By Sharon Tenenbaum
Pre-visualizing a shot is often a major difficulty for photographers but is something that can be learned. Once this “mental muscle” is strengthened, you will notice how pre-visualization can be used used for all of your shots.
The way to pre-visualize a shot is to see the scene as shapes and lines. Doing this will also help you get a better understanding of composition and relationship to light and shadow.
Above are three of my images of the Sundial Bridge in Redding, California designed by Spanish architect and engineer, Santiago Calatrava. Not only does this structure serve as a pedestrian bridge, it’s also a functioning sundial. The bridge crosses the Sacramento River exactly north to south, with the main pylon located on the north bank of the river.
For this project I wanted to achieve three things:
- To create a series of three images, each strong enough to stand alone.
- To show the structure as a pedestrian bridge.
- To convey the bridge is a functioning sundial.
Before I ever pressed the shutter release, I asked myself what intrigued me about this bridge: Is it the harmony of geometric lines, the relationship of lights and shadows, or is it the essence of the structure itself (i.e. a sundial)? Do I want to exaggerate a specific feature to emphasize it and thus zoom in for an isolated shot? Or do I want to show the subject in its surrounding to create context?
Once I knew which aspects intrigued me, I set out to convey each aspect in a separate image, and I found my shots using pre-visualization: by simplifying what I was seeing into shapes and lines.
Sundial #1: Conveying the bridge as a functioning sundial
The first question I asked myself was: What makes a sundial?
A sundial is an instrument showing the time by the shadow of a pointer cast by the sun onto a plate marked with the hours of the day.
This told me that I needed to capture the gnome (pylon) of the bridge with the sunlight hitting it and reflecting down to tell the time of day.
The next thing was to figure out where I must stand in order to capture an image that conveys this. Luckily, underneath the pylon was an concave area that allowed me to capture the light and shadow!
Sundial #2: Conveying a functioning bridge
The second image in the series is intended to show the bridge in context. As I walked the bridge, it was as if this image shouted out to me, because of the simplicity of lines and balance of shapes.
Sundial #3: Tying everything together
Struggling to find my third image, I knew I wanted something that would tie in with the first two — an image that shows the bridge structure as well as the sundial light effect. By capturing the pylon with the concave area in profile, I managed to tie the two together while still being visually aware of the linear harmony.
Want to learn more?
If you enjoyed reading this article, you might also like Sharon's eBook "Left & Right Brain, A photographer's understanding of how these mindsets affect our visual interpretation of Art"
What differentiates Good from Great Art? What gives some images that extra superior edge in comparison to all the rest. What is going on in our subconscious mind when we look at these images? This book will discuss how the two sides of the brain see the world differently and interpret the visual world, and most importantly:
How does it apply to art?
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