Seeing an image ‘in your mind’s eye’ is a skill unto itself, and perhaps the most difficult skill a photographer cultivates.  Capturing and processing the image, that’s mostly a technical matter and far easier to accomplish.  First you have to see it.  In this instance seeing it was easy for me, the storm clouds were dark and foreboding, and I had a brand new 16mm F2.8 wide angle attached to my Sony NEX-5 (24mm at the 35mm equiv).  I was curious if the corners were sharp, and what better test than a brick structure with the lines and detail running across the entire frame?

 

I’ve been saving this image for a feature photograph special and didn’t include it in my shots from Wat Ratchaburana in Ayutthaya  even though I did include a color rendition.   This image is from the same outing but I wanted to save it because it requires some explanation.

Usually when you heavily process an image you get some who like it, but most don’t.  When you first opened this column and viewed this image you immediately knew if the image captured you.  This image might look heavily processed, but in reality it’s a simple black and white toning conversion with a touch of dodging and burning.

Seeing an image ‘in your mind’s eye’ is a skill unto itself, and perhaps the most difficult skill a photographer cultivates.  Capturing and processing the image, that’s mostly a technical matter and far easier to accomplish.  First you have to see it.  In this instance seeing it was easy for me, the storm clouds were dark and foreboding, and I had a brand new 16mm F2.8 wide angle attached to my Sony NEX-5 (24mm at the 35mm equiv).  I was curious if the corners were sharp, and what better test than a brick structure with the lines and detail running across the entire frame?

The person I went with was making his captures and my mind kept looking at this scene while we chatted back and forth.  I held the NEX-5 at arm’s length and studied the scene in the viewfinder, took a few steps to one side, one step back, a few steps forward, and attempted to achieve the most centered and equal image I could.  Most often a centered subject is the wrong choice, but in some cases where it works it can be very powerful.

I then moved the camera down to almost ground level, up above eye level, and watched the perspective.  I finally settled for about waist level and made my capture.  Using the LCD I zoomed into the corners to see if F5.6 would do the job.  Because it was so dark, and I wanted to shoot at the cameras minimum ISO for the best quality, I needed all possible light.  Frankly I was very surprised to see how well the corners held up at F5.6, I expected to go to F11 or even F16 for this type of corner sharpness.  This is one of the advantages to using a quality prime over a more convenient zoom.  F5.6 did a great job and I had my capture.

It wasn’t until a few days later that I remembered what I’d seen in my mind’s eye, and pulling the image up on the screen I was pleased.  A minimum amount of dodging and burning, a black and white conversion, and an ever so slight rotation to make sure the chedji was pointing straight up.  Keep in mind this is not a crop.  I also didn’t need to correct for lens distortion.  The walls on the side slightly leaning in, the walls really do that.  Using a quality prime can really change your game and with some surprise I learned this inexpensive Sony 16mm F2.8 Alpha lens is indeed a quality prime.

Challenge yourself, especially with landscapes.  Stop being in tourist mode and try just sitting there for 3-5 minutes and thinking about the scene.  Picture in your mind’s eye what you want as a finished image.  Once you have the image sitting in your mind, then use even more patience to set your controls to achieve your goal.  You’ll probably find you’re capable of much better images this way.