I don’t know about other photographers, but usually once I evaluate and process a batch of photographs I close the door and rarely look at them again. What I picked and processed was pretty much the worthy shots, but recently someone on Google+ (oh I wish I could remember who) mentioned that she has hundreds of images in her hard drive that have never seen the light of day and should be shared. It got me to thinking, but it’s my new project that has me digging into my archives. I’ve surprised myself by finding some decent images that got overlooked, rejected or ignored. They may not be the most amazing photos I’ve taken, but looking at them with fresh perspective has been interesting. This forest scene for example. I labored over it when I took the picture and loved the leading lines of the logs, but didn’t have the skill to process it well. Going over it again took just a few minutes and I knew exactly what tools and techniques would get this off the reject pile.
With digital it’s really easy to take a lot of shots of almost the exact same image. Ditto for taking a lot of shots at a particular location just for the sake of documentation, not really for any artistic reason. I find myself doing some of that, but mostly I take a lot of nearly identical images when I’m doing macro or microscapes. Adjusting the focus point, removing debris, recomposing the background, managing the depth of field – there are many reasons, but it ends up just being a lot of images to sort through and frankly sometimes I get weary of it. Evaluating and comparing each frame is time consuming and sometimes my patience just runs out before I give enough attention to the collection as a whole.
Another reason some images fall through the cracks is because when I shoot a lot I get distracted and caught up in a new batch of work before devoting enough concentration to yesterday’s. It’s the oooh, shiny! syndrome I think. Slowing down and really appreciating and thinking about each batch of images is something I don’t do enough. Finding the story within the pictures and putting it together.
Sometimes I reject a photo because I can’t process it the way I want. It’s amazing how many new features and capabilities arrive with each version of Lightroom. Things like lens correction, better spot removal and the new radial filter (two of which I used to make that wall and trail shot work the way I want). It’s not salvaging a picture that I’m talking about, but creating a final image in line with my vision. A bad shot is a bad shot no matter what I do with it, but sometimes there’s a quality that needs enhancing or minimizing that I just can’t do. There are a couple of reasons for this.
One is not understanding how to effectively use the tools that I do have to get what I want. I’ve learned so much in the last few years that going back through my work has been kind of fun. Looking at an old image with new tricks in mind has really helped me identify what I originally liked about the scene I shot and how to emphasize that with processing. These days creation doesn’t stop in the field.
Another thing I find myself doing is confining myself to certain tools in post processing and not branching out and trying different things to see how it affects the final image. Take the clarity slider. I don’t abuse it much in either direction, but lately with my ice photos I noticed that if I really crank it, the picture is better. Ditto with going in the other direction, some photos just need that softness to bring out the best in them. Being stuck in a rut can lead to repetition that contributes to that sameness factor that can make looking at, developing and playing with pictures very boring.
Occasionally though it’s just being down on myself. Whether a location failed to capture my fancy or I failed to capture what I fancied, I can often be disappointed with photos once I take a look at them on the computer. It’s even worse if I’ve taken a lot of time in the field on the shot. This negativity sometimes causes me to overlook what I did capture, no matter how technically good it is.
It’s the whole didn’t meet my expectations thing, too. You can psyche yourself out of a location while you’re there, but also after the fact if you didn’t get the shot or shots you envisioned. Take this little waterfall as an example. It’s not the most perfectly lovely, symmetrical and pristine waterfall ever, but it is what it is. Because there were prettier flows on this brook, I put this on the reject pile even though it’s a lovely and intimate view of a classic New Hampshire cascade. Plus ferns!!
And as if I need more reasons to reject photographs. What about ‘Oh I’ve taken better shots like this’? Is it a valid way to purge photos? Does it help me grow as a photographer? Improve? I don’t know. Sometimes I’m out to just document my surroundings, not create Great Art. So because I’ve taken more compelling or interesting trail photos, I toss this one onto the reject heap and forget about it. Does it deserve to be there any more than it deserves to be labeled Great Art? And if it doesn’t deserve the latter, does it need to be on the reject heap? Obviously it depends on the photographer and her goals, but for me, I need to freakin’ loosen up.
Yes I need to be discerning and separate the good from the bad and hopefully even skim off a few great shots now and again, but I reject far more than I pick for publication or sharing. If it’s for a good reason, I can stand by that decision, but I think revisiting older work has validity. Especially if your processing tools have improved a lot, or your skill with them has. So I guess Spring Cleaning is a good habit to get into.
Besides finding interesting ice formations, winter is a great time to play with shadows. With enough snow, the low angle of the sun makes this something you can do almost all day. Just recently I posted a forest landscape with shadows that brought out the contours and the silky texture of the snowpack. You can also use a landscape view to emphasize the contours of the objects casting the shadows. Apple trees are perfect for this kind of thing because they’re so gnarled and twisted.
If you start to limit the angle of view with shadow photos, you can bring an abstract art quality to the image that is especially fun to play with.
Playing with processing is part of creating an even more dramatic image. Here is a light selenium tone treatment. I chose this technique to preserve the feeling of lightness I get from the photo. The delicacy of the shadows and the birch. Traditional monochrome or sepia didn’t preserve the mood so I tried different things until I found something that worked. Never be afraid to experiment!
Man made objects can work for this as well like this bench I found in a small park in Manchester, NH.
And of course you don’t have to convert everything to monochrome. Even in the dead of winter there are subtleties of color to capture. The sun had barely risen when I found these tracks winding through the trees; the warm yellow sky reflects beautifully in the snow.
Even a tiny fern sprig can be interesting with the right background. I just love the differences in intensity between the shadowed snow and the lit snow.
I was struck by the geometry in this next scene and so perched on a large rock to frame a more abstract view of how the shadows and reflections intersect with the trees themselves.
So if winter hasn’t drawn to a close where you are, maybe try some shadow play yourself.