Photography is seeing?

February 6th, 2023 by Carl D
Backlit brown bear Katmai National Park, Alaska
A backlit brown bear, with a nice halo around the silhouetted body of the bear as it searches for salmon. Katmai National Park and Preserve, Alaska.

We all know photography is seeing. But what does that mean?

See what isn’t there. And then make it there.

Typically, this does NOT mean figuring how to magically transform what’s in front of you into some wonderful image. Most often it means learning how to align the visible (and often not yet visible) pieces into one frame.

“It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.” ~ Henry David Thoreau.

That may mean you have to move.

It may mean you have to wait.

It may mean you have to change lenses.

It could mean lots of things.

What it doesn’t mean is that photography is about the clicking the shutter. More often than not I don’t click the shutter.

See it before it happens

We have to. I often tell folks, if I’m looking at it, I’ve probably missed it.

What I have to do is look for a composition that is yet to appear. Seeing it in my mind is very different to seeing with it my eyes. Imagine the bear with the rim lighting against that dark background. Imagine the rainbow as a backdrop for the moose, or whatever.

If I have a rainbow on my left, and a moose in front of me, typically, all I have to do is move and I can make those two subjects fit inside the frame.

Sometimes that’s easier said than done, sure.

But more often, what I see with people on our photo tours, is that they look at what’s in front if them, and then try to shoot it. And the vast majority of really good photography just doesn’t work that way.

How to Make That Photo

  • See it in your head.
  • Determine how to make that vision actually a ‘thing’.
  • Check your settings.
  • Click.

There’s not a lot more to it than that.



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