I am sure you have seen this statement before. You should be photographing with intent. It often is accompanied by a discussion on pre-visualization. Selecting a place you want to photograph, a specific location and then forming a mental image of what you want to create. This is often associated with black and white images which further requires focus on the light . Not to say that the light is more or less important in black and white versus color photography. The light needed for the pre-visualization is however important.
Personally I find this very difficult to do, and I suspect many others do as well. I do not think this makes you less artistic or less of a photographer. It just means you get there differently. As I have matured as a photographer I have been able to go out and shoot with intent, but not in the manner it is most often described. My approach is different and I have heard others mention approaches they have that echo my method.
I will select a location broadly. For the past year, with the lockdowns in place, it has mostly been green belt areas or parks near where I live. I select one lens for the outing. This is a restriction, but also simplifies the shooting by removing a decision — what lens to use for this subject.
I went on such a walk this past week. It was a sunny day, late afternoon with the sun nearing the horizon. I picked my 12-24mm Zoom lens for the outing. My initial path was directly into the sun. I decided that I would focus on the trees that had mostly lost all their leaves at this point allowing me to concentrate on the shapes of the trunks and branches. I also decided I want to take shots that will be good candidates for black and white images and prints later. Using the stark outlines against a plain sky to create images that speak to me of the remains of a year and the resting of the trees before they will again burst with life in spring.
Once those choices were made I could scan the woods, consider each tree that was isolated enough to be a candidate and then consider the shape and amount of overlap with nearby trees. I found several trees that I could isolate sufficiently. I took multiple shots of each varying the exposures as I was often shooting straight into the sun, or the bright edges coming around the tree trunks and branches. At some point I was at the end of the outward bound stretch and could now head back.
Now I had a new set of opportunities. The sun was at my back. The light was streaming onto the same trees, but now, many with almost pure white trunks and branches appeared to glow in the late day sun. Now I had a completely different perspective, but still excellent candidates for black and white images, I slowly made my way back picking out trees and taking multiple shots of each, varying angles and approaches.
Once I was back home I set about the processing. After selecting the images I thought had worked, told a story to me and were visually solid I went through he next step of creating what I intended, black and white images of the trees. I take a lot of liberty when doing such processing to bring my full intent to the final images. When processing the stark white trees I chose to drag the blue slider to make the sky black or nearly black. Other fine tuning of the black and white controls brought the focus to the stark shapes of the trees. With the silhouette images I had taken first I did the opposite to make the sky white or nearly white, making the black shapes of the trees stand out.
For me shooting with intent is a processes of discovery once I have created some constraints for myself on a subject. Letting my imagination and senses make the most of the intentional limits I placed on myself.
This process works for me. If you have not found a way to help you drive creativity and new images, give this a try. Create some constraints on yourself for a shoot — it can be the equipment, the camera settings, the location, the subject, the time of day, or some combination of them. You too may find this liberating once you let yourself discover what is to be found in the world you just created for yourself.