When I am in the field working, I always take the time to just sit and observe my surroundings. Quality is much more important than quantity when it comes to creating meaningful art. Taking the time to think an image through to the composition that I have in my mind is important in more ways than one. A great deal of time will be saved in post work if I ensure that all of the elements I wish to show you are in place and taking care before making the image will bring about a greater personal satisfaction that what I have created will be what I envisioned.
A recent blog post by Guy Tal drove this point home. He had taken a group of workshop participants to an isolated canyon that was little visited and had no 'iconic' scenes within. He asked his participants to first walk around in search of a composition without their cameras in hand. After someone found what they wanted to photograph, he would ask them to take him to the scene they envisioned and explain to him what they saw and hoped to achieve with their final vision. In this way they learned to see without the aid of looking through the viewfinder.
Working in this fashion encourages one to really see and in the end to hone your craft and set you on a path to creating more meaningful art. Using the camera to find your composition limits you to what the camera shows you and tends to make you work too quickly and 'grab' the shot that first comes into 'view', not what your mind has the potential to show you. Once you see the image in your mind, you can then break out the camera and get to work. It will teach you perspective and will also aid you in making lens choices before you even look through the viewfinder.
The image here is an example of this type of thinking through a scene before looking through the camera. I had been walking along a section of sandstone wall looking up and down in search of a composition. What first drew my eye to the wall was the color of the lichen and the vibrant contrast of the creeper ivy against the red sandstone. The ivy was being 'highlighted' by the afternoon light occasionally and I wanted to show this if possible. I also wanted to show the contrast between the lichen, the sandstone, and the creepers so this would affect my final composition. How best to represent what I was seeing in my mind?
When I first approached the wall, I was thinking of a tight shot with a short telephoto, but after spending a bit more time really looking at the scene I envisioned, I realized that a wide angle lens looking up at an angle of roughly 30 or 40 degrees would better render what my mind was seeing. The telephoto would have compressed the scene whereas the wide angle would spread the scene allowing me to add other elements that I envisioned. Now I will say that part of this decision was based on the fact that I would not have a clear path to the scene with the tele due to intervening branches within the working distance available. The wide angle allowed me to work closer to the subjects without this concern.
"Shadow And Light"
In the end taking the time to observe the scene and a bit of patience before actually making the image allowed me to create an image that I was extremely pleased to share. The final image represented how I see and envision my art.
I highly recommend reading the Journals of Guy Tal and looking at his portfolio if you want to delve deeper into the art of landscape photography. You can find them by clicking on his name in the post above or at http://www.guytal.com
I wish everyone a great Memorial Day weekend. If you personally know a 'veteran' of the wars we have fought to retain the freedoms we enjoy - Thank Them for Their Service