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:

Man, do I love photographing in fog! Just love the atmosphere and isolation it brings to a subject.

What I don't like in the picture:

That nearest telephone pole really needs to be less shrouded in the fog in order to give this scene a sense of depth. I've spent quite a bit of time trying to bring that pole out of the fog with darkening it — as you can see at left.

What I learned:

First, the darkened telephone pole looks crappy. I tried several techniques, spent a couple hours working on this with complicated luminosity masks, etc. And then it dawned on me: This is a really bad photograph whether I get the telephone pole right or not. Two hours of my life gone because I didn't look at the image, but focused my attention on the processing techniques. Lipstick on a pig.

2nd Chances: What I might try next

I have so many images from this shipyard, why do I waste my time on images that will never work? But then again, if maybe I just . . .