Friday, December 2, 2016

Shoot What It Feels Like

                                                                A great photograph is one that fully expresses what one feels,
                                                                in the deepest sense, about what is being photographed.   

                                                                                                              -- Ansel Adams

                                                               Seeing and composing the beauty is what separates the photograph
                                                               from the snapshot.

                                                                                                              -- Matt Hardy

About a year ago, a participant on one of my Road Scholar photo trips sent me a link to a T-shirt that said, "I don't shoot what it LOOKS like.  I shoot what it FEELS like."  I thought that was a great mantra, and I've been trying to be more mindful of that goal in my photography ever since.  (And I bought the T-shirt, too!)

You can see what I mean from the pair of images above, made less than 30 seconds apart.  I'll admit that the bottom image has "had some work done," but even without the post-processing the bottom image conveys a feeling of power that the top one just doesn't have. 

In essence, it's the difference between documentation and interpretation.  There's a place for both in the world of photography, and I do both, but increasingly I'm aiming for interpretation:  what is the feeling I'm getting from the subject, and how can I convey that feeling visually?

Here are a few more examples.   

This is North Window Arch in Arches National Park, in a standard tourist view (documentation) and a different view (interpretation) made five minutes apart:

Here's another pair of the same arch, also made five minutes apart, but on a different day when the light had died.  Documentation versus interpretation:

     Notice the difference?

Even something as ordinary as a house under construction can become something extraordinary.  These two images were made less than a minute apart -- documentation versus interpretation:

And just for the fun of it, I got up in the middle of the night to shoot the same scene by the light of the full moon:


You get the idea:  Don't just shoot what it looks like.  Shoot what it feels like!





  1. Wow, Lance. These photos are beautiful and instructive. Your thoughts about interpretation versus documentation extend beyond photography to other media as well -- writing, drawing, painting, etc. Thanks so much for this invitation to see more deeply and the inspiration to better connect what we feel to what we see. Now the challenge is to capture these moments as you have so effectively done. Jennifer

  2. Very instructive indeed. I agree with that statement,and since I started to fall in love with taking pictures that has been one of my goals to "tell" or convey a "feeling" of something by the picture taken. Now that I have a real camera I hope to capture some great shots to tell a story with!