Canon 5D MII EF70-200f4L@200 | 1/1000s | f/8 | ISO100 | Handheld
Please take a moment and observe this photograph. What do you see?
Nothing special? A vast meaningless black space with some scattered sources of light and a big explosion-like thing in the middle. “So what?”, you may ask.
If you (same as me) are interested in “learning to see”, you need to take photographs seriously. Even the ones that may look bad or worthless. You can learn a lot by thinking “what exactly is wrong about this photo?” or “why I don’t like this photo?’. Only after paying attention and carefully observing a photograph, you may be able to criticize it or admire it or both.
Again what do you see in this photograph? I see lot of leaves and a photographer hiding behind a bush while facing the camera toward the other side of the bush which is sunny. That explosion-like thing is actually the daylight, coming through the spaces between the leaves.
But I also see another scene in this photograph.
I see an airplane flying over thousands of small lakes while the distant sun is setting. As the plane moves, the image of the sun is shaped in one of the little lakes and is visible from the airplane and through the lens of the photographer. That explosion-like thing is the sun itself, or to be precise, its image. If you look carefully, you can even see the image of the clouds in one of the lakes.
How do you like a photograph that can take you from a hidden corner behind bushes into the open sky?
Well, you point to an important aspect: every picture we see is a picture that formed in our minds. What our eyes see is just a bunch of photons being emitted or reflected. The patterns of action potentials that those photons produce in the retina of the eye needs to be analyzed by the brain. And therefore, we always construct what we see. And most importantly, every construction in our brain introduces lots of associations. The more abstract a picture gets, the more the brain has to rely on associations to “understand” the picture. This is why so many people won’t see anything here: they are no longer used to use imagination… they think imagination is “wrong” because we only need to identify real world objects and if there are none, the picture is “bad”. That makes a really poor world and we would all still be sitting on trees and eat lice from our neighbours head, if we wouldn’t have the power of imagination!
Roland, you have a natural gift of explaining difficult concepts in a very efficient and pedagogical way. I am learning from you, therefore I have to say a big thanks.