Previsualization

©2012 Dave Ortiz

I learned photography when all was film. Digital was still about 10 years away, in fact autofocus still had not come to market. This was not that long ago; I am talking 1985 or so (okay maybe for some it was a long time ago, but not really – come on!) In those days visualization of the finished image was a very important concept, Ansel Adams called it previsualization, the ability to look at a scene and be able to see the finished black and white image. Basically you learned how to see the way film responds to light values. Now budding photographers like my 8 year old have the LCD screen to immediately get feedback. I think this is a great learning tool. But at some point you should know your equipment so well that you can look at a scene and be able to predict how your camera will record it and how your post-processing techniques will render your final image. Not only will you get better images and fewer throw aways (but trust me, you’ll still have lots of images that will be considered throw aways) you will also become more perceptive and everything will seem more wonderful (okay maybe only just a little).

Why am I talking about this you may ask? Well. I’ll tell you. Last week I was out shooting on Riverside Drive and around 135th Street. This is strip at the very western edge of the island filled with car repair shops, bus depot, and is underneath Route 9. Through the arch supports of the overpass you could see a wonderful sky filled with clouds. I immediately saw a great black and white image for my “West” series (which will be in black and white by the way). As I pulled my Nikon D700 to my eye and started framing the shot I saw a young man with the beginnings of a scruffy beard and dark curly hair stop just to the left of me and stare. Being a veteran of street photography I was used to people stopping and try to figure out what I was doing or ask questions. Seeing this I deliberately took my time and ignored him hoping that he would tire and walk away. Alas he did not and so finally I put my camera down and faced him. “What are you shooting? This is such an ugly area, he says to me. I point out the arched supports and the sky full of clouds and say how that would make a nice picture. He just made a slightly sour quizzical face and walked away. He did not see what I saw. Too bad.

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