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:

Driving down the road at 60 mph it would be hard to miss this desert tower. I pulled over and made this rather obvious shot.

What I don't like in the picture:

It's a rather obvious shot. A great example of what I characterize as "camera as Xerox copy machine."

What I learned:

Same hill, a few minutes later and I found the one at left. This wasn't visible from the highway and reminds me that looking is the first step to photographing. If I hadn't stopped to snap off the obvious one, I would have never seen the one at left; if I hadn't taken the time to look, I would have never seen the one at left. The race doesn't always go to the swiftest, but in photography it very often goes to the observant.

2nd Chances: What I might try next

I wish now I would have taken the time to walk up this wash to see what was around the bend.