You are standing atop a ridge looking down as the world spreads out below you. Late afternoon sunlight dapples a forest of pine trees that stretches for miles along either side of a winding river. In the distance, rugged mountains rise from the earth, their jagged peaks scraping the clouds above. Where do you point your camera?
Approaching a landscape can be among the most daunting parts of landscape photography. It is also the most important. Everything begins with seeing. But how we see is situational and is influenced by our experiences and familiarity with a location and subject. Photographers Marc Muench, Sivani Babu and Andy Williams discuss previsualization, discovery and how they each approach the landscape.
For the first half of my life, almost every landscape was new. The West was filled with unexplored regions—lakes, rivers, canyons, forests and glacially capped mountains that I wanted to climb. I was exposed to many of these places at an early age while traveling with my parents on landscape photography excursions. Each visit to a new and wild place opened the door to more intrigue. But we visited many locations more than once and, over the years, they became familiar.
When I began my professional career as a photographer, some of the first places I resourced for commercial and editorial assignments were those I had been to before—some locations I visited more than a dozen times in just a few years. Familiarity meant efficiency, and many of the photographs I made in those places were previsualized.
As my career grew, the destinations diversified. The world was shrinking, and I found myself flying to the corners of the United States and then to Mexico, Canada and the Caribbean. I didn’t realize it at the time, but the way I saw and created imagery was evolving.