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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Failures from Japan, 1990

This week (mostly for my own amusement), I'll discuss images from a trip to rural northern Japan in 1990 with David Grant Best. Back in the film days — when things could really go wrong and you wouldn't know it until long after the trip was over.


What I saw that I liked:

Boy, did I want this picture to work! Shot on film back in 1990.

What I don't like in the picture:

This was from my first trip to rural, northern Japan. I found this fenceline of drying salmon and was immediately taken with it.

What I struggle with is the areas above below and behind the fish. The buildings are irrelevant; the road is meaningless; the shadow of the telephone pole is distracting.

What I learned:

I did my best to crop out the distracting parts above and below the fish, but there is still a lot of disctraction behind and a little still above the fish. Even worse, this becomes a pano of a massive 5.5:1 aspect ratio. What do you do with this? I suppose I could make a 17x 3" print, but that seems pretty dumb.

I guess sometimes you just had to be there.

2nd Chances: What I might try next

Is there a smaller portion of the line of fish that could make a pano of a more reasonable aspect ratio? Maybe. I'll have to give that a try someday.