02
Sep 16

What is Pre-Visualization?

Jewish Ghetto. Venice, Italy. 2015

Jewish Ghetto. Venice, Italy. 2015

What the heck is pre-visualization? This term was first popularized in the early 20th century by some of the great landscape photographers shooting their beloved large format view cameras.  Changing environmental conditions and the fleeting moment required these photographers to have an exacting knowledge of the behavior and magical alchemy of light, lens, film, filter, process and print. It was always about the print. While setting up and exposing a single sheet of film they knew exactly what the end result would be when they pressed the shutter release.

Many people are familiar with the story behind Ansel Adams’ famous “Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico”. Adams saw the scene, saw the moon and loved the light. Getting out his gear he couldn’t find his light meter but knowing the brightness of the moon he set the exposure on his large format camera accordingly and exposed one of his most beloved photographs. He was a technically experienced photographer and through the process of pre-visualization he knew what he wanted and how to get it.

Some of the most admired and respected photographers in history came from disciplines other than photography. For example, Edward Steichen was trained as a painter, Paul Strand had first been a film maker and of course Henri Cartier-Bresson was a painter and sketch artist. Cartier-Bresson maintained that he never stopped drawing and that his ubiquitous Leica was an instant sketch pad. The point of all this is that these great photographers were visual thinkers, experts in non verbal communication and used the photographic medium to speak their particular language. Their artistic instincts, experience and training prepared them to look at the structure of a scene, the light and geometry and whether or not it was worthwhile pressing the shutter. It’s not an easy thing to do well.

If you find your photographs lacking, spend time looking at and learning from the masters, study the structure of their images, look at their interpretation of light, line, and rhythm.  Cross train, pick up a pencil and draw something you see, write, let your creative juices flow.

Next time you start to press the shutter, take a moment to pre-visualize and ask yourself these questions. Does everything inside the frame contribute to the strength of the image? Is there anything I can do differently to improve the light, or geometry of the image? Contemplate what you are trying to say and ask yourself if the image would speak for itself when printed and framed on your wall.


27
Aug 16

Back to Basics, a Return to Film Photography

I grew up with the vinegary smell of stop bath so when I made the switch to digital I swore I was done with film. Yet here I am today, prepared to take the plunge back into the world of analog imaging. Why?

Maybe I’m just being nostalgic but it seems like the analog process feels more like making art, it feels more thoughtful and personal. There is something to be said for the act of pre-visualizing a scene, contemplating exposure, anticipating how it will look on the developed film and what sort of paper and printing process you’ll utilize. I think shooting and developing your own film materially teaches you proper exposure and self discipline. When you know you only have 36 frames on a roll of film and that the film will need to be developed and contact printed before you really know what you’ve got, you think very carefully every time you press the shutter. And that’s not to say there isn’t spontaneity with film, surely there is but you have to be prepared to say it within those 36 frames then reload, or carry around a second body. Film invites economy, digital lacks economy. Finally, I don’t necessarily need the speed of the digital process. Don’t get me wrong, I love digital but it feels like the difference between using pen and paper and using a computer.

Nikon FM and Nikkor 105mm f2.5

Nikon FM and Nikkor 105mm f2.5, Vintage Agfa Scala film. 

In preparation I went through my old camera bag and pulled out my two film bodies. One was an F100 purchased at the dawn of the digital revolution. The second was my first “real” camera, bought used in high school, a Nikon FM. Digging deeper I grabbed my old Nikkor 105mm f/2.5 lens. For years the FM, the 105, a 24 f/2.8 and a 50 f/1.8 were my kit. They accompanied me on my first European adventure with a brick of Kodachrome 64. Good times. I’m going to see if I can find, scan and post some of those slides. Sadly the FM is now unusable, the mirror return spring needs to be replaced. I want to shoot film with a manual camera so the F100 will stay in retirement.

