Originally Posted by Mark H
When I conceive of a project, it is usually because I've seen something that immediately connected in my mind as an exciting image, and have made some connections that suggest others related. In developing the theme, I think about what images, at a minimum, would be needed to make the project complete. These then become the foundation of the project's origin. In practice, my success rate with these planned images is much higher than for others, but is still less than 50%. The process of planning these images and thinking about the project as a whole, the intended theme, and how to convey it, makes my eye very ready to see related opportunities. I end up shooting many more unplanned images than planned ones for any project. The very strongest images are usually from the unplanned ones, though many of the planned images turn out rather well also.
I wanted to explain my working method a bit more, because I think you hit the nail on the head. The strongest images come to us in unplanned ways (although for a studio master like Ralph, this may not apply...) and it is really a question of being ready for them. The planning I was talking about doesn't really seem to limit me so much as prepare me for the opportunities that arise. Eisenhower was a big champion of battle plans, but he said that the value of the plans wasn't the final plan but the process of preparing it, and how it helped you to be ready when the plan didn't really work out.