Visualisation vs Pre-Visualisation
I spent a magical morning at the foot of Mam Tor in the Peak District, overlooking Hope Valley shrouded in a blanket of mist; the cement-works emerging magnificently from the ‘clouds’ to emphasise an industrial element within an otherwise natural canvas. But these conditions did not come easily. I had been pre-visualising this image for about two years and had made several unsuccessful visits before eventually striking lucky.
The terms ‘pre-visualisation’ and ‘visualisation’ are often used interchangeably. Both refer to creative processes occurring in our imagination, envisaging the final print in our mind’s eye, but perhaps the digital revolution helps to emphasise a difference.
For me, pre-visualisation is a more meditative loose gathering of ideas, an indistinct dreamlike possibility, a process occurring before we are in the presence of our subject. Visualisation is a more concrete mental image formed while on location and able to view our intended scene. Visualisation is all about seeing like a camera, an imaginative photographic translation of the real world before us into a detailed final result.
In the digital process, inspirational websites such as Flickr and Picasa serve to heighten the excitement of pre-visualisation. It is now possible to form an reasonably accurate mental image of places we have never even visited. Once on location, the digital workflow, including almost instant LCD preview, greatly facilitates visualisation.
On my very first trip to Hope Valley, I was standing there wondering whether there were any worthwhile possibilities when a lady, out walking her dog, stopped and told me that I had missed a spectacular scene the previous day; “the whole valley was covered in a sheet of mist, it would have made a wonderful photograph”. As she spoke, I started to pre-visualise this image, and so began a determined mission.
It seems paradoxical that photographers find the phenomenon of mist and fog so attractive when it mutes colours and diminishes contrast and definition; perhaps these evocative qualities are exactly why we are so smitten. I watched the weather forecasts and made several trips, but each time the anticipation escalated until I turned the final corner revealing the valley and then deep disappointment, no mist. On this final occasion, I turned the corner to be greeted by this incredible view; I was ecstatic !