The pessimist would state that every positive has a negative. The
optimist would counter that every negative holds a positive.
Of course, the truth, is as is often the case, is that both are right
and both are wrong.
When I begin sharing my opinions on this thing they call (or called)
the world wide web (1996 I think), there were already a lot of people
doing so, but it was still a distinct minority in respect to the whole
world. The creation and proliferation of what is now known as “social
media”, has finally given 90% of the planet a voice.
Every positive holds a negative, and every negative has a positive.
I found it necessary many years ago to place my own voice in a
location that was truly mine. A traditional photography website of
mine became a sounding board for my opinions, including the good, the
bad, and the ugly. I expanded that to include a weekly ( often
biweekly or every other day) newsletter that was created originally to
sell workshops and fine art prints. I was amazed at how quickly sales
disappeared when I began offering my opinions.
I always attempted to sell a little bit of myself, with a large slice
Many of my newsletters were filled with opinions and personal stories.
Those stories, then as now, were always absent the sort of personal
info that would be embarrassing to others (who remained nameless), and
gave just little enough information about me to accomplish my goal,
without any truly damaging facts or embarrassment.
Much of today’s world on Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat etc, should try
to do the same.
As photographers, understanding the good, the bad, and the ugly, is
important. It does not however necessarily mean what it might in the
I certainly could have chosen more spectacular photos of mine for the
good, but my vision of a good image (from the perspective of a
photographer) is usually whether I believe the photographer, in this
case me, had a clear and simple vision of what is before them. Then,
how did they execute?
The ruins of Native America villages, contain wonderful but often
visually complex and hard to render in photos, series of lines, colors
While I made many photos (back in my film days) at both the Pecos
ruins (top two), and the Quari Ruins of New Mexico, the ones in which
I knew what I wanted and then proceeded to get it, remain the best
(therefore the good) of the lot, in my opinion.
While I love making abstract images of the play of light on the sand
in places like Great Sand Dunes N.M., Colorado, there was only one
truly “good” way to visually explain that the dunes reach 700 feet in
height. Those are full scale mountains in the background, and those
are actual clouds above the dunes.
One definition of good, throughout the photographic world, is seeing
images in which at least some artistry (that’s always an opinion) is displayed, along with a clean and simple vision of how to share, what we as photographers see.
The waterfall I am showing below, was certainly not one of my all time
favorites. I struggled to find a vantage point to shoot from, and even
then I continued to struggle. While I never made an image I was
thrilled with, the first image below is unbalanced and “uncomfortable”
for me to even look at. It was very early autumn and both deciduous
and coniferous, we uninspiring. I made a photo of some boring trees
with a little bit of falling water.
As I stated earlier, I made no images that thrilled me, but giving
credence to the falling water and rock, and simply filling out the
composition with a small section of trees, at least made for an image
I could live with.
The aesthetics of composition, is not the only way to create a picture
that belongs in the bad category.
At first glance, the two pictures of icicles you see below appear to
be the same photo. They are not. They are two consecutive frames.
Composition is not the only thing that can separate a good image from
a bad. Technical considerations matter. In this case, it is simply
getting the picture in focus, and sharp in every way.
The first icicle picture below is soft and fuzzy. It seems to me to be
a bad focusing job by the photographer (me) rather than motion blur
from a bump in the tripod or some other such thing. With the second
image the focus is spot on. One bad, one okay, on two consecutive
The ugly, for today’s purpose, does not refer to technically inferior
pictures or even poorly considered compositions. Ugly, can actually be
good, although by namesake for the purpose of this article, it has to
be visually ugly at least for many who might view it.
People eat snails, yet I have never known of a photographer, who liked
them whilst they heave their shells on their back, and walk. Nice
shell, ugly body.
I’ve worked with various photographers who did not like getting close
to (or photographing) caterpillars. It seems as though the “slimy
factor” came in to play. The fellow below was not slimy (most are
not), but was hungry.
I love caterpillars!
Exoskeletons are dry (not slimy) and are a tale of metamorphosis much
as is the caterpillar. Nature photography is not 100% art. There are
natural history stories in everything we find in the wild.
This used up exoskeleton is that of the 17-year Periodical Cicada. I
drove a 320 mile round trip just to photograph these guys.
I’ve found many photographers like frogs, but not toads. Maybe it’s
the old tale of warts and so forth. Below we find the Woodhouse Toad.
Maybe not pretty, but unique. The image I share with you is not of top
quality but then again I made it while on my hands and knees inside of
an old wooden outhouse. A “wood-house” you might say. I entered the
building for another purpose but I felt a pair of eyes watching me.
Most photographers I have known, are not into spiders. I love
photographing spiders even when they are of a less than pretty variety
such as the female Forest Wolf Spider you see below. To add to her
attractiveness (sarcasm) she has an egg sack attached to her body.
If beauty is in the eye of the beholder, than certainly ugly is much the same.
So there we have it, the good, the bad, and the ugly.