Autumn reflections in the Merced River, Yosemite National Park, California
In landscape photography we often previsualize a scene in our mind’s eye prior to arriving at a location in order to achieve the final image. Then, working backwards with our equipment selection and knowledge of the scene, we assess the conditions and create that vision.
At the center of this process, our brain is constantly switching back and forth between two ways of perceiving and processing the reality around us — one verbal and analytic, the other visual and perceptual. While the left brain is logical, rationally using words to describe concepts and able to manipulate abstract ideas, numbers and the concept of time, the right brain, in contrast, takes on a holistic approach, sensing relationships and patterns, and tends to be intuitive, emotional, and irrational with no sense of time – much like a child.
When we photograph it is our left brain that confirms the proper exposure, balances the histogram, levels the horizon, and insists that the rule of thirds be followed at all times. From a creative standpoint, this is where we want the right brain to take over and make a subjective leap of faith. By recognising how our brain functions, we have the ability to tap into our creative side and develop new ways of seeing.
Betty Edward’s treatise “Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain“ takes a thoughtful look into the fascinating way that our brain works in tandem to balance our creative and cognitive traits. Based on this premise, that the left and right hemispheres of the brain process information in very different ways, she suggests that we can subjectively stimulate our creative responses to the world around us by suppressing the dominant and calculating left side and focusing on the right. Though the book references artists and drawing in particular, it is equally relevant to any of the visual arts.
So the next time you feel the need to expand your visual horizons, resist the temptation to buy another lens or Lightroom filter (as your left brain would likely suggest), and pick up this book instead. The development of your creative perception is an invaluable tool that will serve you well the rest of your life, and the only requirement is time and practice.