Realising your Vision

Discussion in 'Ethics and Philosophy' started by Les McLean, Aug 8, 2005.

  1. Les McLean

    Les McLean Subscriber

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    In many of the posts in photomc's excellent "Vision" thread some spoke of the difficulty in finding the words to express their feelings, an understandable comment given that we are first and foremost photographers. This problem started me thinking about a different way to explore the question of "vision".

    We all have our favourite subjects and make exposures of them for a variety of reasons, the light may be good or our mood may be just right, whatever. My questions are: how many of us "see" the final image at the time of exposure and how many "see" the final image only during the process of making the print in the darkroom? However, these questions are probably more about "how" rather than "why", but please bear with me. The next questions are: are we inspired by what we feel and see in our mind and heart at the time of exposure and imagine how we want the subject to look like in final print? do we wait and accept what the film paper and chemicals will produce for us without thinking too much about what we WANT to see on the paper?

    I guess what I'm trying to get at is how much we all respond to what we choose to photograph when faced with having to produce an interpretation of our own "Vision" for others to enjoy, assess or even reject.

    I thought that it may be an interesting challenge for us to show our "Vision" in it's final form and at the same time show each stage in the process of realising that vision. Finally, to write a short explanation of our reasons for making the image in the first place.

    Here's my offering to start the ball rolling.

    Roughting Linn 2004
    This place is my personal fantasy haven that I visit whenever I can, and often go there to cut myself off from the world and sit and think over problems. Roughting Linn does not look like this in reality, it is a quite dark place being in a small gorge and surrounded by trees. In the 30 years that I have visited this place I've always seen it as a place of light and have tried to convey that in all the prints I've made of it.


    Images from left to right
    1) Scan of the 4 x 5 negative developed in Prescysol
    2) Pilot print on Ilford Warmtone 3 filter (no burning or dodging)
    3) Final print on Ilford Warmtone split grade printed using 0 and 5 filters
    4) The print plan
     

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  2. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    Great post, Les, and I really like this approach. I'm headed out of town in a couple of days, but I'll put some scans together in a few weeks when I get back to post here.
     
  3. Joe Lipka

    Joe Lipka Member

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    It is important for me to understand what I am going to photograph before I go about making the photograph. Having a photographic goal in mind prior to image making is what I do. If you don't set out with a goal in mind, you wander aimlessly. Sometimes wandering is a good thing and a lot of fun, but my preference is to start with a goal in mind.

    The next step, which I would like to try, but haven't mustered the courage yet, is to lay out a portfolio "script" and then go make the photographs.

    I usually include text with each portfolio project I do. Results are on my web site. Stop by and visit.
     
  4. c6h6o3

    c6h6o3 Member

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    I look forward to doing this, but it will take considerable time to put together, since I always discard my work prints after I've produced the final ones. But, I'm about to print some new negatives and will document everything as I do them. My method of getting an image onto paper is as different from yours as it can possibly be.

    Can anyone scan a 4 x 5 negative for me if I send it to you? I have only a flatbed scanner. I think it's vitally important to show the negative in a discussion such as this one.
     
  5. argus

    argus Member

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    I agree that pre-visualising is very important, but at this stage, I am still post-visualising, i.e. working on my darkroom technique to match the print to what I saw when I too the picture.
    I always strive to get a capture as perfect as I can get. That's my first step, and for B/W photography, it's far from perfect yet.

    G

    btw, Thanks for the nice topic :smile:


    G
     
  6. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    Having an aim is not necessarily the same thing as knowing your aim. I think a lot of interesting work has come from people who have had a vision that they could express in images, but that they couldn't express in words, which is why I like the direction Les has proposed here. It could be argued that the really interesting aspect of a work of visual art is precisely what exceeds the capacity of words. Great artists, I think, are looking for something, often with a considerable drive to find it, but they only know it when they see it.
     
  7. Thomassauerwein

    Thomassauerwein Member

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    Each idea is a personal quest. In it there are questions only the originator has and answers only the originator can answer. In an ideal world we could go out capture and print an image that suits our goal every time we pull out our light meters but it just does not happen that way. At least not in my world.
    My way of working is to shoot, print then evaluate ask more questions of the idea then look for the answers. Then re-shoot. This goes on for years on a concept some times but I love the chase sooo, Where's my light meter?
    I think to include myself in Mike and Les's vision quest I'd like to dig up images along the path and show the progression of an idea before it hits the darkroom.
     
