Visualization and the Art of Seeing

Ansel Adams is credited and as coining the term “visualization” as it relates to photography.  The concept is pretty simple actually, before making a photograph (employing your craft) a photographer must first “see” the image in his or her mind’s eye (employing your vision).  There’s a great little snippet of interview footage where Ansel explains the concept in his words, found here.   This is an import step in the imaging process because it requires the photographer to actively engage in the scene before taking a photograph, make decisions about composition, what time of day, light and weather might work best for the image.  The act of visualization can be the difference between making a photograph and taking a snap shot.

acadia national park photography

© Kurt Budliger Photography

This image of the rocky coastline in Acadia National Park in Maine was visualized long before I tripped the shutter.  Before my trip to Acadia this year I spent some time studying park maps and consulting Google Earth to find potential spots to shoot sunrise.  The day before I made this image I scouted this somewhat secluded cove to look for compositions.  I timed my mid-day scouting visit with a point in the tide cycle that would be similar to when I’d be shooting the next day.  The difference between high and low tide on this part of the east coast can be as much as 12 feet so the character and potential for compositions can vary significantly.  When I showed up the in the pre-dawn darkness the next day I knew exactly where I’d be going and how I’d be composing my shot.  All that was left was for mother nature to deliver some nice light and clouds for the shot I’d visualized.  I got pretty lucky on this particular morning as these were some of the only clouds I saw in 5 days of shooting.

I find the best light can sometimes come 30 mins before or after the sun breaks the horizon so it’s important to arrive early when shooting sunrise.  Once I had my composition set up I used the live view mode on my camera to zoom into the scene for critical focus and to check depth of field.  I used a 3 stop graduated neutral density filter to balance the brighter sky with the significantly darker foreground.  I wanted to maintain a natural, pre-dawn look to the image so I was careful to not render the foreground rocks too bright.

~ by kurtbudliger on October 22, 2010.

One Response to “Visualization and the Art of Seeing”

  1. Lovely image! It’s easy to tell this image isn’t a snapshot – lots of hard work there. Thanks for sharing all the technical details 🙂

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