When in the field you're often faced with challenges. Most of these problems can be solved by redirecting the camera lens to another part of the scene or by looking more closely at an already chosen composition.
But what if the challenge isn't in front of the camera? What if the problem is what's BEHIND the camera?
There are times that we all face when the creativity stops flowing or hasn't been accessed in a while. You're out of practise, rusty, and just not "seeing" what you know you should be.
I was feeling that one afternoon when out photographing the open desert of the Tonto National Forest north of Apache Junction, Arizona. Everywhere I pointed my lens nothing seemed "right". I then realized that my head wasn't in the right place and that was blocking me from seeing anything at all.
I was just about to pack up and go home when I remembered something that my first photography teacher would always say to the class. "Don't forget to turn around!" What he meant was that we should never forget to change our perspective.
This in mind, I re-evaluated what I was focusing on in order to make an image. I was focusing on the details of a cholla cactus and macro photography of the surrounding Saguaros. So I stepped back, and looked up to the horizon. The sun was setting behind an overcast sky and making for some pretty boring flat light. Looking for a decent point of interest in the direction where the best lighting was taking place turned up nothing. A small spot of decent color to the south but no interesting compositions to bind to the colors.
I turned to find Four Peaks mountain to the northeast and found enough interest to continue investigating. Four Peaks was still quite far away, even with my telephoto lens, and wasn't impactful enough to make it the subject. However, changing the emphasis from Four Peaks to the sky that was full of wispy Cirrus clouds brought me closer to seeing something that is both there and not there.
Repositioning the camera from horizontal to vertical brought it home for me. I felt the excitement before I even finalised the simple minimalist composition. Four Peaks was now completely in shadow so I dropped it to the bottom of the frame to form the foundation. Unfortunately, the clouds were flat. Even with the use of a polarizing filter! But I knew I could make adjustments and breath life into them in the development stage of post production.
And suddenly, there it was. Just as Ansel Adams always spoke of, the pre-visualized final print.
I made a few more exposures to make sure I had the details I needed. Checked the sharpness because I knew I'd have to crop the image for the final print.
I silently thanked my teacher, and hiked back to my truck in the dark.