Sunday, May 20, 2012

PHOTOGRAPHIC PREVISUALIZATION

The space shuttle Discovery photographed with a 600mm lens from National Harbor, Md.
Recently I've been thinking more and more about the idea of previsualization, or previsualizing a certain photograph prior to an assignment. I never thought much about this before, however, prior to the last five or six assignments I've had a pretty clear idea of what it was I wanted to capture and then actually did capture that.

Maybe it's because I've photographed the same event year after year, so I pretty much know what to expect and then I just place myself in the right location and wait for the action to unfold. And recently photographing the shuttle Discovery as it flew over Washington, D.C., I was able to get pretty much the exact photo I had in mind. There wasn't any pressure since I was not on assignment to get this particular photo, so all I had to do was put myself in the right position, with the right equipment, to capture the previsualized photo as events presented themselves.

In this case I was assigned to photograph the Sea Air Space Exposition at the National Harbor, something I've done the previous three years, so I knew there were parking garages that would probably give me a good vantage point looking over the Potomac River. When it all came together I quietly thought to myself that this is exactly what I wanted, exactly as I had previsualized.

This photograph did catch me a bit off guard when it came from behind me and passed almost directly over my head.
Perhaps I've always done this. What I think is different now is that even though I have a pretty good idea of what photographs I want, I don't get discouraged if it's not happening as I envisioned. Even though I previsualize, I don't lock myself into what I thought was going to happen, so if things really start to go south, I don't come back with nothing. That is both frustrating and challenging at the same time.

So now previsualization has become part of my overall preparation, normally while going about all my other pre-assignment routines like packing gear and making travel arrangements. It's all about focusing on one assignment at a time.

Ansel Adams used previsualization as it related to the Zone System, the notion that if you study a scene and really analyze the tones, the photograph will come out as you expect. It was a turning point in his career. Of course I'm not shooting with an 8x10 view camera, or even comparing myself to Adams, but if previsualizing a photograph was good enough for him, then I believe I'll continue the practice it myself.
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