I've mentioned a month ago that I started my traditional end of year assessment. I am always in a negative mood when I do this. Nothing worked, got nothing done, etc, etc. That's okay - it's my winter cycle. Even in a seasonal depression driven glass is half empty mood I always discover a lot while I do this review. I see images I haven't ever really even looked at before. I re-assess with distance what I like now which is usually far different than I liked when I first shot the images. Most importantly I learn things both good and bad about my working method, my habits, my reactions, things I should consider changing, etc.
I guess this pre-christmas post is about looking at not just the few favorite images you might have made but far more importantly looking at all of it - holistically - and especially the things you really screwed up as well. Trends, bad habits, things that didn't work that should have. Figuring out why - changing things you don't like, etc, etc. In a nutshell looking at all of it with an extremely critical eye. This is my nature so I don't have to put myself in that mindset - it's my normal state of mind. For others maybe not so much.
Let's take a tiny little nit that I picked up during this years review. There are many but I'll just focus on this one as a generic for the kind of thing that pops up for me - and should for you as well. Not exactly of course - yours maybe completely different.
I have always had a psychological hangup of sorts that I think is a very bad thing when I blow a shot or think I blew a shot. It sort of stops me dead in my tracks and throws me off. I thought I overcame this a long time ago - and I sort of did but I can see that it's not gone. I have to work on it still. Let's take a look at one of the few obvious examples of where this happened this year. It stuck out like a sore thumb. So did the others. When I refer to this hangup of what happens to me when I blow a shot I am not talking about figuring that out after the fact when I upload images and beating myself up. I am talking right then and there without even looking at the image in the camera.
Maybe it's a hang over from my film days - who knows. When I am shooting a scene and I like what I am seeing, the light is good, etc, etc I just rock - I shoot and shoot and shoot. Typically this is with live subjects while they are moving as that's what has been floating my boat for a long time. When you happen to get exactly what you want going on in front of the camera with the subject you know it - you can feel it in your bones. There it is - then you blow it. You know you blew it - don't even have to look. It's more of a question of how bad you blew it. It was right there and you choked - you were not ready. You either delayed too long, or you didn't frame it right, or you blew focus, or you didn't wait just that quarter of a second longer. You can feel that in your bones too. This is what just throws me off and stops me dead in my tracks. I still feel the same way I did when this happens as I did 25 years ago.
Let's take the screen shot at the top for a second. Three shots - all of them within 10 seconds. The middle one is the one I screwed the pooch on. Now that I am looking at it in sequence along with the others before and after these I can actually remember the emotion I had - all bad - when I blew this one. Can you tell? I sure can. This would have been my favorite out of the entire setup. This is what I wanted. Too bad I fired just a fraction of a second too early without good framing. That tiny little hunk of black outer window sill of the left side isn't the problem. Katya too low in the frame with that horrid crop on her foot/ankle is the issue. Epic Fail.
Let's look at a play by play here and what was going on right before this 3 shot sequence and right after…
- Immediately prior to the first frame at the top I was shooting horizontals from a more strait-on POV. They were all variations in exploring that composition. I was moving around and fine tuning my shooting height, framing, etc. I was releasing the shutter every 2 to 4 seconds which is my typical shooting rhythm unless I am changing the entire setup.
- The very first shot that you see was me transitioning to vertical shots and moving to a more askew angle on the wall looking for a composition.
- The center shot is the one I blew.
- The last shot is me fixing the subject placement and moving to a slightly different point of view while including the window on the left.
- The next dozen shots after that are all exactly the same point of view, framing, composition, subject position, everything exactly the same except for minor variation of subject expression.
So how do I know that blowing that center shot affected me so so much during this review as well as similar scenarios I saw? First off my shooting rhythm was very consistent as usual 2 to 4 seconds. The last shot in that three shot sequence was twice as long… So all the shots before - 2 to 4 seconds - the first shot on the screen - 2 seconds after the previous - the blown shot 3 seconds after - the last shot 7 seconds and some change. Big clue but even bigger is the next dozen shots I described. I didn't change a thing. I shut down. I was so hung up on that shot I messed up and why I messed it up that I didn't change a thing during the next dozen. That's a lot of shots to be shut down.
How the hell did I think I somehow fixed this? Well I haven't really thought about it for a long time. When I really set my mind to it I did make some changes - specifically I got rid of a lot of the crazy obvious clues external to myself that I just blew the shot that I really wanted. I never really screamed curse words out loud or threw the camera to the ground while stomping of if self-disgust or anything crazy. Well maybe I muttered something occasionally. I did however give off some pretty easy to read signals to anyone in the general vicinity that there was a big problem. Not a good thing when working with real people as subjects nor clients on or off camera. I guess I did a much better job hiding my conscious disappointment but obviously not completely - If I can still see it here there's a good chance there is some sort of strangeness being detected by others. Worse yet I can see it absolutely affects my shooting afterwards in material way that is not productive.
How substantial - well I much prefer the single window behind the subject in the first two shots for sure yet I made a dozen with both windows in the composition. Not good. You can also bet that my level of interaction with the subject changed markedly during that dead zone of just pushing the button. How am I going to change that? No idea yet. Just became obvious in about half a dozen different scenes I looked at yesterday. I am sure some strategies and thought process will make it on to my list of things to work on in 2014.
This was a devil may care session I did on a lark while in DC. The shots after these I used a different camera and moved down the alley way a bit. Those are fine. It didn't kill my whole day for sure. If this were a real client or I had designs on that particular shot I probably would have re-staged the whole thing and went back and attempted a similar shot - hopefully as good or better. On this occasion it wasn't that important. All that said wouldn't it have been better to do that right then and there instead of becoming a drone and shooting a dozen shots of what I didn't really want? Maybe my last "fix" to this psychology - hiding it totally shut me down. Maybe I lumped in the immediate re-do with the other 'negative vibe' stuff I wanted to ditch. Pretending everything is fine on the outside while I re-grouped. I guess I need to fine tune that a bit.