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:

China is such a fascinating place and people.

What I don't like in the picture:

I give up. It simply isn't possible — in any way that I have tried — to make a photograph from a moving car. Whether from a taxi or a car, there are so many scenes that I see I'd like to capture. Eventually the camera comes out and I start clicking away. It never, never works. Either the subject is blurred, or the wrong part of the photograph is in focus.

What I learned:

During my last trip to China, with every shot from the moving car, I used 1/2,500th of a second with high ISO. I thought that might be the trick to getting sharp images. I worked, sort of, but I then discovered that composing an image at the speed of traffic was an unanticipated challenge. I did get some sharper images, but often the camera grabbed focus from the wrong thing in the frame. As I say, I give up. Just stop the car and let me get out.

2nd Chances: What I might try next

What if I try panning the camera? Hmmm . . . maybe I need to go back to China again.