  8. jd callow

    jd callow Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    I have just returned from trips to Rochester NY and Chicago. I will be making proofs and final prints later this week and will post the succession as you have outlined.

    This could be an excellent thread if enough were to join. As it is I can see and appreciate your printing process.
     
  9. haris

    haris Guest

    This is my biggest problem. I often ask myself will I ever be able to get myself in situation when I could previsualise photograph. I know what I want to do, and I have finalized photograph in my mind, but I am never shure will procedures I make when I am actually working to acheve that photograph lead me to the photograph I have in my head. I only hope. Sometimes I have success, sometime I don't. I think I have lack of practice and experience. But, I discover next: If there is photograph I really, strongly want to get I allways get it. Like some "force" drive me to my goal. I get that photograph almost unaware of how I get it. I don't know how I get it, but I allways get photograph I am firmly decide I want to get. So, it is not coincidence, there is too much "right doings" to be just by chance, but I can not explain how I get that photograph.

    I hope one day I will learn to previsualise photograph and to know exactly what to do to get it. That would bring piece in my photographic life...
     
  10. Leon

    Leon Member

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    Sometimes I get really excited when I expose the film truly feeling that I know I have something that I will be able to do justice with in the darkroom - in other words I have pre-visualised my print. Othertimes, I like the subject so feel I have to shoot it, but dont have any particular way of realising the print in mind - I'd say that of these shots, 50% turn out as a nice suprise when i print them.

    It's my darkroom night tomorrow night, so if I come out with anything I'm happy with, I'll post it up here
     
  11. scootermm

    scootermm Subscriber

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    les, I always like your threads.... Im glad you dont post them all the time because it makes them that much better.

    alright heres my attempt:

    Mayfield Park: lilly pads
    This is an ongoing project for me. I have been visiting this small park for almost the entire time Ive lived in Austin. A friend of mine who also does photography used to tell me about the wonderful flowers and gardens that he would go photograph at during his lunch break. I was new to photography and shooting alot of slide film with both my 35mm and my 120 camera. I started venturing there and took slide upon slide of the gorgeous foliage.
    maybe 4 or 5 months ago when I went back there and started to see alot of images I wanted to capture in black and white. I started working with my 8x10 and going up there almost religiously at around 5-6pm everyday. I was getting some images I really was pleased with. after spending a while I started working with my 7x17 camera there and really felt comfortable with the format and the location. I started really seeing alot of images that fit it so well.
    as an aside, this garden is rarely visited by people on occasion there is a wedding photographer doing engagement photos or the occasional family will wander through with their children. but all in all, alot of the numerous hours Ive spent there have been in solitude, aside from the noises of the peacocks. Its a wonderful place to sit and write in my journal and contemplate dillemas, rough patches in life, etc.

    This particular image is one I saw almost instantly and wanted to capture. it was around 4pm when I saw it and I knew from the get go I would be making a Van Dyke print of it (what Im concentrating on with this series). I have become familiar with the process and its range of values etc. I knew from the get go I wanted the water to appear the darkest possible tone. Zone I and II. so I had to wait and hope that the dropping sun would allow this and also to still allow the lillys to register as pure white.
    I chose to frame the image in the way it is because I was moved by the bottom lilly that hadnt blossomed the two groups that seemed to balance each other in the left 1/3 and right 1/3 of the frame and really like the sunlit grasses peaking through the top. with their reflection showing the parts that have been cropped out of the top. almost felt like a sense of symetry in what normally feels like 'natural' chaos.

