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:

Hard to see in the small image above, so here is a closer view. This entire "fence line" was actually salmon hung to dry. There's got to be a photograph here!

What I don't like in the picture:

The house in the background. I used a wide SuperAngulon lens to capture this with my view camera in Japan in 1990. I want to isolate the hanging fish, but the extreme depth of field brings everything into sharp focus. And all the high-frequency detail of the garden plants adds to the confusion.

What I learned:

This was photographed in my film days, long before the concept of stitching exposures together was even dreamt of. Today, I would get closer and photograph them in sections with shallow DOF, then stitch the images together into a very long pano.

2nd Chances: What I might try next

Extreme cropping might allow me to do something, but I'm not confident. How does one make an image that is close and intimate, yet very, very wide? These are contradictory optical challenges. Maybe a banquet camera could do it.

I may just need to let go of the wide part of this fantasy, and just show one section of fish. Interesting, but not at all what I was hoping for. Besides, that much enlargement with film grain will lose the smooth sheen that is so lovely. Oh, well. Another lost opportunity.