Enter the Nikon FM3a. The greatest manual focusing film SLR camera Nikon produced. I need to have one. Searching the web, I found a gently used copy that had obviously been loved by an active photographer. At the risk of sounding like a Leica-phile, it has black paint with just a hint of warm brassing. Perfect. It’s on it’s way to me now from Japan.

More to come.


13
Jun 16

Photo Awards, Efforts and Outcomes

It has been a busy month here at Curious Lizard. We are always active traveling, photographing, researching, exploring and printing. Our biggest challenge, and I think the biggest challenge of most people active in this medium, is trying to say more with our photographs.

Mule Talk. Morocco.

Mule Talk. Morocco.

Hard work and hard efforts have borne fruit. In regional competitions we won first place awards in architectural and religious and spiritual photography. We also won a second place in street photography and a third place in black and white landscape photography.

Most importantly for me personally was the acceptance and inclusion of one of my images in the Center for Photographic Art Members’ Juried online exhibit. Please view the exhibit here.

 


20
May 16

Uighur Life, Xinjiang Provence China

For millennia Western China has been awash in the cultures of Central Asia. Some of their stories have been immortalized in The Arabian Nights and The Travels of Marco Polo.

Uighurs are a Central Asian Turckic people living in the wind swept deserts of Xinjiang Provence in Western China. I hope you enjoy this photo-essay of a seldom seen part of the world.

Boy in a Box. Khotan. Xinjiang, China.

 

Carpet Weaver. Khotan. Xinjiang, China.

 

Silk Merchant. Kashgar. Xinjiang, China.

Silk Merchant. Kashgar. Xinjiang, China.

 

Shopper. Kashgar. Xinjiang, China.

 

Getting Around. Kashgar. Xinjiang, China.

Getting Around. Kashgar. Xinjiang, China.

 

Uighur Butcher. Kashgar. Xinjiang, China.

Uighur Butcher. Kashgar. Xinjiang, China.

 

Game Faces. Turpan. Xinjiang, China.

Game Faces. Turpan. Xinjiang, China.

 

Jade Collectors. Khotan. Xinjiang, China

Jade Collectors. Khotan. Xinjiang, China

You can learn more about the Uighur here.


29
Apr 16

Photographing Petra

This Roman era Nabatean city is one of the most photographed in the world. What do you think?

Mule Canyon. Petra, Jordan. 2012

Mule Canyon. Petra, Jordan. 2012


22
Apr 16

Travel Tales, Over the High Atlas Mountains

“Travel Tales with Curious Lizard and Adventure Squirrel.” Ep. 1

I really dislike riding backwards and as much as I wanted too, I couldn’t complain. Our ride was a twin propeller airplane and our flight path took us straight over the high Atlas Mountains. Gaining altitude as we flew a pattern of slow circles, Mustafa pointed east, “that’s Algeria” he said, “and the base we took off from was used by the French Foreign Legion during the occupation.” My mind reflexively flashed through images of Beau Geste.

Study in Sand. Sahara Desert, Morocco. 2015

Study in Sand. Sahara Desert, Morocco. 2015

From above, brown earth and dusty Sahara air revealed traces of green sinews winding here and there, river valleys bringing life giving water to small farms, fruit and olive trees. We flew higher and the High Atlas Mountains loomed closer. On we went. Waves of fog broke over the summits, boiling air turbulence tossed our little plane, Slam! I reached up to prevent my head form smashing into the fuselage. In spite of myself, I felt a little panic creeping up my spine. Slam! Jokingly, Christy began to invoke the name of a Moroccan demon, both Mustafa and myself blurted out “don’t do that!” She stopped.

The worst of it lasted about fifteen minutes. I looked over to Mustafa and he was praying passionately, this was when I realized we would make it. The rest of the two hour ride was less harrowing and ended with us landing safely in the breezy coastal town of Essaouira. Feet firmly planted on the ground I turned to Mustafa and said “that was the most terrifying experience of my life,” he smiled and replied “really? I was’t scared at all.”