Thursday, July 31, 2014

Image of the Month: August 2014

What is more important than camera equipment, printer resolution or ink type?  According to Ansel Adams, "visualization is the single most important factor in photography".  To put it simply, photography is the art of "seeing" and visualization is the ability to anticipate a finished image before making the exposure.  It's the act of looking at a scene and imagining what the image will look like in its final format and all of the steps the image will need to go through to produce the final image.  This awareness of how a scene will translate the emotional equivalent experienced by the image maker to viewer causes you to slow down and think through the entire process of producing a final image.  

As a photographer I also have to consider what post-processing techniques I plan to use that will enhance the image to authentically translate my original intent. What is the intended emotional reaction I want to elicit from the viewer?  I strongly believe that a photographer is an artist and not just a crazed techie with a machine gun, rapid rate shutter button  resulting in hundreds of images, hoping to find one that is viable.  That is to say, there is true intent in the visualization process where I work through my approach in both visualization and post-processing steps.  There is actually a considerable amount of time just observing, seeing, thinking, composing, and adjusting before actually pressing the shutter.  It's a slow, meticulous process that reaps huge benefits.  Even if you have a camera with auto focus, auto exposure and such, you can still take quality time to actually think about what it is you are trying to convey with your final image.

So with that in mind, my tool selection in post-processing is a critical element for me when I visualize exactly how I want the final image to appear.  Because I take a creative approach to the original exposure, there is often a discrepancy between the original and final image.  The two images may not be exactly identical but if given the flow of creativity, the viewer would be able to see the similarity and discover the evolution of the image along the journey from original to final image translation.

Below is the original image exposure.  It was a cold, cloudy day off the California coastline walking path.  My intent was to demonstrate the vivid beauty of spring's floral landscape, despite the dreary weather, and at the same time make it more ethereal and less realistic.  I also considered that the asymmetry was not working, so I would have to take that into account in post-production. To create my final vision I knew I would be working with saturation levels, highlighting, dodging, and softening both composition and edges with blur techniques.

Original Image: Before Processing
© 2014, Joanne Scherf

As you can now see, the final image below demonstrates the final vision.  I made the floral landscape pop with vibrant color, while at the same time using highlights judiciously to lead the viewer's eye into the center of the composition in both horizontal and vertical movement. Another change was to go from an asymmetrical to symmetrical composition which I think fills the frame much better as the road alongside each edge now hints at the traveler's dilemma; which path to take?

Final Image: Post-Processing
© 2014, Joanne Scherf

The advantage of visualization is that it allows one to experiment with different creative options, running the gamut from composition, lighting, camera placement, movement and editing enhancements.  This is what takes your images to the next level and sets it apart from the volumes of realistic reportage of the average shutterbug. 

I recently read an article by Ron Bigelow on this very topic and I'm paraphrasing his key points below:

  • Emotion: Which emotional reaction do I want the image to elicit from a viewer
  • Appearance of the Final ImageKnowing the desired reaction to the image allows me to visualize how the final image will look
  • Materials:  What materials will produce the desired effect? 
  • Editing:  What post-production techniques should be considered and used?
  • Optimal Method of Shooting:  What are the composition, framing, lighting, angle, and camera placement options?

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