Do your photographs turn out the way you had imagined them?

West Mill Tor From Yes TorPre-visualisation plays a key part in producing my photographs. We have an evening at the local camera club this year devoted to before and after, where members show what the image looked like before it was fed through Photoshop.My images begin the other way around, it begins with the vision of a completed image.

My ideas come from a melting pot of  books, magazines, maps, and of course looking at photographs on the internet. However these sources only help me find ideas for locations, I don't want to reproduce what I have already seen but capture these locations my way.

On location I imagine a completed mounted print hanging on the wall. My inspiration is found I the landscape, or whatever the subject is that I am photographing. And then work out how to capture the digital file that will make it all possible.

West Mill Tor Original FileLet me talk you through this example, the colour file shows the original raw photograph from the camera. Taken from the top of Yes Tor on Dartmoor with a West Mill Tor on the left of the image. My Inspiration comes from the environment and the landscape itself. My aim is to show you what it was that I found compelling enough to drive me to create a photograph, to capture these elements and arrange them in a pleasing composition that recreates how I remember the scene.

It was windy with heavy passing showers, fast changing light danced on the moor and a fast changing cloudscape was reborn every second. There were two key elements that attracted me to the scene, first the way the light picked out the top of the Ridge line extending from West Mill Tor, and secondly the sky, I wanted show these dramatic elements. I imagined an image with the Tors and ridge brightly lit under a stormy sky casting the rest of the landscape into deep shadow.

I went about capturing the image by taking a few practice compositions before attaching the camera to the tripod. I had initially decided to try and use part of the Tor in foreground as a base adding some texture and interest to the foreground. I needed to darken the sky by adding a 0.6nd Lee Filter, I could have gone for a 0.75 but I am  always wary of making the sky too dark, I like my images to remain believable and the sky is always brighter than the land under natural light, I exposed to the right of the histogram to capture the best quality image to work with in photoshop. We will skip the rest of the technical for now - that's the subject of another post.

Photography is the art of visual subtraction, a commonly used statement one which I whole heatedly agree with. When painting or drawing you add marks or brush strokes to a surface to create your masterpiece. With photography we are presented with a masterpiece and must strip away the unnecessary to leave what is desired. It's also difficult to convey the feeling of wind, the splattering rain drops, and smells through the camera lens; in fact it's impossible! So exaggeration of the visual cues are all we have left. To transfer vision to print I have taken the digital image and converted  the raw file into three separate images, one each for sky, land, and ridge line. each file is then blended in photoshop, with a final levels tweak. As you can already see I have subtracted a bit more from the original composition by cropping the foreground removing the granite base. I felt it overpowered the ridge line, throwing the image out of balance a challenging the elements I wanted to share with you. I only will ever know If the image meets my original pre-visualised idea, I can share with you that it does. A dramatic sky, a brightly lit ridge line, and all set against the moor cast into deep shadow.