I share this indispensable tip in my book, RIGHT BRAIN PHOTOGRAPHY. It is also a topic on which I spend a lot of time in my workshops, classes, and during my 1-on-1 photo lessons. It is one of the most difficult aspects for many photographers to grasp. Why? Because a common reaction is, "I can only see what my eyes see. What else is there to see?" It requires a different type of "seeing;" the type that requires practice, practice,
and more practice. It's different than "photographic seeing."
In order to see with my imagination, I need a combination of technical know-how and creative aesthetics. My right brain (creative aesthetics) needs to shake hands with my left brain (technical know-how) and tell it, "I see something. I've got an idea, and this is what
I need from you." However, before my right brain can tell my left brain what it needs, it needs to know what the left brain can offer. Yes, it takes practice. Two life factors have helped me with this level of photographic application: 1) My art background in college,
and, 2) I am primarily right brain dominant.
Regardless of where you think you are in terms of right brain and left brain, you can teach yourself. I know because I have students who have struggled with it, but are now "getting it." I have seen the growth in their photography as they send me samples of their work. I have seen improvements in their compositions, exposures, and how they now "see" things when getting a shot--their renderings.
So, this month I will provide some examples of what I mean by "see with your imagination." But, before I do, l will share a non-photography story. It is about discarding programmed ways of seeing, learning, experiencing. The story is from a book I read, titled Successful Intelligence. Two young boys are hiking. One boy, according to traditional test scores, grades, and teachers' assessments, is very smart. The other boy, not so--not the best of grade scores. As they're hiking, they see a big grizzly charging toward them. The "smart" boy makes a quick calculation and tells his friend that the bear should reach them in 17.3 seconds! As he is saying this, he sees his friend taking off his hiking boots and putting on his jogging shoes. He yells at him, "Are you crazy? We can't outrun that bear?" His not-so-
smart friend replies, "That's true. But all I have to do is outrun you." A different way of seeing things.
Now, with this long introduction to a subject which I believe every photographer should take to heart, let's start with this first example.
This is a typical way of seeing things; a "Before" image, i.e., a generic, not so exciting scene. This is what my eyes saw.
By Colorado standards, this was a rather mundane scene. I looked at it for several minutes.
In Right Brain Photography I talk about the method I use to go beyond seeing the obvious.
At first, I didn't see anything worthwhile. Then, my right brain kicked it. Hmm?
I put my 70mm-300mm lens on the camera, set at 300mm. Set it for manual focus, and
I was ready. When I thought I had the right starting point composition, I slowly moved my camera laterally during a 1/5 of a second exposure. It took three tries to get what I wanted. On one try I moved too fast; on another I moved too slow. But then, voila!!
Let me walk you through my "seeing." There's a reason why I refer to it as "seeing with your imagination." The key is not just imagining, but sharpening your imagination. Here's what my imagination saw: Create a double exposure, against a black background. Like this.
Step 1) Once I get my composition, I manually focus, with a wide f/stop (small number), take the entire grouping out of focus and underexpose by about 1 stop (the black backdrop tend to overexpose my shot). At this point, it's an estimate and I'm ready for a test shot. I set my camera on a 20-second delay. I go behind the flowers and place my large piece of black material behind them. I hear a click.
Step 2) I check my display to make sure it isn't too blurred nor too sharp. If I need to make an adjustment, I do and try it again. If I like it, I am ready for my double exposure.
Step 3) I now engage the multiple exposure feature on my camera and set it for 2 exposures. I already know my first shot is going to be good because that was my test shot.
Step 4) I now focus right on the entire grouping of flowers and change my f/stop to make sure I cover my subject. I underexpose my second shot, usually from -2/3 to -1. For this image, I underexposed by -1 & 2/3 because of the black background. This is art, not science. That's why I take test shots. Now I'm ready for my second shot, which will be in sharp focus.
Step 5) My camera is already set for a 20-second delay. I click with my cable release, then walk behind the flowers again and hold up the black material. I hear a click. I now check my display to see if I got what I wanted. In the example above, when I saw that image displayed on my screen, I stopped shooting. Got it!