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FORUMS Photography Talk by Genre General Photography Talk 
Thread started 12 Mar 2013 (Tuesday) 18:45
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How to Pre-Visualize like Ansel Adams

 
grahamclarkphoto
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Mar 12, 2013 18:45 |  #1

The concept of previsualization in photography is where the photographer can see the final print before the image has been captured. Ansel Adams dedicates the beginning of his first book to previsualization, and is often quoted as saying "Visualization is the single most important factor in photography". Understanding then the significance of this approach is of high value for photographers of all kinds, as it has the potential to unlock greater creative vision, and give greater control (and predictability) over the print process.

Although I'm still just a beginner, I have consolidated some of my thoughts on this here (external link). Hopefully others can find it useful!

If you have any questions or comments please don't hesitate to reply to this thread and I'll do my best to reply!

Graham

IMAGE: http://www.grahamclarkphoto.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/Ansel_Adams_Denali.jpg

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Mar 12, 2013 18:56 |  #2

I have not yet had time to do more than take a quick glance at your article, but allow me to be the first here to congratulate you on providing a valuable resource for many of us.

I have always been a great fan of Adams, and I think that making him accessible to a new generation of photographers is a fine thing. Well done.

I will comment some more when I have had a chance to study it more.

:cool:


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airfrogusmc
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Mar 12, 2013 19:21 as a reply to  @ Ricardo222's post |  #3

Graham have you read

The Camera
The Negative
and The Print?

Also you might want to also read his autobiography if you haven't already.

For Adams and many pre-visualists or West Coast School photographers the zone system is a way to pre visualize where the values of gray are going to wind up in the final print. A way to fully control the way the photographer sees a particular scene which may or more importantly may not be the way it is in reality. In this way of seeing the photographer controls where the tones fall through a system (The Zone System) that starts with the proper exposure that works in total harmony with the processing of the negative. This can only be fully expressed by doing the intense tests to find things like proper ISO for the camera lens combo, the normal development time for the negative and then the N+1, N+2, N-1, N-2 etc processing times for negatives. So what he is referring to is pre visualizing the tones in the scene so as to be able to put the photographers own interpretation on the print.

Now there is also an East Coast School of photography that deals with what is referred to as post-visualiztion. This would be a totally intuitive way of working by disciplining your vision to a point where you can recognize in an instant when all the elements come together to make a photograph. Because you are working quickly and responding quickly to this visual experience you see the images in the post part of the process. On the contact sheets or when you are editing the images after the shoot. Many street photographers work in this way. Bresson, Winogrand, Friedlander, etc.

And then theres a lot of photographers that are in between in varying degrees. Neither is more valid than the other. Its just different ways of working.

But to pre visualize like Adams you have to learn the Zone System. You have to shoot large format B&W film and process the negative and print them yourself.

Also never confuse pre visualization to already having the image in your head before you go out shoot. Adams talked about being like a blank slate with no pre conceived ideas of what he was going to shoot. Being open to everything just letting his ability to see the final print in his minds eye because of the Zone System and his ability to control that at the moment of exposure.




  
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Mar 12, 2013 19:41 |  #4

Thanks for this Graham.


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grahamclarkphoto
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Mar 12, 2013 21:07 |  #5

airfrogusmc wrote in post #15708344 (external link)
Graham have you read

The Camera
The Negative
and The Print?

Also you might want to also read his autobiography if you haven't already.

For Adams and many pre-visualists or West Coast School photographers the zone system is a way to pre visualize where the values of gray are going to wind up in the final print. A way to fully control the way the photographer sees a particular scene which may or more importantly may not be the way it is in reality. In this way of seeing the photographer controls where the tones fall through a system (The Zone System) that starts with the proper exposure that works in total harmony with the processing of the negative. This can only be fully expressed by doing the intense tests to find things like proper ISO for the camera lens combo, the normal development time for the negative and then the N+1, N+2, N-1, N-2 etc processing times for negatives. So what he is referring to is pre visualizing the tones in the scene so as to be able to put the photographers own interpretation on the print.