    Honestly this image is one of the few that was a true success from the standpoint of seeing with "van dyke" eyes and creating a result that adequately expressed what I initially hoped for.

    image 1: test strip
    image 2: Working print - showed I would need to burn a little because I didnt want the grass to take up too much attention.
    image 3: the final print with 5mins of UV exposure and 1min of burning the bit of grass. (yes I actually do on rare occasion dodge/burn my contact prints - *ducks*)
     

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  12. Jorge

    Jorge Inactive

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    I think a lot of the vision thing has a lot to do with being able to control our materials and know their limits. In this image I "saw" how I wanted the print to look and I metered accordingly. The trick was in the metering more than in working the print post exposure. The difference in contrast between the near wall and the far objects was only a few stops, so I metered for the near wall to be darker than what it appeared to be, since I use an integrated system the corresponding developing time was automagically given to my by the palm pilot. All I had to do was develop and print the negative.

    Of course it helps that pt/pd has a much more linear response so what would need a lot of dodging or burning with a silver paper is very straight forward with this process.
     
  13. Ole

    Ole Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    I do almost the exact opposite: I wander "aimlessly", seeing what I see. When I see something is when I start thinking "picture" and how to capture what I see on film. The drawback of this is that I tend to carry all my lenses with me on every trip, which gets heavy and limits my action radius a bit.

    My latest successful trip was a wander about the village I live in with a single small camera (Bessa-L) and one lens. That image ended up in the print exchange. I wich I could show the exact steps I used to print it, but I have to confess I didn't... It was a straight print, no burning or dodging, on VC paper without filtering...
     
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  15. roteague

    roteague Member

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    I generally have a pretty good idea of what type of image I want before I go out, but I am always flexible enough to change based upon circumstances - over here you always have an issue of tourists as well as the weather. Since I shoot primarily color, my image is pretty well complete in the camera.
     
  16. Aggie

    Aggie Member

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    I am drawn to a scene, but know well enough that what I see before me is just a starting point. Film when developed surprises me. I then take my work print and play with it. That is when the visualization starts. U will work with the matting L's to see if cropping helps. The following is the picture that Ailsa so kindly put in her magazine. I already had the two versions. With moving I would have to dig through a box to find the orginal work print and scan it.
     

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  17. Timothy

    Timothy Member

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    the Vision thing

    When I first saw this post I wanted to respond, but I went for a walk and got something to eat and came back. It is funny to see how fast the thread has grown in the meantime. You have struck a chord here, Les, and I feel that it is a really worthwhile thing to contemplate. Please bear with me through some seemingly off-topic stuff which I will show the relevance of.

    The great Alto Sax player Charlie Parker is often quoted as having said " If you can't hear it, it won't come out of your horn! "

    Ansel Adams' well known series of books on all things photographic begins with a discusion about "pre-visualization" and a specific emphasis on this step being required to achieve success. You will note that this is exactly the same thing that Parker was saying only applied in a different medium. (Not that it is particularly relevent, but AA probably first came up with this about 20 to 30 years before Parker came up with his version.)

    Many people have quoted both of these sources, and others, so many times, that the concepts and words have become ubiquitous. Does anyone ever wonder W H Y either one of them said these things in the first place ??? .......

    I am speculating (and I emphasize speculate - I have no source for authority except my own insight) that both of them had encountered people with the " Lost Watch Problem" so many times that they were trying to show how to avoid it in the first place. That is: the problem of losing one's watch in the bedroom, and then going to look for it in the living room because the light is better in there.

    Transcriptions of Charlie Parker's tunes are available from numerous sources. And music students every day, somewhere, learn to play them and then wonder why they do not sound like Parker. "Point & Shoot" cameras, or their equivalent, are purchased every day and taken to the exact spots that AA stood in to make his iconic images - and the results are anaemic at best.
    These people might try learning what made Parker feel what he was feeling and what made him tick in every way and what technique he used and how he got to it etc... but that would be hard work.... the light is better in the living room ... it is easier to just buy the transcription. The most relevent point - the one that I believe Parker would have emphasized - is that, even if a truly dedicated desciple took the "hard route" all he could hope to achieve, is to wind up sounding like Parker, when the real objective should be to sound like himself.

    I use non photographic analogies for a good reason here. I think it is useful to spend a moment thinking about how many times in your everyday life you have encountered a situation where something - ANYTHING - is not working the way it is desired to, and someone wants to adjust the software, or change a procedure without changing the training. All the while, if you think about it, the real problem is that the real flesh and blood people who are involved just don't get it in some important way. But getting other people to understand is difficult ... the light is better in the living room ...

