Sunday, April 22, 2007

Go, Look, See

After writing about the three different aspects behind one's photography, there are three simple rules I try to follow to even begin to capture an image. It's just as the title suggests. First, you have to go where you want to photograph. Second, you have to look around from the small to the large. And third, you have to see images to capture. The rest is the mechanics of being a photographer, to use your mind's eye to see the image you want to produce and to use your equipment to get it. Not hard to describe, but it's like they say, the devil's in the details.

The fist step is to go. That's easy, just pack the gear and go. If it's local, as often as you want. It's something they recommend, consistency for being there over time. If it's a distant place, you have to plan it, and usually just for a limited time when you think is the best, but often is for convenience with work, family and life. It's a compromise you try to get everywhere during the time you have. It's easy to forget you're just getting a snapshot in time of a place.

The second is to look. When you get there you have to pay attention. This means forgetting about the other things in your life and focus on your photography. You have to bring all your mental tools to open you eyes and your mind to see what's there; to look all around, follow the light, watch people or subjects, and free the artist in your mind.

The third is to see. If you're looking and seeing images of interest, you have to translate it into a photograph. This requires using the artist in your heart, the visionary in your mind, and the photographer in your brain. You have to visualize what you see into the final image to translate with your camera.

After that, you have to produce the image with the tools you have, either the traditional darkroom or digital processing and printing. And if it comes together from the moment you saw the image to the final image, you'll feel good about being a photographer.

A lot of people write about this idea, and sometimes it's the words of long experienced photographers looking back on the decades in the art and business of photography. Many write, but only a few write gems, and those are the ones you should hear or read. You will learn something, and hopefully remember it when you're in the field with your camera or sitting in front of your computer working on images.

And to add an afterthought. There are trips and days you just don't get it right. That's the reality of being a photographer and a human being. It's the nature of living. The better photographers learn to be aware and adjust, especially the professional ones who have to walk away with the images they want. The lessor of us learn and get better as we go, something I learned this last week when I just couldn't get my brain in gear for two days.

But that's why I retired, to focus on photography and learn as I go.

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