Now there is also an East Coast School of photography that deals with what is referred to as post-visualiztion. This would be a totally intuitive way of working by disciplining your vision to a point where you can recognize in an instant when all the elements come together to make a photograph. Because you are working quickly and responding quickly to this visual experience you see the images in the post part of the process. On the contact sheets or when you are editing the images after the shoot. Many street photographers work in this way. Bresson, Winogrand, Friedlander, etc.

And then theres a lot of photographers that are in between in varying degrees. Neither is more valid than the other. Its just different ways of working.

But to pre visualize like Adams you have to learn the Zone System. You have to shoot large format B&W film and process the negative and print them yourself.

Also never confuse pre visualization to already having the image in your head before you go out shoot. Adams talked about being like a blank slate with no pre conceived ideas of what he was going to shoot. Being open to everything just letting his ability to see the final print in his minds eye because of the Zone System and his ability to control that at the moment of exposure.

Hello!

Thanks for your comment. Yes, I have read those and my consolidated thoughts are primarily based on all of these books, plus others such as the Tao of Photography (external link) and Galen Rowell's Inner Game of Outdoor Photography (external link).

While there are certainly distinctions between the approach of Adams and White, it was the Adams approach of developing vision that I wanted to focus on.

I disagree that you must have familiarity with the Zone system in order to integrate pre-visualization as part of one's approach to photography. I consider the Zone system a very unique way to balance exposure values and a strong method for attaining proper tonality, whereas I feel that pre-visualization is an inner approach that allows one to see beyond seeing - it precedes the operation of the camera.

Consider this quote by Edward Weston: "Why limit yourself to what your eyes see when you have an opportunity to extend your vision?"

"Seeing into the minds eye, which we call visualization. The image must be there clearly, and decisively. When you have enough craft, you've done your homework and practice, you can make the photograph as you desire." - Ansel Adams (quoted from this video interview of Ansel Adams: https://vimeo.com/6092​6156 (external link))


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airfrogusmc
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Mar 12, 2013 21:37 |  #6

grahamclarkphoto wrote in post #15708769 (external link)
Hello!

Thanks for your comment. Yes, I have read those and my consolidated thoughts are primarily based on all of these books, plus others such as the Tao of Photography (external link) and Galen Rowell's Inner Game of Outdoor Photography (external link).

While there are certainly distinctions between the approach of Adams and White, it was the Adams approach of developing vision that I wanted to focus on.

I disagree that you must have familiarity with the Zone system in order to integrate pre-visualization as part of one's approach to photography. I consider the Zone system a very unique way to balance exposure values and a strong method for attaining proper tonality, whereas I feel that pre-visualization is an inner approach that allows one to see beyond seeing - it precedes the operation of the camera.

Consider this quote by Edward Weston: "Why limit yourself to what your eyes see when you have an opportunity to extend your vision?"

"Seeing into the minds eye, which we call visualization. The image must be there clearly, and decisively. When you have enough craft, you've done your homework and practice, you can make the photograph as you desire." - Ansel Adams (quoted from this video interview of Ansel Adams: https://vimeo.com/6092​6156 (external link))

Its about pre visualizing the tones in the scene and putting your own take on it thats what Adams and Weston were talking about. Extending your vision by seeing beneath the surfaces and creating something through pre visualization (the zone system) that was not there in reality. The only way to predictably be able to control that consistently is with the zone system. Pre visualization is about being able to control what a photographer sees in their minds eye which is usually not what lies before them and the way they controlled that vision was with the Zone System. Its to the very core of what pre visualization is all about and Adams talks a lot about just that in those books.

If you try and leave out the zone system you are leaving out the core of their approach and philosophy as it applies to photography and you can throw Minor White and Wynn Bullock in with them when it come to philosophy.

