Edward Weston’s famous Pepper #30 is a great example of studying a subject. Exploring all angles. lighting and composition before choosing the one which best portrays the vision you saw prior to the first photograph. There was Pepper #29..28..27…, and so on before deciding on Pepper #30. But it took all the previous attempts to get the flow working and really start to see the subject and its possibilities.
There has to be a beginning for any photograph. A start which takes place before you realize it is happening. Perhaps an instinct that tells you a moment is approaching and it is time to start putting something in the camera. All your years fine tuning and reading events, situations or landscapes let you anticipate and prepare for that moment your minds eye envisions. The establishing shot is always a good place to begin. It allows you to begin the process of melding your mind eye to the camera. Just as a musician will tune-up an instrument before the symphony, serious photographers will warm their senses and photograph a subject from numerous angles, lighting, time of day, lenses, shutter speeds and apertures.
This approach has been part of my photography repertoire for many decades now, but with a conscious effort anyone can begin to make it their style too. Why leave something when you’re already there with only one image to show for it, give yourself endless possibilities for the edit later. At times you may find yourself at the right place but the wrong time. You see the potential in your mind but the lighting would be so much better at another point in the day. Shoot something anyway and plan to come back for the shot in your head later that day, the next week, month or year. At least you have your staring point with the initial shots you captured.
I have many photographs where the final shot is the culmination of over 100 exposures/captures and many trips back to a location. The adage ‘a work in progress’ starts when your emotions and instincts move you to respond by lifting your camera and end when all the shooting is done, the editing completed and the image has become reality.
As with anything else the more you do something the better you will get at it. It has nothing to do with what kind of gear you own if you lack the vision to see the images and react to them. Study a subject and explore it from more than one perspective. Begin to see the light. Is it warm or cool? Is your subjects lighting from the front, back or side? Would it enhance your vision if the lighting were from another angle at another time of the day? If you begin asking the questions to yourself you will become much more aware of the role your ‘minds eye’ has in the photography process. Remember your are not merely the cameras operator, you are the artist with his tools.
The story behind my image. This photograph has taken me over a year to produce. I knew the location existed but needed to find it, scout it and finally shoot it. My first attempt was six month after I discovered the general area, but was at the wrong time of day, I shot some preliminary photos to review and plan my next trip. Which was on Fathers Day 2010 with a 4 AM wake-up call. I think I shot about 90 frames and edited down to one. I tend to be a ‘fat’ shooter, likely from my background in photojournalism.
“To look at a thing is very different from seeing it.”