Fighting sensory fog

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Just another common, amazing scene … if you happen to be in the right place.

I like to think that I stop and photograph beauty … but sometimes I don’t.

I will be on a trip dedicated to photography with my camera gear all ready and willing at my finger tips. I will be in a beautiful place and I will dutifully note the fantastic scene beside me … and then keep right on driving.

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I spent a glorious few weeks at a cabin in the Rockies and had the luxury of visiting these falls more often than any other I’ve ever seen. It’s still a treat to visit like I did this year.

So what’s going on? If I was driving by that visual candy near my home, I would be standing on the brakes and reaching for my camera. My senses would be on high alert.

I have come to realize that when there is a lot of beauty around me I occasionally succumb to a condition I will call sensory fog. With too much beauty to process my brain decides it can arbitrarily raise the bar for normal to a far higher level. Perhaps it’s a defense mechanism to stop it from over heating!

The usual place this happens is during my visits to the Rocky Mountains. A tumbling stream on my left, forest on my right, mountains all around and I’m gobsmacked into a sensory fog. I end up looking for something even better to photograph.

Despite the effects of the fog, I am still in a happy place and enjoying it all. Though perhaps not appreciating it all to the fullest extent.

My antidote is to slow down and yield more quickly if I sense that a scene has stopping power. Still it all seems counter intuitive to have to convince myself that an amazing scene is worthy of stopping for photos. Something seems to have gone a little off.

Am I the only one?

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The setting sun was hitting the mountain and the clouds kept changing the shadows on its face.

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Just another reflected mountain bordered by ice – if you’re in the right spot. Swimming anyone?

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Latest Comments

  1. Holistic Wayfarer says:

    I can’t get enough of the third image.

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  2. Scott Marshall says:

    pausing to appreciate take it in and digest – yep totally get it

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  3. Inspired and pretty says:

    I totally relate to what you’re saying. We tend to become use to our environment, even in the most beautiful places, and especially if we’re there for a long time. 11 years ago I was living in La Baie, Saguenay, where there’s a beautiful fjord, I knew it was a great landscape and I thought it was really beautiful, but now that I don’t see it as often I don’t experience its beauty the same way I used to. I’m much more in awe when I see it. I also relate to what Phil Lanoue said in his comment. When we’re out with the camera our photographer’s instinct take over, we’re 100% with the camera but not as much with our surroundings.
    Your photos are superb 🙂

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    • Lyle Krahn says:

      Glad you liked the photos. It really is a shame that we don’t experience the fullest extent of the beauty around that. I’m hoping to move closer to that ideal. The place you described sounds wonderful. I appreciate you sharing those thots.

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  4. artsifrtsy says:

    I do get to a point where the beauty becomes almost ordinary on a trip – fog is a great way to describe it. Other times I shoot the same amazing scene 50 times with very little variation.

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  5. hannele says:

    I noticed this phenomenon the first time after a long hike in the Swedish mountains. I took hundreds of photos, only about 20 of which I thought would be Really Good. I got home, copied them to my computer and had a look. Yeah, those 20 photos that I remembered turned out really well! What a relief. The rest were just documentative.

    Half a year later I looked through the photos again, and realized that the collection of photos was a treasure. So much beauty – obvious and subtle – that I had ignored the first time. I wonder how many scenes I left un-photographed because hey, it just looks like more of the same…

    Great post again, Lyle. 🙂

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    • lylekrahn says:

      I have had that experience as well. I think there are gremlins in my computer that go in and change photos to make them better after they have been sitting there for awhile.

      Glad you enjoyed the post and appreciate the comments.

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  6. Deb W. Trotter says:

    I’m an amateur, but I relate to what you’re saying. Even on a hike, at a much slower speed than in a car, sometimes stopping to take photos almost feels like a burden. I think for me, taking photographs requires a different sensory focus than just breathing in all the beauty, and the latter is much more enjoyable! Your photos here are breathtakingly gorgeous!!

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    • lylekrahn says:

      Glad you like the photos. I like your description of a different sensory focus for taking photos than just enjoying the scenery. I find the same is true for me. Perhaps where it’s different is that there are times when I actually enjoy the scene more when I’m taking photos. Maybe that’s strange.

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  7. Honie Briggs says:

    This happens to me too. Of course, the opposite happens as well, and I have a bazillion shots languishing on SD cards to prove it. Overload takes many forms.

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  8. Mike Powell says:

    Your posting and the discussions in the comment raise some fascinating issues about what we do as photographers and why and how we do it. Sometimes I think we need to be more like dogs. Dogs seem to be endlessly excited about familiar things and unquenchably curious about their worlds. During a walk, a dog can find something interesting about almost every blade of grass, it seems. They are willing to slow down as necessary to take it all in.

    I completely agree with your concept of sensory fog, which works well with your idea of stopping power. Going to an exotic location works almost like an addictive drug on our systems. We need more and more of it to achieve the same “high” as we chase after some sense of perfection, a quixotic pursuit of ideal images that seems just beyond our reach. The words of the Rolling Stones seem to be our anthem, “I can’t get no satisfaction.”

    What’s the antidote? Is there a cure or are there only palliative measures? I like your suggestion about slowing down, which makes us more sensitive to our entire surroundings and a whole universe of opportunities and a little less focused on narrow goals. Maybe then, another Rolling Stones song will play more dominantly in our minds, “You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometime, you find you get what you need.”

