Walking in the Mountains of California.

Taking a stroll on the back side of the Minarets.

In the quest to creative beautiful and evocative pictures, there are a few things I do to mentally prepare myself before I even pull out the camera.

First, if you are reading this, let it be known that I am one of the worst photographers ever. I am more likely to shoot hand-held, at 1/10th of a second, while holding my breath after finishing a 10k, before I pull out a tripod… if I even have one.

That said, there are some things that even I do before even picking up my camera that I have found useful in my travels.

Editor’s Note: Ryan is entirely too humble.

1. Figure out where you are going.

Where in this big blue marble do you want to go? Do you want to photograph the streets of Brazil during Carnival or chase the changing leaves in Maine?

Instead of photographing haphazardly, understand why are you drawn to these particular areas. How long can you be there? What is your budget? Do you have friends to visit there?

Each of these things informs your style and subject and should help you create the emotional response you desire when people see your images.

2. Old School Research and Study

I am not talking about stalking photographers on Social Media or the Internet (that is number 3). Instead, stalk photographers the old school way via books or National Geographic.

We can all walk down to the library and dive into any book or magazine without the distraction of the Internet. There is a wealth of information hidden inside these buildings that can unleash your creativity.

Many of the great masters’ photographs are readily available and more easily viewed in a full sized gallery book than on your laptop or phone’s tiny screen.

3. More Research (New School)

Now that you’ve spent time with the revered masters, it’s time for social media and Google. We all know the wealth of knowledge (and BS) of the Internet. Google+, Facebook, Instagram, blah blah blah.

Blogs like this can offer us a wealth of information. Just be careful of the digital rabbit hole you open with Youtube or Wikipedia. And be especially careful that all the technical jargon and pixel peeping doesn’t distract you from your goal of simply creating beautiful imagery. To quote Chase Jarvis

“The best camera is the one you have with you.”

4. Envision your photographs 

After pouring over so many photos, begin to envision your own.

Perhaps you imagine a sunset silhouetted woman alone in a field with a Brahma Bull working the field for her crops. Or the contrast of an old man imparting wisdom into a young man.

See with your mind’s eye the setting and settings you would need to create this.

But more than that…

5. Meditate on how to express your vision.

This quote is taken straight from David DuChemin.

I believe there are three images that go into making the final photograph – the one you envision, the one you shoot, and the one your refine in post-production. The better you are at the latter two, the closer you’ll come to the first.”

So what does that vision look like for you?

What do you do mentally before going out to take pictures? Did I miss something?

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