on landscape The online magazine for landscape photographers

The Curse of ‘Pre-Visualisation’

... and the Merits of an Open Mind

Doug Chinnery

Doug Chinnery is a fine art photographer, workshop leader and lecturer with a particular interest in the transformative opportunities of landscape photography.


Have you felt it? That feeling of being of being in the right place… at the wrong time? Arriving for a much anticipated session making images at long dreamed of location only to realise that the elements have conspired against you (again) and the hoped for conditions are not to be?

Of course you have, we all have.

Whom shall we blame? The weather gods? Cruel beings who toy with us, sometimes tantalising us with photographic wonder, more often than not turning off the lights on their way out. We could blame other photographers, the likes of Joe Cornish, Mark Littlejohn and Guy Tal who so obviously have their own weather systems which follow them around, over which they seemingly have total control and can produce mist, golden light or whatever conditions they require at will to produce an endless stream of glorious images - there can be no other explanation for their wonderful output, right?


Or, perhaps, we could vent our venom on the curse of ‘pre-visualisation’. Those days spent at our day job, when we should have been doing something productive (from the point of view of our boss) but in reality we were dreaming of being out with the camera, picturing the location, the magnificent light, the mirror reflections in the water, the compositions we would make, the wind in our face, the awards we would win - all now not to be.

Then there is the guy (and I’m not being sexist here because, even though I am not a betting man, I would put good money on it being a man) who one day, somewhere, back in the mists of photographic time decided for us that the only light in which beauty could be captured in an image was during two or three hours of ‘golden’ light a day, and if that golden light should fail to materialise then all that remained for the photographer was to let shoulders slump, heart sink and to turn their backs on the landscape and trudge home in defeat. 

How can we interpret the landscape in different conditions, in different ways so that we make satisfying work more often? How can we stop our minds thinking negatively about the conditions? How can we begin to realise there are many ways of interpreting the landscape?


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  • Fantastic article and beautiful images, Doug! Thank you very much for the kind compliment.

    • Thank you Guy. I remain in awe of your work (and hugely jealous of where you live :) I love reading your inspirational thoughts on photography – you always make me think and examine.

  • Roger Craven

    A refreshing article that I can really associate with as I try to take good images that reflect what I see and feel, not taking into account what others might think.

  • Great article, and wonderful images to go with it, Doug!

    I couldn’t agree more about visualization. For my “amateurish mode of operation” (going on walks/hikes with my wife and enjoying the day) it simply doesn’t work.
    One day I had that lesson driven home really hard. We went to a state park with waterfalls and I had these ideas on how I wanted to photograph the falls. It didn’t work at all and I ended up quite frustrated. On our way home we stopped at another fall, even though I was quite downtrodden and I unexpectedly took one of my favourite photos ever :-D (it’s the first one in my portfolio)

    Long story short: With visualization I find it easy to run into the danger of limiting ourselves to our own imagination… Rather than opening our eyes and minds to the limitless, unimaginable beauty that nature comes up with every single day…

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