Creative Seeing; Visualize The Final Result When You Snap The Shutter

All photographs start with a great in camera image, right? Well, not really. A good photograph begins as an idea, a vision of how to isolate an interesting subject or subjects in a cluttered scene that will tell a story or communicate an idea or an emotion when a picture is viewed by the photographer and by others.

To illustrate the idea of seeing creatively, I'd like to share with you just a few of the pictures I took during a Joe Van Os workshop I co-lead (with photographer Darrell Gulin) on Ponderosa Ranch in Seneca, Oregon.

All of these pictures have been tweaked a bit in Adobe's Photoshop and in Camera Raw, but no special effects or filters have been applied. So, basically they are "straight" shots. I've included technical data for each picture to give you an idea of what camera settings and lenses I used.

Let's ride.

Light Catchers
From a technical standpoint, when you take a picture, all you are doing is recording light. So, you could be called a "light catcher" or a "light gatherer."

Keeping that in mind when you are looking through the viewfinder will help you get good exposures--if you learn how to "see the light," that is, you learn how to identify the highlight and shadow areas of a scene and set the exposure accordingly.

For all of my pictures, I set the exposure for the highlights, because I don't want them overexposed. In this picture of a cowboy at sunset, for example, I set the exposure for the bright sky area, which resulted in a nicely silhouetted subject.

Sure, you can rescue an f/stop or more of overexposed highlights in Adobe's Camera Raw, and adjust the shadow and highlight areas in Photoshop using the Shadow/Highlight feature, but if you start with a good exposure, you'll have more time to be creative in Photoshop.

Light Catchers

All Photos © 2006, Rick Sammon, All Rights Reserved

Technical info: Canon EOS-1Ds Mark II, Canon 100-400mm IS lens at 400mm, 1/500 sec at f/8, ISO 200.

Make Pictures
There is a big difference between taking pictures and making pictures. My workshop co-leader Darrell Gulin and I made, or set up or helped to set up, most of the pictures in this lesson. That is, we also worked with the subjects to get exactly the kind of pictures we envisioned in our minds.

This picture, like a scene from a Wild West movie, was totally set up. We picked the time of day. We picked the location for the backlit horses to ride out of a cloud of dust. We also selected the location for the photographers. Those directions yielded a picture that probably would be impossible to get by chance. So, when you take the time to make pictures, you get pictures that go beyond a simple snapshot.

Make Pictures

Technical info: Canon EOS-1Ds Mark II, Canon 100-400mm IS lens at 400mm, 1/500 sec at f/8, ISO 800.

Think Creatively
When you are out in the field, use your imagination to compose pictures in your mind that others may not envision.

To use the cliché, think outside of the box--or frame!

This picture illustrates how a unique angle (shooting from ground level) and viewpoint (shooting between the legs of a the cowboy) yielded a creative photograph. What added to this scene is that everything is in focus, from the cowboy's spurs to the building in the background. That was the result of using a very wide angle lens set to a small aperture.

Think Creatively

Technical info: Canon EOS-1Ds Mark II, Canon 15mm lens, 1/30 sec at f/11, ISO 100.