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 learned:

In what is undoubtedly one of the worst technical disasters of my photographic life, I arrived in Japan in 1990 unknowingly with a broken Pentax Spot Meter that was reading about 6-8 stops overexposed. I trusted it and overexposed two weeks worth of work. The negatives are bulletproof — except those I shot using the sunny-16 rule. I started questioning my meter about 3/4 of the way into the trip when it gave me a reading of 1/2 second at f/16 with ASA 100 film on a sunny day. Yikes. Duh. Really duh!

These two images are from some of the bulletproof negatives. I've (sort of) come up with a way to salvage some of these with extreme vignetting, softening the clarity, and other heaving processing techniques that mask the horrible quality of the negative. Lemonaide, but not very good lemonaide.

2nd Chances: What I might try next

Live and learn. Never trust your gear without verifying it for yourself. I repeat, never trust your gear without verifying it for yourself.