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:

Tiny people on the lakebed at Badwater in Death Valley.

What I don't like in the picture:

I chose this focal length to make the people who had walked out from the parking lot look small in the vast landscape. Unfortunately, the landscape doesn't look nearly as "vast" as it is or as it felt.

What I learned:

The image at the left is from a viewpoint high above Badwater and the landscape looks vast. Yay! Unfortunately, you'd never know those tiny black dots are people. Uh-oh.

Showing "vast" and showing "people" in the same image is difficult. Captions might help; a triptych might help; but both of these single images fail to do what I wanted them to do. Not total failures, but failures to reach my intended objective.

2nd Chances: What I might try next

Provide all my viewers with powerful viewing loupes? Don't laugh, it might work.