    So, if you want to understand something about your own vision and how to apply it in any creative medium, you have to realize that it is a constant part of you. You have to practise using your vision to understand and perceive every part of your life. It is not something you can turn on and off.

    But what Jorge said above, about knowing the material involved, is key also.
    Another music analogy: If you are not a musician, I am sure that you will relate to this story just the same. You have a dream about some favorite place in your life, and there is music playing. The most beautiful music you have ever heard. It seems to go on for ever and fills you with so much joy and wonder that you might explode. Then you wake up and realize that it was a dream. But you are so moved by that music that you rush to the piano to try to repeat it. Only you can not remember a single note. Dreams work that way. Forget about the notes - they are meaningless anyway. Just close your eyes and play ..."the feeling".
    That would never happen, of course, unless you were so proficient on the piano that you were capable of playing your feelings. "If you can't hear it, it won't come out of your horn !"

    If you strike all the "right" keys in the "right" order, you will organize noise, very efficiently. If you listen to your own voice and use all of the craft that you can muster, you will make music. Les began all this with an image of a place that he had strong feelings about, and enough craft to communicate that feeling. Likewise if someone else were to borrow Jorge's camera (if he would let them) and use the software that he mentioned for his Palm pilot, we all know that they would never come up with the same image that Jorge did.

    Personaly, I do not believe that it is ever neccessary to have an idea about what a print will look like before hand. It is only neccessary to understand what you are feeling and have the craft skills to communicate it.

    Tim R
     
  18. photomc

    photomc Member

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    Hope this thread will continue with the thoughts of others. This type of thread is what some of us 'need', while we all love the nuts and bolts threads - let's face it many on this site seem to come from technical backgrounds, so it is by our own nature to want to put things in tidy little boxes with a checklist, that says if I do this, then I can expect X result. While not a bad thing, Vision or how we see photographs really does not fit into a nice tidy box. We have trouble sometimes, discussing this...Les and I have had more than one discussion about it, and I have to admit to only understanding part of what he is trying to help me understand.

    We'll get there Les, and who knows the road there might be quite interesting. Spent some time last evening reading Bruce Barnbaum's 'The Art of Photography' (2nd edition). Chapter 4 is about Visualization and while I have read the through the book several times, more often the more technical sections, found that this time some of the words/concepts leapt off the pages and meant much more.....Thanks Les, don't think that would have happened without your prodding. Now, will have to take time to read and re-read these pages.

    Because I have not contacted Mr. Barnbaum asking for permission to quote him here, I will simply say that if you have the book take some time to read his thought. If you don't have it, I do recommend it. One point that is made is that we have a lot of input coming at us (not only visual, but smell, touch, etc) and by taking time to see the details, we train ourself to see more often. We are more aware of light, shadows, shapes. Then by looking through a GG or viewfinder we futher distill the information and try to put it on a flat piece of paper. Today, my personal vision allows me to 'see' much more than I used to 'see', and as I learn the skills needed and understand the tools better can slowly begin to put that vision onto paper.

    May never get there, part of the enjoyment is the journey after all.
     
  19. jd callow

    jd callow Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    The journey is everything for me. If people like the images that's great, if they don't it won't stop me.
     
  20. Nige

    Nige Subscriber

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    my wife took a picture of me sun-dodging a cyanotype, hands about 3ft above the 'print', looking like some kind of butterfly impersonation. It's hard work standing and concentrating for a couple of minutes! Since it was a digi-snap, I can't show you :smile:
     
  21. blansky

    blansky Subscriber

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    As a portrait photographer of kids, I always have a preconceived plan of what I will do with the client, if you can call a 3 year old a client.

    Almost never, does that preconceived idea work out. Usually what I like the best is the idea of not pre thought and just winging it.

    As in my tired metaphor of hockey, just react, because you have been practicing for this for years. Somehow though I always like to have a fallback position.


    In photographing adults I like to have a concept that I'm going for because I've almost always met the client and have and idea of what I will do. BUT still the best stuff seems to be spontaneous.

    So my old hockey adage still works, just react and let my instincts/brain/muse take over.


