A well known landscape photographer once told me to “never admit your mistakes or pick fault with your photographs in public”, and to a point I can see his, err, point. Social Media is absolutely flooded with images daily and with so many photographers pushing out quality work it can seem at times, at least to anyone with even a hint of a confidence issue, that we are flogging a dead horse with regards to our own images, especially when our misses, rather than hits, run into several hundreds or thousands. I could name a number of photographers out there whose work I greatly admire and who can never seem to do any wrong. Virtually everything they publish online or in books is an astonishing artwork.
Seeing these images roll off a never ending high quality production line can both inspire and depress in equal measure. It’s easy to get disheartened when learning for we aspire to be able to create something equal or better and we generally fail or achieve only moderate success at each turn. But we improve. Slowly. Gradually. Along the way we fall over many times and with each fall comes experience and we move a little closer to our goal. I always like to think about a line from a film, Rocky Balboa…I know, I know, Sylvester Stallone was never the greatest actor. But, one pivotal scene is when he is arguing with his son in the street about giving up.
“…when things got hard, you started looking for something to blame, like a big shadow. Let me tell you something you already know. The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows. It’s a very mean and nasty place and I don’t care how tough you are it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain’t about how hard you hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. How much you can take and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done!“
That is great scene, and although just a metaphor, it can be so easily applied to what we go through with photography.
It’s important to remember throughout all of this that these guys who can seemingly do no wrong, especially in this digital age, do get things wrong. We just don’t see them, because they’ve learned not to show us where they’ve gone wrong, and they’ve certainly heeded the advice above. Now, I certainly don’t place myself in the same league as them but considering this image sharing hiatus I am currently undergoing it has allowed me to think about this and what I may post and allow people to see in the future. I think I’ll take the frequency down and improve my game stats by resolving to only post my very best (I hope).
But, before all that, as a learning tool I thought I’d share some fully edited images with you from over the last 6 months that don’t make the grade, at least for me. I’d be interested to hear your feedback.
Badbury Clump – I don’t ‘do’ Bluebells. So, why did I get up at 4am to drive 90 minutes to shoot some when there are at least 20 locations within 15 minutes of my house? It was a social event! I met up with Damien Davis (one of my past workshop clients) and Jake Turner to just catch up, have a chat and enjoy a lovely sunrise amongst the bluebells. This image was a 7 portrait pano, but I was a little out of my element (and tired) and it needs an extra shot or two on the left hand side to create an avenue between the trees for the eye to wander up. There is also some distortion on the right and if you could see the full size image you’d easily see the biggest mistake of all…it’s out of focus. Damn.
View from Elider Fawr – This could have been a really nice pano, I mean really nice at some 200mpx. Shame the wind was a bit frisky, not to say very cold, and I rushed the sequence. Needless to say two of the frames have image shake, and sadly they are the ones that make up the middle part rendering the image useless.
Twistleton Scar – My first time to Twistleton Scar and in the company that morning of the supremely talented Darren Ciolli-Leach and Matthew Dartford (Karl Mortimer stayed in bed, lol) who both very quickly disappeared around the side of the hill. A lovely sunrise which turned very harsh very quickly, wandering the landscape aimlessly and a slightly foggy head does not make for good photography. If I go back (and I almost certainly will) I’ll know where to go but I struggled that morning. I’m not really in a ‘landscape’ orientation mood of late as I’ve stated before, so it felt strange placing the camera on the tripod this way round. Still, at the time I was more hoping than knowing I’d got a decent composition. If I could have been a few feet higher to get the top branches below the horizon line on the hill this might have turned out ok. I’d possibly move a little to the right and pan left too to get rid of that pile of stones on the right hand edge. Nevermind. Next time.
Moel Siabod from above Capel-Curig – This image was shot on the Fuji on my last workshop. I was using it as a demonstration to a couple of my clients and is a classic case of ‘focussing’ on one issue while ignoring another. In this case I was demonstrating focus-stacking and completely lost sight of the composition. The main areas of interest are at the top of the frame and right at the bottom. There is a massive gap of ‘nothing’ in the middle, or at least nothing that is of interest. I should have recomposed this to be a little lower off the ground than it is, closing up that boring centre and allowing a little more breathing room at the top and bottom. Shame, but then I wasn’t there for me.
