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:

Along with about 7 billion of you, I like waterfalls.

What I don't like in the picture:

I think it's important for a photographer to know their limitations. One of mine is photographing waterfalls. I'm just not very good at it because I only ever see two possibilities — super fast shutter speed or super slow shutter speed. Cliché city.

What I learned:

Perhaps my struggles with waterfalls is that I simply am not emotionally moved by them. It's gravity. The water falls. Big deal. They are beautiful, but just not emotional.

I can only think of one waterfall photograph I've made in my entire life and that was when I was doing so for an assigment in high school photograph class. The waterfall was very far away and I only had a normal lens. The falls were about 5% of the space in the photograph which was mostly the surrounding woods. Maybe I need to try that again.

2nd Chances: What I might try next

There's a technique to make lots of exposures and then blend all the images. That sounds fun. I'll give that a try next time.