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:

At every temple in China, I found a place where a large cauldron would be burning incense from the visitors.

What I don't like in the picture:

I tried several times to photograph it, but always with the confusing and unaesthetic results like the above.

What I learned:

Finally, I let go of trying to make it look like a cauldron of burning incense and just tried to make an abstract from the ashes. I'm much happier with the image at left than with any of the attempts that show the incense but fail as photographs.

2nd Chances: What I might try next

Even more color?