Bassano.

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