I typically wander around with no plans in mind. If I see something that makes all of my emotions flutter then I try to capture it. I feel like I am the sum of my emotions, so to capture something which rings them all, is one way to show the world who I am..
Interesting so far...I am somewhat surprised to hear some that I think are LF shooters still approach their work like a 35mm shooter. From what little exposure I have with my own 4x5 (OK it's a Crown Graphic, but a world away from rollfilm to me) it would seem that the act of seeing, composing, metering, etc would be much more deliberate than say for someone with a small 35mm.
Now if the ULF (8x10 and up) would like to comment...what makes you load up, and tote the gear out for a shoot?
I photograph because I feel compelled to. I am hard put to indicate in words what the source of that compelling feeling is. I photograph with 12X20 for the same reasons that I photograph with 8X10 and 4X5.
I do realize that recently what I photograph is once again changing. I began some years ago by emulating the work of Adams, Fred Picker, and others. These were images of "things". By "things" I mean readily identifiable objects either of themselves or in relation to other objects as in a landscape. Recently I feel most strongly about photographing abstractions. I have been at this long enough that I follow my feelings, my hunches, and my inspirations.
As someone else has already stated the question "why" is impossible to address in language. Words are inadequate. The image speaks for itself. It speaks first of all to me and possibly and secondarily to others.
Here we go getting deep again. There are very few things that I do that I'm not thinking about something photographic while I'm doing it. Sometimes images are sketched and planned shot re- thought and shot again. This happens both in the studio controlled environment and on location. Even as pre-conceived as these shots are they still require flexibility for the moment. I did a one week workshop with Albert Watson one time and I learned a huge lesson from him, As tightly controlled as his sets are (his lighting is very specific) his Eye never left his sitter. Once they were in there pose and he walked away for whatever reason, his sitter would relax into their pose and thats when he would say "that looks great lets do that" Then he would adjust his light to their understanding of his concept. As far as street shooting is concerned, Having the camera in my hands strangely enough gives me power, power to see and power to feel, feel the changes in the air, and see the changes in the light. Though I'm not a huge fan of Dorothy Normans work I've always understood her sensitivity towards images and hope that I come close to the simplistic quality her images present to her viewers.
This is going to sound oversimplistic...
The same reason that some climb mountains...
I take the photograph because the image is THERE.
HOW it gets to be there can be very simple, or involved... but in the last analysis ... I recognize the presence of the image and DO it!!
Why? Because I feel better when I am doing photography than I do when I am NOT doing photography.
Hmmmm..seems like the WHY? has taken on the philosophical meaning of WHY? What I attempting to find out, is all of you make specific outings just for photography? i.e. - trips to a special place, local or far away. Like Les's trip to the U.S & Canada (sure did enjoy the updates - miss 'em too!).
In other words, how often do you get out and where do you go to photograph? (OK, right now for me it's never enough - hoping that when retirement comes in a few years - (OK 15 or so, but a guy can't start dreaming to soon can he!) I can get out much more than I do now.
For people photography (which includes theatre photography) I work instinctively, trying to anticipate the moment.
In most other cases I work from self assignments, on projects or toward certain concepts.
Sometimes it's difficult changing gears between the two but just as often it's refreshing.
Some times I just happen to bring a camera when I go out, other times I go out with a camera.
I tend to bring the LF gear to "promising locations", but usually end up shooting something entirely different. The only time I've done meticulous planning - and gone through with it - was last spring's solar eclipse.
I still shoot on "impulse". Even with a LF monorail...