I recently read a business book by Dan Roam called Back of the Napkin. It is about visual thinking, and in it he describes the eye-brain connection and how to show the world what you have seen and distilled, and how you interpreted information. I immediately saw the connections to photography and adapted his approach to create a method suitable for me: Look –> See –> Imagine –> Create.
To breakdown the approach:
- Look: is the raw information your brain takes in. It is everything you see around you. I sometimes describe it as the chaos I see when I first approach a scene. It’s that feeling I get or the voice inside my head which says “there is nothing here to photograph”. Here is an example of the scene I saw when we drove up to Animas Forks Ghost town:
This is “Look”. It’s as our friend Jack calls the “encyclopedia.” It’s a whole section about a Colorado ghost town – the buildings, the environment, the tourists, the cars it took to get there, the weather, etc.
- See: is the “what” – it is the process you use to hone in on the picturesque components of the scene. It’s how you interpret what the main subject is; the emotion you are feeling about the place; what you want to communicate to others who are not there. It’s distilling down to the essence and removing all of the distractions.
- Imagine: is the application of “how”. How are you going to capture all of the elements you see; and how you are you going to present them to the world? In my case, I like to use creative processing techniques. I want people to have an emotion and a memory of what I am sensing about the place or the subject. Peter is more of a purist. He wants you to see what he sees in the most pure form without overlays and interpretations .
- Create: is the “do”. It’s the part where I come home and sit with an image for days or weeks, and think about what steps I need to apply so I can share it with you. Below are three images I created from the scene above.
The first is a straight interpretation of what I saw. I used my infrared camera to portray the starkness of the scene. We were high in the Colorado mountains in an old ghost town where people lived throughout the winter, AND I was freezing in the middle of summer.
After taking the photograph above, I wondered what it would be like inside of the cabin. How DID people lived there and what did they see? This was the second image I took. I applied a “sepia” technique to make the image look old – as if I could transport you and me back in time.
This last image I took was to represent the juxtaposition of “civilization” in such a rugged place. It felt odd to me to see a Victorian style bay window in a mountain mining town that had been abandoned for years. Because it felt so surreal to me, I decided to take the image with my infrared camera and I re-introduced the blue color in the sky – something that would might occur naturally. This treatment felt natural to a structure that seemed so out of place.
So the next time you’re out. Take a few minutes (and a couple of deep breaths) to Look around you. Take in the chaos and feel the disenchantment with not experiencing a picturesque scene the minute you get there. Then start to break down the scene and really See what’s around you. Hone in on those interesting aspects, and try to Imagine what it was like to be there, and how you will tell the story to others…what do you want to communicate. Then Create it, and share it with the world. To see more of our photos, please go to www.pamphotography.com.