Do you remember when your mother would be standing with you in the doorway of your bedroom and she would say, "LOOK DO SEE THAT?" You would answer quite intelligently "Huh What?" Your mother was seeing your messy room while you were looking at your room but not the dirty clothes, toys, comic books etc, etc. When some people start out in photography they have the same problem, they look but don't really see! By the way, if you're in your 30s and still having that conversation with mom, you can stop reading. You have bigger problems then I can help you with!
Seeing with all three of your eyes, wait, did I say three eyes? Yes I did, your baby blues and the eye I like to call your eye of imagination. This eye is as important to your photography as the other two. If you're looking with just your two eyes you may take some pictures that are technically correct but quite possibly will lack that artistic value that makes a good picture into an interesting and hopefully beautiful image.
Galen Rowell http://www.mountainlight.com/rowellg.html one of this generations great landscape photographers (who died in an airplane accident) once wrote that when you arrive at the spot where you want to shoot something, take your shot then look behind you, to both the left and right and even up and down. You may find an even better subject to photograph or a better viewpoint for the same subject.
I will use the Vermillion Lakes in Banff, Canada http://www.pc.gc.ca/eng/pn-np/ab/banff/index.aspx an example. You want to include Mount Rundle in your image to capture this really magnificent mountain that stands high above the lakes. You arrive, find your spot, have your camera at all the technically correct settings, take your picture and walk away. Did you get a technically correct picture? If you had a card in your camera, quite possibly you did. Did you make the best image? I would argue more than likely, you did not. I never forget Galen's words when photographing anything, a landscape, an animal or people. It is like Galen is behind me whispering, NO, I mean yelling in my ear. DID YOU TAKE A PICTURE OR MAKE AN IMAGE?
In these images of the Vermillion Lake area, I will try and show what I was thinking and seeing! The lakes are in the area west of the town of Banff and this is where you can find classic views of Mount Rundle. Probably the best time to arrive is around dawn or early evening.
When we were there ten years ago I made this image in the summer. Before arriving this year, I pre-visualized the same shot but now with the knowledge I would be in winter conditions. I could see the image in my mind.
When I arrived this was the first image I made. As I suspected there was snow on Mount Rundle and on the ground. I guessed that if I took the image from the same spot including the shore line again, that it would be less interesting without the green. When I arrived I saw, for my purposes that I was right. I recomposed to include more of the smaller mountain on the right, which I thought added more visual appeal.
I Then I started to look with my third eye. What other compositions could I make? What other lens or focal lengths could I use to make some images I might like? I also looked at the light and thought what it might look like later in the day. These were many of the thoughts in my mind as I enjoyed the beauty and solitude of nature, a nice way to spend a morning.
These three images were made with a slightly different focal length. Instead of 23 mm, these were shot at 28 mm. I included more of the frozen lake and also, using my third eye envisioned cropping one of the images in post production, which I did.
This next image was shot at a focal length of 45 mm. My thinking was to accent the 'warm' colors of the grass with the cold colors of the mountain and snow. I love to have contrast in my images and often will look for it and try to include it in my images.
This image was taken later as we were driving out of the lake area, I 'saw' it and asked Phyllis to stop. I shot this from the car. Sometimes nature rewards you!!!!
The next day the temperature was a little warmer with a warmer light. We arrived at 6:30AM and were rewarded with beautiful light and a decent reflection. When nature rewards us with light as great as this, we stay and shoot as much as we can while the light stays. Again you can see the contrast of the warm light on the plant life and the cooler color of the sky and the snow. At this point, I usually start looking around to see other compositions or what I like to call intimate landscapes. I include more of the mountain and less of the lake and then reverse it showing more of the lake with the vegetation reflected in it.
I thought that including these rocks would make for an interesting foreground creating depth by having the warm (light) rocks followed by the cool water, followed by the warm vegetation, followed by the cool mountains and sky. Look as the eye travels from the rock in the foreground through the water and to four peaks, framed by mountains on ether side drawing your eye in.
I saw this stump sticking out of the water and loved the warm light on it. I knew I did not want to shoot down at it but rather from the same level. That required me to lay down on the wet sand inches from the water on my side leaning back against the pier that was there. I did just that, hoping no one but Phyllis could see me, especially when I hit my head on the pier getting up. Oh what we do for the love of photography!
Then I saw that out on the lakes were two Canadian Geese swimming in the reflected colors. I quickly switched my lens from my 17-55 to my 80-400 so that I could capture the geese isolated in the warm reflective colors.
I then walked up the road a little trying to 'see' other possible images to be made. That is where I saw this scene.
Near the end of our trip we returned to the lakes but on a very different kind of day, cold and grey for the most part. Not very good light at all, but once again nature rewarded us with a solitary man sitting at the end of the pier. I left the warmth of our SUV very quietly not wanting to disturb him. I made this image.
Then I made my last image from Vermillion Lakes. In truth I was holding my camera on my shoulder ,a sign that I'm done. When Galen spoke once more, I stopped looking and tried seeing one last time. I looked at what was there but I saw the image I could make in camera and in post production. This is Phyllis' favorite image from Vermillion Lakes. If you see it you will see the images is divided into threes: the top third is in black and white, middle third in color and bottom third in mostly black and white.
So when you're out taking pictures, stop looking and start seeing the possibilities. You will start making images instead of just taking pictures. If you have any questions about any post or image, please leave a comment.