Sun Puddle by I Nancy, on Flickr
Many photographers talk about vision with phrases like “be true to your vision”. The first, and immediate, challenge is to identify your vision. What are you trying to say? What are you trying to achieve? How do you see the world? When you get a handle on this question, only then can you take the second step to understanding how to achieve that vision. What are you seeing and how do you create that same impression with a box and a lens?
I have been working hard on identifying and translating my vision. Some of the work is technical and some of the work is emotional. And the work has paid off. I have found myself more comfortable and with less anxiety behind the camera. I am more able to view a scene, identify what it says to me, cognitively process how I might express my idea, and finally execute the capture and the post-production. This process also happens more rapidly allowing me to approach and capture rapidly changing scenes with some anticipation.
I contrast this new approach with my previous method. Previously I might instinctively understand that there is something I want to capture but not really know what that is. I would then anxiously take many images to cover many bases and hope for discovery later in the darkroom. While my older approach can work, it is restless and uneasy. Will I capture what I intended? I spent a lot of time, money, and effort to get to my destination; will I get my return on investment? I may not be here again for some time and I may not get another chance. With all this pressure riding on the situation, leaving the accomplishment up to chance capture can be nerve racking.
Coming to a scene with the ability to determine vision first then execution sounds like all bliss and happiness, but in reality now comes the hardest part. Assuming you are successful, you have now captured your inner most thoughts and ideas and you are putting these out for all to see as transparently as you can. You have opened your brain and you are showing your viewers exactly what you see, how you think, and how you organize your world. What if they don’t agree? What if they don’t like the way you see the world? What if they don’t understand the way you see the world? What do you do now?
Are you ready to hear that others may disagree with your vision, essentially questioning your tastes and your inner soul? It takes calm, it takes confidence, and it takes courage. It takes the calm and confidence to seek varying opinions and honestly explore if your tastes fit in some reasonable ballpark of normal human appreciation. And it takes the courage to bear your soul and be at peace with your view so that you can communicate it to the rest of the world.