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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What I saw that I liked:

A fascinating tree, deep in Capitol Wash in Utah. It looks like so many Chinese pines I've seen in paintings from the Sung Dynasty.

What I don't like in the picture:

Oops, obviously had my camera set to the wrong white balance setting. Fortunately, I was shooting RAW, so I can easily fix it.

What I learned:

Fixing white balance is easy, but that doesn't always fix the photograph. This isn't awful, but it's surely nothing special, either. For my eye, the entire composition is simply too busy. That's the result of the tree and the rock being too close in color. And then there is the high frequency detail in the texture and surface of the rock that competes with the high frequency detail in the tree branches and pine needles. Just too much buzz for my eyes. If the tree were painted on a Chinese scroll with only the paper texture to set it off . . .

2nd Chances: What I might try next

I have no idea what to try with this one. I think it might just be a lost cause.