The Journey Into Art: WYSIWYG - What You See Is What You Get

June 22, 2019
morning over Escalante Canyon

It should be plain that you can only capture what you see. Yet when starting out and trying to focus on something to photograph (other than everything), one must see first and then capture the image.

Early in this artistic journey I was asked whether I perceived form or color first when viewing a scene or art. After quite a while I realized I seek form first. I first see lines.

One of the first steps I take when I come onto a scene is to slow my breathing and look around. I try to quiet myself and see what is there. I first take in the cacophony of forms and colors in the scene. One might call this “perceiving the big picture”. If I just stopped there, my images would be more like travel photography than art. I must pass through this first recognition phase before I can move on. I consider the subsequent process a descent into a personal, creative way of seeing.

After the initial perception of the big picture, I start looking for the lines in the landscape before me. The more I look for the lines, the more I see them. What was at first a whirl of form and color can now be seen more clearly. I “descend” to seeing the forms I naturally perceive early in my visual processing.

I then start working with the lines in the landscape by varying their placement in the images I capture. Soon I discover more and more lines that I had not discerned before.

There is an excitement and delight as I wander about viewing the lines and forms before me. Yet this is not a state I can maintain for a prolonged period, at most 45 minutes and occasionally less than 30 minutes. After that I feel a bit fried and unable to maintain that creative, perceptive awareness.

If I keep taking pictures past that time of visual creativity, I realize that I am taking pictures just for the sake of taking pictures and not because of an inspired or creative vision. Then I realize it is time to stop photographing. It’s now time to go to breakfast or perhaps dinner, should it be an evening shoot.

The energy it takes to move my consciousness from a logical, thinking area to the creative part of my visual system limits my ability to stay in this place of "seeing". I become tired, at times almost to the point of wanting to take a nap. Like the sunrise and sunset, the good light has ended...and so has my experience of artistically interpreting that scene.

My theory is that my practice of photography is like a meditative, contemplative practice. It’s where I move my consciousness from an interpreted experience of the scene to the primary experience of vision. I have moved from thinking about the scene to a place where my awareness and focus is on seeing the lines in front of me. I work to form them in my camera’s viewfinder to hopefully become a print.

I know that most images will never be printed. Yet I know some of them will be. I just don't know which ones I will choose until long after the photo shoot.

I don't analyze my images in real time (except for assessing exposure). I will wait days or perhaps weeks to even begin to evaluate the images I captured.

Those, who are blessed with the ability to live a life of creativity, may be able to maintain that state of creative perception longer than I. Maybe even the ones, who lived in this land long ago and did not live the life we have today, could stay in that enchanted state much longer.

Perhaps that is why there are those who "left the world" to seek lives of solitude and prayer in order to stay in that place of a wonderfully simple and unified experience of life.