Why I Like These Bad Shots

I call my lighting workshop “Learning Light From Wrong: A Discussion of Photographic Lighting with a Shadowy Figure.” The conceit is that I’m Mr. Wrong because, as a lazy, disorganized and impatient photographer, I’ve made more mistakes than anyone in the groups I address. Theoretically, that means I’ve learned more than anybody!

Of course, there’s a big difference between knowing what to do and doing it. Cleaning up some files from last September, I saw these three images.

A bad photograph of a good moment.

Here is a great moment that lacks any impact at all as a photograph. I think there are two main reasons. The first is poor quality of light. There’s just no character to the light – no warming (reddishness) or cooling (blueishness) effect, and no textural enhancement (based on the direction of light – more in a future blog entry). Secondly, I stood too far away. Cropping this section from a much larger frame cost me a lot of detail, and detail in the bird’s face would have made this a better picture.

I like this picture because I was able to capture a moment, if poorly, and I know that if I arrive earlier or later in the day next time, the light will be better. If I work for a better position (because I sure as heck cannot afford a bigger lens right now) and spend enough time, I’ll be closer when the moment happens. This image reminds me to better prepare for that moment.

I saw the color and missed the photograph.

I wish this were sharper and explored from several angles. The problem is that when I shot it, I didn’t even know the dead bug was there. I just saw this colorful insect, pointed my lens at it as I walked by, and fired off a couple of frames. I didn’t really look at what I was shooting, and that’s a sin. Had I seen what was happening in the scene, I would have devoted some time to the story.

This is image IMG_0001.

I had just gotten my iPhone, and was trying to figure it out. Fortunately, a teenage stagehand showed me how to turn the sound off. We had already done some posed, artificially lit publicity photos, and I was hanging around to see if I could capture anything during rehearsal. But my “real” camera was idle, as it always is between scenes. From my seat, I tested the iPhone camera.

Whenever I’m flipping through images, this shot of the director scratching his head always catches my eye. It reminds me of lost opportunity. As one of the only non-theater people to see all these local productions behind the scenes, I have access to many, many stories and images unavailable to the general public. Why has it not occurred to me to see the stories around my assignments?

Well, the answer to that last question is between my therapist and me. But all three images in this post remind me of a famous Dorothea Lange quotation: “The camera is an instrument that teaches people how to see without a camera.” I like these bad images because they remind me that I’ve learned a lot about pixels and chromatic aberration and rear-curtain sync over the years, but I need to devote more study to the art of seeing.

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Filed under Lighting, Nature Photography

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