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It does often happen that I know what I want in an image before I shoot it. This is called “pre-visualization.”  Equally as often, I either have no idea what the final image is or at least I have no idea what it will look like in post production.

I would be happy to say that I sketch everything out, planned to the last detail. Sometimes it actually is like this. More often than not, it isn’t.

I was walking through Hobby Lobby the other day, collecting sticks and leaves for a planned shoot, when I ran across a 5′ sunflower. On sale. Such a deal!

I knew it would make an interesting prop, but my planned shoot was of an earthy, B&W pointe theme. On a whim I bought it (impulse buy) thinking I could somehow incorporate this into the shoot.

Natalie, my dancer, did well with it. When I saw the images in post, I forgot all about earthy and B&W. Sometimes images just move me for some unexplained reason. I saw something Norman-Rockwell-esque in this image, and that vision took me through the post processing.

This is what emerged:


I tried B&W versions of it, and it did work (and full confession was cohesive with the rest of the theme). However, this image felt at home in this style. Funny how that works.

The excitement for me of photography comes in 3 phases: the shoot itself – the joy of lighting, exposure, and working with talent, the realization of the vision, and the unexpected. Like anything worthwhile, there is work and there is drudgery. Retouching tens if not hundreds of images is taxing. But those decisions are almost automatic – I know what I want in a headshot, a beauty shot, a portrait – and how to achieve it. I’ve done it enough that a lot (not all) of it is mechanics. “Work.”

This image, and the decision process that went into it, was spontaneous. The photographic version of discovery. The fact that most of it happens on my computer does not affect the impact it has on me. There is still wonder and joy and the happiness that comes with something new and fresh and not anticipated. For my style of photography and my subject matter, this is that reality for me.

I was never a “get it totally in camera” kind of guy anyway. I try to get as perfect as an exposure as I can get. Nail the lighting. The composition. But the reality is I look at it on screen and the gears start turning. Decisions. What do I want to change?

I turned the corner on my photography when I went all-digital. I had a darkroom. I had hypo stains on my fingers and white powder everywhere. I still have the tanks and the trays. But I don’t miss it. I am comfortable around computers and find it is more expressive to me than film and the analog process ever was. It enables me to make more decisions, and make them later in the process than ever before.

In fact, I don’t think I’m done with this. I see a composite in its future …. Decisions.

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