Saturday, January 3, 2009


A friend of mine asked me to share some thoughts on seeing. It's a favorite topic of mine...yet seeing does not come naturally to me. For what it's worth, I'll share some thoughts over the next few days.

Over the years, I've learned that any ability I may have to capture decent photographs has little to do with my camera equipment and everything to do with my ability and motivation to see. Not just the ability to look, but to be ultra-aware. The most valuable photographic tool I have is not in my camera bag - it's between my ears. I don't consider myself to be great at seeing. I struggle with it. I'm required to fight my brain's natural inclination to be lazy. Seeing is an ability I find illusive and fleeting. My favorite photographers are great at seeing. They see things others will never see. Others will never see these things for three reasons:

  1. They don't plan to see
  2. They're not motivated to see
  3. They don't develop their ability to see

Planning to See

Planning to see? Yes. At any given time, I may have two dozen photo ideas running through my brain, in a holding pattern, waiting for the right moment, the right conditions, the right light, or the right season. In addition to the items I have on my brain's hard drive, I have countless notepads and sticky-notes with ideas and locations I've jotted down...not wanting to forget. I'm not smart enough to remember them all. Eventually, I get to them. And more often than not, my journey ends with a click.

The photo at the top of this page (the gnarly crabapple trees) is an example of "planning" to see. You would not recognize this scene without the fog. You would be distracted by the cluttered background. If the fog did not obscure the background, you would see a black fence, a sidewalk, a road, a brick building, and traffic. When the fog rolled in, I rolled

The photo below (Happy Frosty New Year) is another example of an image I had in a holding pattern for a year or more. I knew the composition and the textures had promise, but I felt it needed something else to make it more compelling. I wasn't sure what it needed, but I knew it needed something. Then I got lucky. When the frost came, I

Tomorrow: Wanting to See


SearchingSoul said...

I do agree that great photos are not about the camera. It's about the person looking through the camera not only with his eye but with his heart.

Thanks for the tips, Maestro. Keep on sharing your talent.

Dan Denardo said...

Good point about the "heart", SearchingSoul. That's huge. I couldn't agree more.

Ron said...

I couldn't agree with you more on what you've written. I think we all share this one ethos as photographers--that is, to see. You've definately got that skill...and I wouldn't want anyone else on the web explaining this other than YOU!

Thanks, buddy!

Dan Denardo said...

Ah, you're too kind, my friend. Thanks.

I loved SearchingSoul's comment about seeing with one's heart. How true. You've got that ability in spades. So does she.

SearchingSoul said...

Thanks, Dan, for the most heartwarming compliment.

I'm so happy I "stumbled" upon you and Ron's blog.

Javier said...

I think it's all in the eyes, which are connected to the soul, and the deepest your soul feels, the best photographs you take. And you seem to have a trully deep and human soul. I thank you for your quest and for sharing it with us through your blog.

May this new year bring you all that you expect and a little more.


Dan Denardo said...

Great observation regarding the connection to one's "soul". I appreciate your input and I couldn't agree more.

All the best to you in 2009. Thanks for visiting. -D2