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:

A forest burn in eastern Washington. I knew I wanted the contrast of the light and shadowed areas. I thought this one was the winner.

What I don't like in the picture:

Actually, nothing. I really like the one above because it succeeds in the relationship between the light and dark areas. I would have been happy with this one, until that is . . .

What I learned:

. . . I saw the composition at left. This one has the element of shadow to light that I was wanting, but adds much more drama with the dark sky and that curved tree husk on the far right.

I guess the lesson here is: Even if you have the shot you were wanting, keep looking and shooting anyway. There may be a better variation just around the corner.

2nd Chances: What I might try next

I used the one at left in my project Silva Lacrimosa.