Attention & Awareness, Something to work on.


I am sure many of us have spent time out in the landscape with other photographers, friends or on tours only to be surprised afterward, almost kicking yourself when you see images they found that you did not. We may remember the elements but just did not consider photographing them ourselves or just completely failed to notice what was there. If we are not even aware of what the elements are before us, then how can we photograph them?

Awareness of your surroundings requires attention, which over the last 6 months or so I have been trying to work on. This means to me, being conscious of as much as possible and recognizing the visual ingredients available to use in my compositions. So when I am presented with the opportunity to go away and shoot, I now try to deliberately stop paying attention to other, less relevant things. I have found it detrimental to become distracted with things that do not relate to what I am trying to convey in my images, especially things that are unimportant or that can be put on the back burner. Those trivial details of everyday life, the casual banter between friends, the idea of a hard and fast itinerary or the quest to move towards a pre planned destination rather than slowing down has on many occasions for me, resulted in many missed opportunities. I have found one of my greatest distractions has been arriving at a location with preconceived ideas, such as the desire to capture a specific, known composition, or that we already know what there is to photograph in a given place, so why should we look for something new, when it's all been done before?

As I write this I am working on a trip to the Puna in Northern Argentina. Through my research, I have found many inspiring images that have sold this destination to me. Similar in ways to the Altiplano of Bolivia with the climate and altitude, I feel though there is a greater diversity of the landscapes to play with. Like Bolivia it will be a challenging area to shoot and come away satisfied could be a gamble. With the amount of research invested, have I now clouded my own view with these pre conceived ideas? The trip is planned for late next year so once all the details have been ironed out, I hopefully will put this to the back of my mind and arrive with a clean slate and just enjoy the ride.

Below is a short video I came across that helps to explain how our minds can control what we " actually see". 

The experiment is called The Invisible Gorilla and was devised by Christopher Chabris and Daniel Simons

Imagine you are asked to watch a short video (above) in which six people-three in white shirts and three in black shirts-pass basketballs around. While you watch, you must keep a silent count of the number of passes made by the people in white shirts. At some point, a gorilla strolls into the middle of the action, faces the camera and thumps its chest, and then leaves, spending nine seconds on screen. Would you see the gorilla? 

Almost everyone has the intuition that the answer is “yes, of course I would.” How could something so obvious go completely unnoticed? But when we did this experiment at Harvard University several years ago, we found that half of the people who watched the video and counted the passes missed the gorilla. It was as though the gorilla was invisible. 

This experiment reveals two things: that we are missing a lot of what goes on around us, and that we have no idea that we are missing so much. To our surprise, it has become one of the best-known experiments in psychology.