Essay, Tunnel Vision: Avoid it at All Costs

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Canon 5D, EF24-105mm f/4L IS USM at 58mm, 0.5 sec. at f/16, ISO 100

We all have experienced tunnel vision at some point in our lives. We get focused on one task, and everything else around us disappears until we have accomplished our goal. That one thing dictates all of our actions, all of our thoughts, all of our emotions, and until we complete it, we can’t clear our mind for anything else. This is a very detrimental mindset to find yourself in on one of your photographic journeys. I’m writing this essay to make you aware of this problem, and to demonstrate the benefits that you can reap when you keep an open mind out in the field.

Almost every photographic journey begins with preconceived ideas of the type of images you want to create. For me, it is the grand landscape. I love wide open, expansive images that just lure your imagination, and make you wish you were there. Often times though, you find yourself arriving at your destination, and the conditions just aren’t right to capture what you envisioned. It’s at these times tunnel vision creeps in, and you find yourself searching and searching for an image that’s just not meant to be. All the while, passing by great photographic opportunities that your mind can’t see because it is focused somewhere else. This is exactly what happened to me while on a fall shoot in Oak Creek Canyon in central Arizona.

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Canon 5D, EF24-105mm f/4L IS USM at 70mm, 1/30 sec. at f/8, ISO 100

The images in this post were created several years ago while I was on a fall shoot in central Arizona. I had envisioned capturing images of waterfalls cascading out of still pools of water, reflecting the fall colors and majestic red canyon walls. What I found was the water levels were really low, and the pools were cluttered with debris. No matter how far I hiked into the canyon, my vision never seemed to materialize.  At some point I stopped to take a break. At that moment I started to realize that the colors that surrounded me were absolutely stunning. I immediately grabbed my camera from my pack and started shooting. The results are what you see above. I broke through my tunnel vision and walked away with some great images.

So, the next time you find yourself in the field with all kinds of preconceived ideas for images floating in your head, stop, and take a break. Clear your mind and take a look around you. You might just break through your tunnel vision, and capture an image that exceeds your wildest expectations.

This post was published on the Nature Photographers Online Magazine in July, 2012

About Jason Keefe

Jason Keefe is a landscape and nature photographer residing in the mountains of northwest Arizona. His passion for photography is driven by an undying love for the great outdoors. Jason has twenty plus years experience in landscape photography, and has taught digital photography and Photoshop for his local community college. Starting in early 2014, Jason will be offering Photography Workshops focusing on teaching people how to maximize the potential of their digital cameras in the great outdoors.

JKeefePhoto – who has written posts on Jason Keefe Photography.


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