Brooks Jensen Arts

Every Picture Is a Compromise

Lessons from the Also-rans

Most photography websites show the photographer's very best work. Wonderful. But that's not the full story of a creative life. If we want to learn, we'd better pay attention to the images that aren't "greatest hits" and see what lessons they have to offer. Every picture is a compromise — the sum of its parts, optical, technical, visual, emotional, and even cosmic – well, maybe not cosmic, but sometimes spiritual. Success on all fronts is rare. It's ok to learn from those that are not our best.

This is a series about my also-rans, some of which I've been able to improve at bit (i.e., "best effort"), none of which I would consider my best. With each there are lessons worth sharing, so I will.

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Original digital capture

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What I saw that I liked:

A magnificent bird, photographed by a questionable technique.

What I don't like in the picture:

Is it the camera's fault that the ocean is in focus and bird is not? Or is it all a failure of the photographer? (Hint: cameras do what they are told to do.)

What I learned:

As this magnificent creature swooped by me over and over, I gathered a dozen or so blurry wingspans. And then I remembered that my technically advanced camera has a feature that will focus specifically on birds. I'd never used that feature before, but I found it in the menu system on screen 864 where the little bird icon was. The image at left was the first one attempted with "bird focus." So is this a success of the camera or a success of the photographer? Why, the photographer of course! Take credit for your successes and blame equipment for your failures — at least that's my motto.

2nd Chances: What I might try next

Read the damned camera manual.