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    • lylekrahn says:

      Yet another fascinating set of comments. The dog ideal makes sense – their tracks tend to go all over the place. I almost wish the addictive drug comparison didn’t work so well but my memories of the last high certainly keep me striving for a better one so I think it holds.

      I didn’t think that Rolling Stones’ lyrics dealt with photographers’ issues but you make a compelling case. Enlightenment and perspective sometimes come from places we didn’t expect.

      Now all that’s left is the hardest part – following my own advice.

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  9. owenslaterphotography says:

    I think everyone does that from time to time. I try to remind myself to try to see the world through the eyes of an inquisitive child…that happens to be alone in the woods holding a heavy camera!

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  10. dapontephotography says:

    Great set of photos!!
    You are not alone, I have had the same experience. I agree the best way to clear the fog is to slow down and relax.

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  11. westerner54 says:

    I have had this experience, but I think I’m usually thinking that the scene is so incredible that I don’t think I’ll have any chance of really capturing it. Chronic insecurity. I’ve also noticed that my experience with the outdoors has changed a bit since I’ve started thinking more about photographs: sometimes for the better, sometimes not. I find that I view things differently now (for example, I now notice things like that beautiful diagonal pattern of the snow fields in your first picture) but I also feel like I’m in danger of missing the moment when I focus too much on getting the photo. Interesting to think about.

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    • lylekrahn says:

      Good thots. I’ve also had the experience of thinking I could never do the scene justice in a photo. In fact, I gave up photographing waterfalls for awhile because I liked them so much and my photos showed so little of what I felt at the scene.

      Taking photographs has also made me much more aware of details, like patterns, as well as the scene as a whole as I try to decide what part of it to leave in my photo. I think I’m at my best when I can go back and forth between looking at the whole scene and the elements within it.

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  12. Gunta says:

    I tend to agree with Phil. There were times when my hubby would moan about missing particular shots, but I would remind him that we could keep the image in our mind to enjoy. On the other hand, when I have a camera at hand, it seems I see the world around me on some deeper level, searching out and really paying attention to the beauty. It’s a bit of a contradiction, isn’t it?

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    • lylekrahn says:

      It’s interesting you should bring that up because I’m working on a post about experiencing more with a camera – going deeper as you say. Yet the contradiction you identified is definitely there since other times it feels like missing some of the experience. Perhaps those are more like the sporting events, concerts and fireworks shows than nature scenes?

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      • Gunta says:

        Perhaps you’re right, but I rarely go to such ‘events’ and wouldn’t dream of shooting them. As for nature shots, there’s the going deeper part when there’s a camera handy. In addition, I also find that I get my best shots when I’m alone or without any companion. It seems easier to get into that “zone” when I don’t have the distraction.

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  13. mflahertyphoto says:

    Awesome Lyle! I like the second best. I know what you mean. I think it’s normal to look for something unusual, that will make you stop. If you drive by it means that a viewer might scroll by, doesn’t it? I found during my last trip in the Tetons I was looking specifically for a big bull moose in front of the mountains instead of the (over-shot) views of the Tetons themselves. I got it, but not quite in the light I was looking for.

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    • lylekrahn says:

      That’s another interesting thot that if you drive by, others might scroll by but then they didn’t see the rest of the scene. I’ll have to ponder that. Getting a bull moose in front of the mountains sounds awesome to me. I’ve only found one of those at a great distance.

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  14. Phil Lanoue says:

    Have you ever gone to an event where you went in knowing for a fact you were there to get lots of (hopefully great) shots?
    It could be a sporting or concert event, or even a visit to a location with amazing scenery but your primary goal going in was to take photos. Then later on you realize that you didn’t exactly *experience* the event as much as you covered it, newspaper photographer style. I think this phenomenon may be similar to your sensory fog, or maybe not.
    But there have been times when I have been *there* and made good pics, but did I experience and enjoy it?
    Sometimes I think it may be better to not take any photos (how can we possibly do that?) and just soak in the experience.

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    • lylekrahn says:

      I definitely experienced that when I was taking photos at a fireworks show. After all the tinkering and trying to guess where in the sky the next ones were going to appear, I couldn’t believe it was over so quickly and I felt I missed so much of the grander show. I may be looking at things from an unusual perspective (it happens) but I see that experience as different than sensory fog. What you described I see as so much focus on one part that you miss the grander experience. Sensory fog is so much stimulation from the grander beauty all around that you get a bit numbed to it all and miss the specific beauty that’s so close.

      I definitely agree that there are times to put the camera down (and that’s easy) and enjoy the experience which I did at the next fireworks show and it was much better.

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  15. Rick Alonzo Photography says:

    Great shots Lyle. I love No. 1.

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  16. Jen says:

    Not the only one. Also when you spend time in a region, you become accustomed to the features in the area and overlook it.

    As a nonnative to this part of the state, I’ve taken a lot of pictures of scenery around here, and the locals are always asking me where I took it. I must admit I enjoy the look of shock when they realize it’s “the hill over there” that they see every day.

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    • lylekrahn says:

      I can certainly understand why you enjoyed that look of shock. That must have been fun. It is easy to overlook the familiar.

      It reminds me when we moved to a new place and made it a point to go to all the scenic places in the area. I’d go back to work the next day and nobody else had ever been there.

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  17. iseebeautyallaroundbyrobpaine says:

    nice photos, the third one is fantastic!

    Like

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