Taking pictures in your head…

When I think about it, I’m really taking pictures in my head. In similar way of putting thoughts to words and then to paper, I take pictures in my mind before I release the shutter.

The creative process for me is always interesting. I never know where I am going to end up or how I’ll get there. It’s not scary not being able to predict the outcome, it’s more like a drug that keeps you wanting to come back for more.

This photo from the icefields was one of many I took in an incredible half an hour while being witness to one of the prettiest sunrises I have ever seen in Jasper. I visualized this photo before I had put the tripod down on the cold glacier worn rock.

I am always looking at shapes and colors and imagining them framed in a rectangular box while taking photos. It happens very fast. It takes but a moment. Yay or nay. That fast. If I don’t see something that clicks, I move up and down, looking left and right and because I always am shooting with a wide lens studying the foreground in relation to what’s on the horizon.

In a way I snap hundreds of pictures that never make it to the camera. It’s like doing edits in my head.

When I start editing in camera I try detaching myself from what I saw to be more objective and cold. Feelings that you had while shooting resurface. It’s sometimes difficult to try and push out what you were experiencing when shooting and instead look detachedly at your photos. You don’t want to make the mistake of thinking what you saw was great and fool yourself into believing that it was when in actuality you process your image and it looks flat.

After the edits in camera, pictures go onto the computer where again they get edited. Often times what looked good through the viewfinder doesn’t look as good on the camera display. The same goes for the photos that end up on the computer. There will still be rejects that are deleted forever. I’m not sentimental about editing my landscapes. If I have to make an excuse as to why I am keeping them they don’t belong.

Once on the computer my mind is working again, looking at the RAW images and visualizing where I can take them. Sometimes the final image bears a close resemblance to what was there, other times I want to take the landscape in a direction of my own, darkening, lightening, separating tones here and there, etc.

Have you noticed something missing here? There are no thoughts of filters or lenses. I’m not thinking of my camera gear. It’s not an object of my affection. I’m not in love with the lens that I use. Have you ever taken a long drive on the highway? After an hour you find yourself looking out of the window watching the country go by. You check traffic. You check your speed. Are you thinking about the engine that’s moving the car or the tires that you’re rolling on? Probably not unless you’re car is about to break down. LOL

That’s how it is when you’re immersed in what you’re doing. You observe and react. Photography should be that simple. Anybody who tells you different is either BS’ing you or trying to sell you something.

Happy shooting,


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~ by Dan Jurak on October 9, 2011.

4 Responses to “Taking pictures in your head…”

  1. good article, Dan. the photographer as a “composer” or “orchestrator”. or even “painter”. as i learn about photography, I find myself trying to do more of what you describe. it’s not as simple or easy as it sounds, at least for me. the camera doesn’t “see” what the human eye does. it doesn’t capture the full dynamic range that the human eye has. colours and contrasts look different. skies especially can look quite different; often, for me, they often are a lot more dramatic. meanwhile, fog doesn’t look as dramatic; i.e. it doesn’t seem to block out as much light. often, the photos that I *thought* would come out the best don’t; on the other hand, I sometimes get pleasantly surprised by shots that I thought be humdrum, but turn out great. it’s all part of the process….


  2. @ Steve, the secret for getting the kinds of photos you want… Make mistakes. Remember what didn’t work. Not all skies and not all foggy days are the same. Learning to differentiate between those that photograph well and those that don’t is a skill that you acquire from getting out as often as you can and having ten rejects for one keeper. Gradually over time you will start anticipating and visualizing how things will turn out.

    The key to learning is in one of the sentences you wrote here, “on the other hand, I sometimes get pleasantly surprised by shots that I thought be humdrum, but turn out great”, that’s the part that the magazines and books don’t tell you about. That’s the part that the entrepreneurs who run photo workshops don’t volunteer. Why? Because only by getting out and failing repeatedly and then being “surprised” do you ever start to make progress.

    I’m not a fanboy of any programs or camera bodies or lenses. The software and equipment that I use are only tools that I need to get me where I want to go. HDR? If I had my choice, I’d only shoot one exposure but most of the light that I photograph in is like you say, having a greater dynamic range than the camera can capture in one exposure.

    Don’t get discouraged. It’s a steep curve at the beginning but it gradually flattens. I’m always learning. I’m always taking photos that never see the light of day. Some are just plain terrible and others are experiments to see what would happen if I shot that way.

    Happy Thanksgiving,

  3. Happy Thanksgiving, Dan! I enjoyed this post, particularly your comments on subjective vs objective viewing during post-production.

    I appreciate your encouraging comments above, as well. It’s not often you find someone so candid in their assistance to other (aspiring/)pros.

    Look forward to reading future posts.

  4. @ Angela, Thank you.

    I’ll keep blogging as long as I enjoy writing. I truly believe that the better the photographers are around me, the better I can become. If I can help motivate, inspire or help someone else out, that’s reason enough to keep blogging.
    Happy Thanksgiving,

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