I believe that everyone should make the best images possible, every time out. I also believe, if you are planning to be a serious photographer, you shouldn’t share your worst imagery with the world. Delete it if you have the courage, or at least keep it quietly unseen in a folder on a hard drive.
Certainly teachers of photography need to show they can create great work, but there is value in gulping hard and swallowing your ego as well. Examples of our bad work, and our average work, and our sort of good work, can be a valuable teaching tool.
When I was in the field making images, I rarely used the shotgun approach of just firing away and figuring one or two out of ten will be okay. I was discerning and thoughtful, but I almost always made some pictures no matter what. You can not only learn from your bad ones and use them as teaching tool, but occasionally we accidentally make a good one that can be used.
Below you find the first (well actually the third as I made two clicks previous), image I ever made of a Short-eared Owl. Not bad considering it was made on slide film with only a 400mm (fair quality) lens without cropping potential. I was attracted to the late afternoon winter’s light well before I spotted this critter, and about 15 more. The overall scene and pose is nice despite that the subject is not totally 100% sharp. Even if I did hit it 100%, the shallow depth of field (f stop) I required with my Kodachrome 64 (ISO) in order to arrest movement via a quick shutter speed, could net hold the entire bird perfectly in focus.
Should I have passed on the shot? No way. I did the best I could under the circumstances and came out with a couple of images which are sharable, and borderline publishable in a magazine. (I am sure you all remember magazines)
I was a happy photographer back on that 1980s day!
This image of a White-breasted Nuthatch investigating a tree cavity was made in 2009 as a digital original. This is a crop, and is about as far as I could go with that crop. I was using a high quality 500mm lens without a tele extender. As I approached the scene in front of me on while on foot, I reasoned that even with an average crop, the overall scene of the bird checking out a new home (or searching for food), would be either charming enough, information giving enough, or both, to be well worth a few moments of my time.
When in doubt, make the picture.
On the same day I approached a similar decision this time about a male Eastern Bluebird trotting around in the grass. On this occasion I was in my car. To me, this one is more borderline. This is also a crop and a big one. I love the bird’s pose although having its head turned toward us would have been a blessing.
I am glad I made this one as well, but it does not have the charm that the whole scene does in the previous photo, and does lack some technical quality.
In digital photography with no film to waste or get developed, what would I have been out if I blew it completely? One more file to delete? Still, I did my best to make a good photo and just lived with my results.
I made my first pictures of the Badlands of South Dakota when I was a child. I was traveling west with my parents and they let me use a very old (even then) Kodak Brownie 620 roll film box camera. Other than a couple of long gone snapshots that I made when traveling with my wife at the Badlands many years later, the 1980s images you see below were the next I would make at that location. These are film images created with a medium format 6x7cm roll film camera. I began establishing my style of landscaping photography, on that trip.
The use of soft overcast light for color saturation was something that I used often for fall image making or for flowers, but never before for rock and soil landscapes.
I knew from previous film photography in Colorado, as well as from artificially lit scenes I made in a studio, what effect sidelight could produce as far as texture was concerned. Of course the color of light, such as early or late, also adds those wonderful warm tones to a scene.
I was in fact experimenting when I made this picture. Trying out different approaches and techniques, is the only true way to learn and improve.
High mountain streams can be incredible subjects, but like any subject, what surrounds them can make or break the image.
If something that appears, or for that matter does not appear in the picture frame, renders a lackluster image, then keep your framing down to the basics. Moody provocative photos are often obtained without those extra frills. Back to the basics.
This mountainside stream made for a nice downhill path, all by itself.
As an aside, If I would have slowed my shutter speed (maybe a polorizing filter) just a little more, or speeded it up, this image would have been better.
If less can be more, than even less can be a lot. Nothing but crisp, sharp rock, and soft, dreamy water.
Make the best out of what you have.
When you cannot stretch your depth of field to cover all that appears within the picture frame, make sure you get the most important part in focus and covered with enough depth of field to provide sharpness.
Parts of the dewy web in the image below was both closer to my camera‘s sensor, farther away from it, and the same distance as from the spider. I made absolute sure that the spider was sharp, placed it mainly centered (a little high and left at the power point) in the picture frame, and just accepted soft little bubbles before and after the spider.
Pictures, even close-ups, do not always need every fraction of what appears in the image, to be sharp.
Now let’s just enjoy a few pictures for the fun of it.
I made this image of a Swainson’s Hawk in Wyoming. I loved the rust colored background with the rustic barb wire fence, along with the rust colored bird. Rust can be good!
Oh mirror, mirror! An immature Pied-billed Grebe and its “wobbly” reflection.
This nesting cavity experienced an incredible number of photographers for about five years. I was privileged to spend time there for three of them.
Great-horned Owl baby.
Sunrises/sunsets are a moody time of day. They can produce moods of fire and rain, or tranquility and peace.
The Lake Michigan sunrise you see below is a harbinger of peace. The small ripples in water on this side of the breakers add just enough movement within the scene, to keep viewers from quietly slipping off to sleep. Perfect.
I often complain that I do not share a high enough percentage of verticals on this blog. I guess that today’s post should make me happy.