“Landscape photography is the supreme test of the photographer – and often the supreme disappointment.” ― Ansel Adams
Adams spoke an absolute truth with this comment. It is amazing how many people take landscape pictures, (as opposed to creating them) and when they view them later on their monitor, wonder where the emotional range went that they felt at the time they squeezed the shutter. I call this Creative Disassociation and we will correct for this eye/brain phenomena during the Capitol Reef Landscape Master Class (and other master classes too). For now, I’ll provide a short discussion of the cause and effect.
Professionals and amateurs alike experience Creative Disassociation or CD. When we do, it is because what we see in our mind’s eye is often quite different then what is actually in front of the camera. We feel the scene but we fail to execute the work needed to capture and interpret that feeling or emotional range. The image outcome is disassociated from the emotion we thought we had captured and thus we are left to wonder what happened to that ‘wow’ feeling that demanded we press the shutter button in the first place. As Adams pointed out in his quote, it is a moment of supreme disappointment.
We are left to wonder what happened to that ‘wow’ feeling that demanded we press the shutter button in the first place.
CD is not an exclusive issue for landscape photographers; it affects all photographic genres and the other visual arts as well. However, there is a cure for creative disassociation.
Work the scene/subject and vary the camera controls. That’s it; capture more images; work more points of view, work the light from different times of day, vary camera settings and continually review and compare your work on the camera display. Ask yourself, what is working; what is not; and why? What are you saying in your head; what do you want to say— and what are the images saying. The difference between these two points is creative disassociation and the creative solution is to keep shooting images until what you feel and what the camera is capturing are close if not identical.
Ask yourself, what is working; what is not; and why?
Previsualize and talk to yourself
When I’m shooting I previsualize the final image and imagine the post-production steps I will take once I get back to a computer. In the field, I talk to myself, often aloud: “OK how are the shadows doing…. let’s bracket… oh this is great… just the highlights only and let the rest go dark… this needs different light… let’s reshoot with lower light… move, move, the composition is not working, what am I missing, where is this color going” and so on. If you were to review my camera roll from a shoot, you might see images that seem incredibly overexposed, underexposed, blurred and so on. I am fully exploring creative approaches and previsualizing post-production. Thus, the need for images that are far from technically perfect with the potential to be creatively perfect.
Talking to myself and thinking ahead helps me focus, to do the work needed to convey the emotional range I want to create. I’m working on purpose with a purpose to yield a purpose filled photograph. I’m concentrating on success, not disappointment, and yet I do experience disappointment, which humbles my ego and reminds me that there are only three things you can do to create a successful landscape image.
We’ll discuss these 3 in the next blog.