    Michael
     
  22. Thomassauerwein

    Thomassauerwein Member

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    here, here to that! Somehow just having a lense (attached to a camera) While out and about seems to add an additional sense. A third eye if you will but more than that it seems to heighten the other senses. On top of that if your out on a day with clouds and a bit of wind the light changes constantly which is a feast. You can litterly feel the value changes. At that point I think vision becomes a sense in itself because of the awareness stimulated by knowing at some point nature is going to give you that value range your looking for to achieve that image your watching. Those are my favorite days. We do get them a lot around here during certain times of the year. The rest of the time we end up digging through the shadows looking for grey light oppertunities.
     
  23. jimgalli

    jimgalli Subscriber

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    Thanks for an excellent discussion Les. Vision.

    In our rushed world, most of the time the possibilities rush past like something you thought you saw in your periferal vision. On those special days though, set aside to photograph, no schedule, no marriage partner, excellent possibilities, cameras and film at the ready, that's when the vision really turns on.

    The case in point I've chosen to share was on one of those trips. I was traveling to the SF bay area to meet up with APUG friends. I didn't know how my time would work out as I hadn't traveled to the bay area that way before and I needed to be there sometime in late afternoon. As I passed this scene at 45 mph I said to myself I'll stop here and photograph tomorrow on the way back home. I had the 7X17 with the 305 Dagor set up in my minds eye 24 hours before I exposed the image.

    The scene is where Yosemite Creek crosses highway 120. When I returned the following day, true to plan, I spent a pleasant hour here. Turned out I couldn't get the scene I wanted with the 12" lens so the 270 G-Claron went on instead. I needed to have a sense of where the water tips over at the top, and where it pools at the bottom.

    To answer your questions more fully though. Yes, no. Sometimes it's so easy to see and plan exactly what you'll get as it's on the GG. That's why I switched from the 12" to the 10 3/4". OTOH, sometimes I'm playing with a Verito or a Petzval and those lenses can be full of surprises. Perhaps in a few years I will have used them enough to know from what I'm seeing on the glass approximately what I'll get. The swirly bokeh picture of the 1950 F1 Ford truck (in my gallery on site) was done later the same day with the 18" Verito, and it was full of pleasant surprises. But I got exactly what I had visualized......pretty much :wink:
     

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  24. df cardwell

    df cardwell Subscriber

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    Hi Les... neat topic.

    We're all put together differently, and the formal notion of Visualisation may be as wrong for many of us, as it was right for Ansel Adams. The formality, and systematic approach, gave Adams a way to unite his Romantic heart with his Technologist's mind. His friends, Weston, Stieglitz and Strand were all highly intuitive artists and Adams recognised that he had to invent his own form of creativity. I fell under the Adams influence early on, and began several years of making good images that weren't... me.

    Somewhere along the line, doing documentary work in an emergency ward, the emotion ran so high that I simply began responding to what was going on around me: no thought, no visualisation, no intellectual understanding of what was going on. I felt drawn by waves of emotion, and simply aimed the cameras at the source ( an 8x10 deardorff and m4 leica if it matters ), and pushed the button.

    Printing the work, well, that was an experience. I didn't recognize most of the pictures and had no recollection of making them. But over the days and days that followed, I re-experienced much of what I felt when the film was exposed, and in the initial printing began to see what before had simply been felt.

    I've come to understand that it is probably accidental that I get a visual artifact from my camera. It might as well be a tape recorder. Photography, for me, is a way of capturing emotion and preserving it as a picture. And working intuitively ( And I guess by that I mean reacting to the sum of the data present rather than a detail, and the process proceeding from the general to the specific, without doing the calculus. )

    I'm amazed that some of you have the ability to envision an image. I'm dazzled when I watch friends draw or paint. No idea where it comes from. Glad I've got my cameras. And I'm glad they don't really care what they are being aimed at. I guess I take pictures to find out what I'm looking at.
     
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  25. clogz

    clogz Subscriber

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    A very interesting book: Kathryn Marx "Left Brain, Right Brain Photography" I bought it some ten years ago; perhaps still available second hand.
     
  26. df cardwell

    df cardwell Subscriber

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    And Myers-Briggs.