"Different levels of photography require different levels of understanding and skill. A “press the button, let George do the rest” photographer needs little or no technical knowledge of photography. A zone system photographer takes more responsibility. He visualizes before he presses the button, and afterwards calibrates for predictable print values." - Minor White

"The state of mind of a photographer while creating is a blank...For those who would equate "blank" with a kind of static emptiness, I must explain that this is a special kind of blank. It is a very active state of mind really, a very receptive state of mind, ready at an instant to grasp an image, yet with no image pre-formed in it at any time. We should note that the lack of a pre-formed pattern or preconceived idea of how anything ought to look is essential to this blank condition. Such a state of mind is not unlike a sheet of film itself - seemingly inert, yet so sensitive that a fraction of a second's exposure conceives a life in it. (Not just life, but "a" life)." - Minor White

I just can't see how you can try and take the Zone System out of the conversation when you start with "how to pre-visualize like Ansel Adams" because its at the very center of his approach to photography philosophically, visually and technically. Its all part of what pre visualization was to him.




  
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Mar 12, 2013 21:53 |  #7

>>>The visualization of a photograph involves many extremely swift observations and calculations, motivated and controlled by intuition and experience.


I have some questions, the first of which is as follows: Is visualization more successful when the observations and calculations are motivated by intuition but not controlled by experience, when the observations and calculations are controlled by experience but not motivated by intuition, when the observations are controlled by experience but the calculations are controlled by intuition, or when the calculations are controlled by experience and the observations are controlled by intuition?

If that question is difficult to answer, I suggest that it's because the statement that prompts it is maybe just a wee bit obtuse. :)


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Mar 13, 2013 02:34 |  #8

airfrogusmc wrote in post #15708864 (external link)
Its about pre visualizing the tones in the scene and putting your own take on it thats what Adams and Weston were talking about. Extending your vision by seeing beneath the surfaces and creating something through pre visualization (the zone system) that was not there in reality. The only way to predictably be able to control that consistently is with the zone system. Pre visualization is about being able to control what a photographer sees in their minds eye which is usually not what lies before them and the way they controlled that vision was with the Zone System. Its to the very core of what pre visualization is all about and Adams talks a lot about just that in those books.

If you try and leave out the zone system you are leaving out the core of their approach and philosophy as it applies to photography and you can throw Minor White and Wynn Bullock in with them when it come to philosophy.

"Different levels of photography require different levels of understanding and skill. A “press the button, let George do the rest” photographer needs little or no technical knowledge of photography. A zone system photographer takes more responsibility. He visualizes before he presses the button, and afterwards calibrates for predictable print values." - Minor White

"The state of mind of a photographer while creating is a blank...For those who would equate "blank" with a kind of static emptiness, I must explain that this is a special kind of blank. It is a very active state of mind really, a very receptive state of mind, ready at an instant to grasp an image, yet with no image pre-formed in it at any time. We should note that the lack of a pre-formed pattern or preconceived idea of how anything ought to look is essential to this blank condition. Such a state of mind is not unlike a sheet of film itself - seemingly inert, yet so sensitive that a fraction of a second's exposure conceives a life in it. (Not just life, but "a" life)." - Minor White

I just can't see how you can try and take the Zone System out of the conversation when you start with "how to pre-visualize like Ansel Adams" because its at the very center of his approach to photography philosophically, visually and technically. Its all part of what pre visualization was to him.

I agree with you, what I'm saying is that minus the zone system you can still integrate pre-visualization itself as part of your approach to creating images.

they're both self-sufficient, and work together.

Graham


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Mar 13, 2013 02:45 |  #9

So like, if you know a place that you wanna photograph, like think of the times you were there and the light and stuffs? ZOMG RLY? Lyk photographz take moar dan just camera?


