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Travel Stories

On Assignment (1): Previsualization Makes the Shot

Matt Bradley (mbradley)


Keywords: on_assignment, mbradley, previsualization, photojournalism, national_geographic, northwest, territories, canada, blanchard, springs, cavern, arkansas

This is the first part of a new series on On Assignment.

“All creativity is in the planning.

The rest is just good carpentry.”

Andre Loomis
Illustrator, Author and Art Instructor 1892-1959

In his book, The Camera, Ansel Adams described visualization as, “...the ability to anticipate a finished image before making the exposure.” Master photographer and teacher, Minor White, called this skill “previsualization.”

Experienced photographers employ this concept all the time: imagining how the finished photo will look while considering the best use of composition, light and color to strengthen a picture idea. They typically do this behind the camera while judging a scene. Sometimes, they completely plan an image before ever picking up the camera.

Early in my career, I admit being slow to understand the importance of visualization and how significantly it can impact the success of a photograph. But now, looking back on my 34 years as a freelancer, I can’t begin to count how many times this skill saved my bacon while out in the field. In particular, two assignments come to mind.

Canada’s Nahanni National Park lies deep in the Mackenzie Mountains, a jagged backbone separating the Yukon and Northwest Territories. Its centerpiece, the 340 mile-long South Nahanni River boasts some of Canada’s finest whitewater.

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