What are the barriers to a holistic approach to experimentation and image making? I’ve been talking about the blocks that we create in our heads when we accept previsualization hook, line, and sinker.
There are other, more real obstacles.
There’s the weight and bulk of photosensitive materials. If you’re backpacking with your 8×10, you probably don’t want to carry an extra hundred sheets of film so that you can experiment with shutter speeds on all your waterfall pictures. Even if you’re using roll film, cost is a consideration. Neither of these limitations applies to digital capture.
There’s also the opportunity cost of experimentation. As a rule, I don’t bracket f-stops or shutter speeds. I don’t have any problem getting close to the right exposure, and I’ve found that, except for completely static subjects, there’s usually one image in a series that’s the best. If I made a third of the images a stop over the nominal exposure and a third a stop under, there’d be a 33% chance that the best image would have the optimum exposure.
Similarly, if you’re photographing a once-in-a-lifetime event, or even one where you don’t have much time to get what you want, that’s not the time to try something wild and crazy. Instead, visualize what you want, and draw upon your vast repertoire of photographic knowledge – developed through experience and experimentation – to capture the moment in the way that gets you to your goal.