What is Visualization? Rare Unreleased Ansel Adams Footage


The Key to a Photograph from Ansel Adams from SilberStudios.Tv on Vimeo.

Mark Silber, over at Silber Studios Blog, was able to obtain the rare Ansel Adams footage above. In the short clip Ansel Adams talks about visualization. The process whereby a photographer sees a photograph in their mind’s eye before and during the making of photograph.

Experiencing visualization is a powerful thing. Most of the time when I’m shooting I do not experience visualization. I shoot many, many shots every day and many of these shots are meant to be more part of a documentary river than anything for me. With many of these shots in fact I don’t really see the shot from the subject until later in post processing.

But every so often I see a photograph ahead of the actual shot. I do see it in my mind’s eyes. And these I feel are among the best photographs I’ve personally made. Every so often you see a scene or a person or an opportunity for a shot and you take it instantly recognizing that it is special and seeing the finished photograph as you view it through the viewfinder before you’ve even pushed the shutter.

I need to challenge myself to look for more of these moments and photographs. They are all around us every day. And it’s amazing when you get them. That feeling of knowing deep down inside that you really got the shot. That you’ve really created something meaningful in the seconds that surround the birth of a photo is one of the best feelings a photographer can know.

Thanks to Marc and the Ansel Adams Gallery as well for sharing with us this rare footage by Ansel Adams himself directly on the visualization process as he viewed it even so many years ago.

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9 comments on “What is Visualization? Rare Unreleased Ansel Adams Footage
  1. James D Kirk says:

    Hey Thomas. This simple, quick post by you has made an immediate impact on my self knowledge as to why I don’t shoot more. While not 100% sure that I am a “great visualizer” (!) I do know that when I don’t have my camera, I tend to see what I think are “great shots” and wish I had my camera to grab them. But then, for some reason, when I do take the camera out, there is a sort of “stage fright” of using the camera out in public. I’ve never expressed that concept before, mostly never really acknowledging it to myself. Seems that I just need to get over it, spend time with the camera in public, use it. Really want to see if I am able to capture the visualizations that I see. Thanks so much for both your great photo posts as well as the commentary you publish. Your posts have been and continue to be one of favorite feeds in my reader!

  2. Lou says:

    I have the same “stage fright” that James is talking about, it’s something I’m trying to work on as well.

    I’m going to finish watching this vid when I get home, it looks great so far.

  3. Larry says:

    It is wonderful how such a simply expressed concept can have such a tremendous impact on ones photography. I think visualization is no less a basic principle than, for example, exposure, yet I do not think I have ever heard it so clearly expressed prior to this video.

    Thank you for posting this.

  4. So true. It’s rare that I will see a shot and know what I want right away. It’s a wonderful thing when it happens. It happens more now than it used to, presumably because I have spent more time shooting and studying other photographs.

  5. TranceMist says:

    What an awesome clip of Ansel Adams.
    (too bad Marc put that awful intro in front of it)

    It’s notable that Ansel Adams refers to “making a photograph” instead of “taking a picture”.

    Thanks for posting!

  6. Nelcha Cross says:

    Thanks for sharing, a new clip of inspiration is always appreciated.
    This reminds me of why I first got INTO photography….because I
    visualized something and the camera/print did NOT come out the way
    I had pre-visualized it, hence started my efforts to learn to use a
    Manual camera so I could produce what I was visualizing.

    Yes, today we expose film or pixels, but hunters “shoot.”