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Mar 13, 2013 04:56 |  #10

There can be no question about the value of thoughtful and calculated preparation before pressing the shutter release or of having a clear vision of the print that will eventually result, but in the digital age it can often be only half the story. Adams' pre-visualization was as much a product of the technical nature of the medium 70 years ago as it was a philosophy. It was an age when control over print contrast was largely dictated by the film/development/paper combination available, when repeatable dodging and burning required a high level of craftsmanship and even then was never exact. Today the slow nudging of a slider or the tweaking of a curve provide control that would have had Adams wetting his pants. The minute Adams mounted a filter in front of his lens he was largely determining how a colored world would translate into a B/W rendering. Today's photographer can, long after the photo was made, try red, orange, yellow, green, etc. filters or better yet use the channel mixer to create a huge range of virtual filters in colors that were never found in real filters. Brushes are far better than sticking a piece of cardboard in the enlarger's light path and are not limited to lightness/darkness, also applying such parameters as sharpening, saturation, etc. locally. These are only a few of the means and assets readily available today and for photographers of the "classic age" either unheard of or involving inordinate amounts of work. All of which means that today previsualization is no less desirable, but sitting down at the computer and saying, "Now where can I take this," is no less viable.


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Mar 13, 2013 06:31 |  #11

grahamclarkphoto wrote in post #15708225 (external link)
The concept of previsualization in photography is where the photographer can see the final print before the image has been captured. Ansel Adams dedicates the beginning of his first book to previsualization, and is often quoted as saying "Visualization is the single most important factor in photography". Understanding then the significance of this approach is of high value for photographers of all kinds, as it has the potential to unlock greater creative vision, and give greater control (and predictability) over the print process.

Although I'm still just a beginner, I have consolidated some of my thoughts on this here (external link). Hopefully others can find it useful!

If you have any questions or comments please don't hesitate to reply to this thread and I'll do my best to reply!

Graham

Any sufficiently experienced photographer thinks in a similar manner, not only Adams. Among other things, the process of making the image in your mind is how you decide which lens to use. Instinct and experience tell you whether you're going to need a lens with a wide field of view or a narrow field of view. If you know the subject and distances and the framing you want, it's rudimentary to select a lens. Otherwise, there's indecision and confusion.




  
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Mar 13, 2013 06:50 |  #12

grahamclarkphoto wrote in post #15708225 (external link)
The concept of previsualization in photography is where the photographer can see the final print before the image has been captured. Ansel Adams dedicates the beginning of his first book to previsualization, and is often quoted as saying "Visualization is the single most important factor in photography". Understanding then the significance of this approach is of high value for photographers of all kinds, as it has the potential to unlock greater creative vision, and give greater control (and predictability) over the print process.

Although I'm still just a beginner, I have consolidated some of my thoughts on this here (external link). Hopefully others can find it useful!

If you have any questions or comments please don't hesitate to reply to this thread and I'll do my best to reply!

Graham

bookmarked - I need something to unlock my inner creativity




  
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airfrogusmc
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Mar 13, 2013 07:15 |  #13

grahamclarkphoto wrote in post #15709560 (external link)
I agree with you, what I'm saying is that minus the zone system you can still integrate pre-visualization itself as part of your approach to creating images.

they're both self-sufficient, and work together.

Graham

But my point is you can't pre visualize like Adams without the main component. ;) It drove his vision and all the west coast photographers. Its at the base of their philosophy as it applies to photography. To fully understand it I think someone needs to get the view camera, do the tests and actually do the work.




  
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Joe ­ Ravenstein
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Mar 13, 2013 11:03 |  #14

I used B&W film a majority of the time while overseas in the military. And could "see" what the shots would look like after developing the film while still out shooting. Contrast and shading was a priority in trying to capture appealing images of scenes that were not unique but still photogenic. Previsulizing color shots were more of a challenge on the fly.


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Mar 13, 2013 11:38 |  #15

Good effort.
Interesting, I never think this way before.


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