Journey {From Vision to Voice}

If you have any questions, or if there is a particular image you'd like me to discuss next time, let me know! Comments and discussion here or on my Facebook Page are always welcome! 365-199

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The day this image was taken, I was standing in my kitchen, doing dishes while my girls napped, and I was looking out the window while I worked, and I saw this guy drive up and take a break. I live a few hundred yards from the ocean, and in the winter sometimes we'll get these amazing sunny days, but still have some moisture in the air, so we get amazing sunbeams in the air, and textured light that is just wonderful. We'd had a couple days like this in a row, and I kept trying to capture the light, but it wasn't working. Images of the light itself, or the light and the trees, just seemed a little boring.

And then one afternoon, this guy rolled up to the ranger station across from my house. As I was doing dishes, I watched him and his dog enjoy lunch, stretch out in the sun, unpack their belonging and put them out to dry in the sun. And I saw those awesome beams of light, and I knew *this* was what I had been missing. A subject, something compelling and mysterious to match the otherworldliness of that light.

I grabbed my 100L, which is the longest lens I have, and shot this through my screen door! I really didn't think it would turn out, but I didn't want to open my door and ruin the quiet moment for him, and I also knew my dog would bark and wake up my girls if I did that - and no way was I willing to let that happen!

So this is what I got - straight out of camera (SOOC) -


This is where vision matters. This scene is all I saw when I was looking out my window, but I could see the potential, I could see a story that I wanted to tell, and the beauty in this small moment. There are moments like this ALL around, all the time. You just have to be observant, and see the world like a photograph. I look for light and shadows everywhere, constantly. I look for moments that others might dismiss, I find the humanity in others and the beauty in nature, and that is what I strive to photograph. My images aren't "good" because I have a good camera, or nice lenses, or because I know all the tricks of editing - I don't, trust me! I don't have any magic settings, I don't have any secrets. What I do have, though, is an observant nature, and a willingness to try, to practice and fail and try again, every day, and a strong understanding of visual intent, vision, and voice. And even though on this day, everything was telling me I wouldn't get the shot, I tried anyways, because I could see something worth saying.

I wanted this image to speak of journey, of being alone but not lonely, of the power of nature and how small we are in the world, and of possibility and the unknown. So I choose to compose this image with the man and dog on the left of the frame, and I took a couple of different shots until I got one where he and the dog were both looking to the right of the frame. I kept this image in a horizontal orientation for the same reason. I edited in a way to bring out the sunbeams a tiny bit, and I kept him fairly small in the frame as a whole. I cloned out one of the signs, but not the other, because I wanted there to be some sense of scope and place. And that beautiful diagonal light adds energy and a sense of something bigger than him to the image.

Taking that SOOC to the final edit was a matter of knowing what I wanted that image to say. I knew as I took it that I would convert it to black and white. The SOOC tones are really faded, and I really wanted this to feel timeless and distant. The crop was a little tricky, and took me some time to figure out. I wanted him to be a small but important presence in the frame, so communicate the sense of isolation and aloneness in his journey that I felt from him while watching. But I wanted there to be no doubt in my viewer's mind that he was the story of this image. Once I had the crop, the rest of the edit was simple. Black white conversion, and a little dodging and burning.


Don’t underestimate the power of having a vision, and understanding the visual language of photographs, and how you can manipulate those things, with intention, to SAY something with your work. Having an understanding of not just how to compose an image, or use light, or movement, but how to manipulate those things as a tool for communication? That is when photographs are elevated to something deeper and more meaningful.


Many photographers are drawn to the craft as a means to express their creativity and artistic vision, but are unsure as to what their photographic voice is, or how it comes across to viewers of their work. In my workshop, Voice & Visual Intent, we’ll spend time learning techniques to identify and manipulate photographic devices and elements, and help you build confidence in yourself as an artist. You’ll come out of the workshop with a better understanding of how to strengthen the creative and emotional intent of your work. I’d love for you to join us during the next run, which starts April 13.

Kate Densmore3 Comments