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:

Nanzenji Temple in Kyoto is one of the great treasure of Japan. Everywhere you turn is another curiosity to see.

What I don't like in the picture:

I have to confess that I find it a challenge when I am in a place as spectacular as Nanzenji to remember that I'm there to make art as well as take in the sights as a tourist. I easily confuse the two and think I'm making art when, like the above image, I'm only capturing a tourist snapshot.

What I learned:

The image above and the one at left are in the same room and photographed just seconds apart. Something in the sunlight and tea bowls reminded me to look more carefully and remember that shapshots are one thing, but artmaking is another.

2nd Chances: What I might try next

The tourist snapshooter is a mode I tend to slip into far too easily. I need to figure out a way to avoid this. Use my phone for snapshot and my camera for art?