I wrote this earlier, in another thread
I am closer to "playing around" in post processing than pre-visualizing. I am much more selective in the capture phase though (I guess that is a remnant of my film days), and take something because it "speaks to me," although, at that moment, I am not exactly sure what it is saying. I often discover it in the post processing phase, playing around, until it again speaks to me, this time "loud and clear."
[I was then asked: "When you are playing around, do you have a notion of the direction you are headed, or are you just pushing all available buttons...?"
Now, these days, I do have some notion where I am going. But that notion today is a result of accumulated experience from yesterday, when it was more of a happy accident and fooling around. Through experiment and playing comes the realization of what it is that I like, and then it becomes the "notion" of where I'd like to go in the future.
I think what we are witnessing in this transition from film to digital is the shifting of our skills (craft) from being front-loaded to back-loaded. It has been dictated by the limitations of the medium. In the past, with film, we had to prepare many things right before we click the shutter. Why? Simply because we had no choice, we had a limited number of shots with us (especially true with large format) and we knew that in the processing stage we had much less options. If you were shooting transparencies, there wasn't any processing stage at all (bar push-pull processing within a limited range, and even that was not possible with all films, e.g., Kodachrome). What you did before pressing the shutter was it.
Enter digital. The choices and options in the latter stages, in post-processing, vastly outnumber what we had in the past, both in type and scope. Thus our focus, attention, knowledge, as photographers, shifted toward the end of the process. All I have to do today is to capture a moment and get a decent file. Sometimes I have to bracket, but even that is not always necessary with certain modern cameras. Which brings us to an interesting phenomenon how our required skills change even within the digital realm. Yesterday, you could not call yourself a competent photographer if your skill set did not include bracketing and subsequent exposure blending in post. Today, for the newest generation of photographers, which is starting with, say, D800 et al, the need to bracket is perplexing. So, who is a better photographer? We bracket, because we have to (limitations of the medium), not because it is somehow a badge of honor of a competent photographer. The kids today will just "push buttons" to extract all the info they need from a single shot. Our skill was in bracketing, their in "pushing buttons." Is our "trick" (what we like to call skill) inherently better than their "trick" (what we like to call "playing around")?