Photographers seem to love to talk about mathematical proportions: t he rule of thirds, the exposure triangle, the golden spiral. Much of it is gleaned directly from art theory which is not surprising since photography can be considered an art medium. As photographers and artists, we realize that the more time we spend behind a camera, the more critical we become of our work, and the harder we work on our journey. Then one day we realize that we’re on a hunt to develop our own unique vision of the world we photoshoot.
Travelling this journey many years, my experience is that there are three critical aspects to developing a photographic vision: Knowledge and familiarity with the equipment and techniques, knowledge and novelty of the subject being photographed, and the most important, knowledge of how to recognize, use or create light. This is what I refer to as the “triangle of photographic vision.” Tons of books and manuals are out there that talk about the technical aspects and how it applies to light. But there is very little about how to view, appreciate or interpret your subject matter. This is something you grow into through observation and introspection. Whether it’s people or landscapes, you have to have some kind of relationship with your subject before you can capture its essence.
I am fortunate to live in New Mexico, the Land of Enchantment. So many of the most unique and photogenic sites are easily within a day’s drive for me. For example, I’ve been to White Sands National Monument in Alamogordo five times in the past four months, and each time I discover a different way to see and photograph this area. One of the many things I’ve learned as a photographer is that you can’t just shoot a place once and think you’re done. For me photography is a spiritual journey and it gives me the opportunity to really explore not just the area, but my relation to it. Sometimes it’s just simply a matter of taking the time to listen to the sounds, feel the breeze, smell the rain in the distance or notice how the rays of the setting sun bounce off the distant mountains.
Time and emotion are as much a part of photography as the other three legs of the triangle.