Seeing the Picture Before You Make A Photograph
I remember sitting in an outside restaurant on the Greek Isle of Santorini with Walking Connection guests Elaine Isbell and Joanne Young. Both had extended their holiday with The Walking Connection beyond the island cruise we just completed, and they joined Jo Ann and I for lunch. Camel was on the menu and I tried to order it, but the waiter was adamant about not serving it to me, saying it would be too "gamey" and strong for my uninitiated taste buds. But that's another story.
It was during lunch that I looked up at the tightly packed whitewashed buildings with vibrant blue roofs and colorful sunshade umbrellas on their verandahs that I commented about the difference between taking a picture versus making a photograph.
Talking to myself as much as I was talking to my guests, I explained that taking a picture is simply aiming your camera and snapping the shutter at whatever is in front of you. On the other hand, making a photograph is seeing what is in front of you and then selecting the part of it that best projects the image and the emotion you hope to convey into a photograph that speaks the 1000 words we all hope for. Big difference. I solidified that moment in our conversation and imprinted it on my brain as a way to make photographs going forward. "Seek out the image you want to create, and the pictures will take themselves is what I tell myself before I click the shutter. Friend, guest, and photo and video guru David Devoucoux had spent time teaching me about that same concept on an earlier trip to the same Greek Isles, but I was a slow learner, so it took a few years to kick in!
So here is what I mean.
During our adventure to Bryce Canyon last year, I stood on the rim of the canyon and took a ton of images like the one above. The panorama is awesome. The canyon filled with hoodoos forms a cauldron of inspired shapes and colors that the sun and sky change at will.
With a closer look, the canyon reveals much more than just the panoramic view. Like shapeshifting cumulus clouds on a breezy day, the individual shapes of the rock spires reveal their changing story minute-by-minute. With a bit of imagination, like looking at a cloud that transforms itself from looking like the peak of a mountain one minute, it changes to the shape of an angel or a duck. The colors and shapes of the spires below in Bryce Canyon play with your mind's eye in the same way. It is there where you can see and tell a story or create an emotion that will stick with you past the snapshot of the panoramic view.
See if you agree.
First, I noticed the tree, then the contrasting colors and shapes behind it. I focused on just the tree to tell its story. A lone tree in a hostel environment is balanced precariously on a slope so steep, that its roots are exposed. It could fall off either edge of the ridge at any moment, or remain perched there for hundreds of years to come.
Two ravens perch on a solitary ridge among white chess pieces. Million-year-old rock formations in the shapes of pawns, bishops, and rooks offer impenetrable protection in the middle of the Canyon.
A lone Juniper Tree that is hundreds of years old leans into the steep slope casting its shadow on the layers of rock wall behind it. Ancient rock hoodoos of Bryce Canyon in the foreground add context and a frame of reference.
Which images and the story that they offer are most memorable to you?
Eliciting a memorable image from rock formations is not necessarily the best or easiest thing to do; animals, people, and action images are typically better storytellers. But, my mind's eye will remember the images I saw before I took the last three photographs far longer than the first panoramic above because they are more personal to me. Let me know what see.
If you would like more information or you just want to chat about the art of photography or adventure travel, please reach out to me (gt@WalkingConnection.com). To see more, please visit Gene's Journey Gallery.