Cnicht – This was the first time I had climbed Cnicht, which is a a cracker of a little mountain in the Moelwyn’s, Snowdonia. I really wanted this image to work having hiked up ‘the hard way’, but it just doesn’t. The foreground is messy (not helped by the footprints) and there is zero light to add contrast. The passing front wasn’t clear on it’s back edge and so the sun was completely blocked by cloud on the horizon behind. Having since been back in better conditions I have a number of images I’m happy with but a winter one is not one of them.
Scar Close – Gah, this place was so frustrating. Same weekend as the Twistleton Scar image above. I Found this really interesting ‘Elephant’s Foot’ formation but couldn’t get it to work. It’s orientation meant that there was no hill for background interest, only this twig like tree. The environment around it was quite messy, especially off shot left and the sky was very bright with a blanket silvery sheen of high cloud. The dynamic range was huge and the A7rII couldn’t cope, even when bracketing at two stops. I thought I’d be able to balance it out in Lightroom, and perhaps you can, but the end composition isn’t anything to write home about so I’ve left it…Still, I do love that rock formation. This is a shot for heavy mist in Autumn.
Moel Siabod Winter Sunrise – This was taken on the same workshop as the one above. Handheld this time but again trying to look after my clients so not totally focussed on getting a great photo. Still, I thought this would be nice. However, I was shooting manual focus at f/5.6 (the Fujinon 55-200mm is incredibly sharp at f/5.6) and I missed the focus point. I was concentrating on the top of the peak and not taking any notice of the bottom which is considerably closer in reality. Thus, the bottom, especially on the left is completely out of focus.
Trotternish, Skye – a very famous scene, shot over Easter weekend. I really worked this scene but having forgotten my umbrella, passing showers overhead were playing havoc which was messing with my ‘phojo’. Anyway, I have slightly better compositions but the conditions were perhaps best at this moment. I think the camera needs to be a little lower get that bottom branch above the hillside, I hate how the tree is bisected. You can also just see the road below as well (ignoring the more obvious road on the right). Loads of people have got a shot from here that they are probably happy with. I’m not one of them.
The Roaches – Not really a mistake as such, but more of a ‘need to go back in the right conditions’. This image was shot just a couple of weeks ago on my Photowalk with clients in tow. I like the comp (it perhaps needs a little refinement) but the light is way too harsh and the lack of cloud puts this in ‘fair weather’ territory. Definitely not me.
Muker – Another from Yorkshire. Some nice (ish) lighting but again another landscape ‘bisection’ issue. I needed/need a higher tripod!
Marsco Pano – Gosh, what a bad day to choose to walk up Marsco on Skye. Only 15 minutes before I reached the top a couple of walkers coming down told me about the magnificent views they had just had across to the Black Cuillin…well, those views went before I got to the top. At one point I stood in a blizzard for about an hour. I was up there for over three hours and in that time never saw the Black Cuillin. This view appeared for all of about 30 seconds, just enough time to run off a quick pano of nothing great before I was plunged back into the cloud. My mistake here was trusting the forecast a bit too much.
Moel Siabod East Ridge Sunrise – Finally, I shot this a few weeks ago while camping by the lake you see in the image. A very quick scramble up the east ridge in horrible wet weather didn’t inspire me. This image was taken about 10 minutes before sunrise and was very hastily put together. Again I was bracketing but I didn’t check my histogram and assumed that bracketing 3 shots at one stop each would be enough for the highlight. It clearly wasn’t. I came away with another shot I’m really pleased with, but I’d have liked to make this one work.
Right, so there you go, a fair amount of shots that don’t do anything for me. On most of these shoots I came away with at least one image I’m happy with, but for every one there are about five hundred more I’m not happy with. Back in the days of film this kind of wilful abandonment of restraint would have had severe financial consequences, but these days every image shot digitally is a cheap one. In each situation, if I had only had one sheet of film, I would have really taken my time to ensure the shot was absolutely right. Of course I didn’t and I doubt I will in the future either, but with each shoot I learn a little more, remember to check a little more and learn to perfect the image a little more. There are just a heck of a lot of failures to get over along the way. The skill comes with recognising what they are and only posting the good ones.